Circular Migration: Triple Win or Renewed Interests of Destination Countries?

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Circular migration has been advocated in policy circles as a ‘triple win’ since it allows destination countries to fill labour shortages with flexible workforce; migrants to earn higher incomes and benefit from skills upgrading; and origin countries to benefit from remittances and the newly acquired skills of returning migrants. In this paper, we discuss the various definitions and understandings of circular migration. We present examples of circular migration schemes, distinguishing between the different skill categories, discuss the pros and cons of circular migration and identify deviations from the ‘Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration’. Our review indicates that benefits to origin countries and migrant workers are often exaggerated primarily due to the small-scale nature of contemporary scheme. We recommend upscaling circular migration schemes to boost their developmental impact in origin countries, meet labour demand in destination countries, and curb irregular migration. Additionally, we emphasise the need to align the schemes’ design and implementation with the Global Compact objectives for orderly migration to circumscribe the flaws that accompany their implementation.