The Price of Rights

Regulating International Labor Migration

by Martin Ruhs

Many low-income countries and development organizations are calling for greater liberalization of labor immigration policies in high-income countries. At the same time, human rights organizations and migrant rights advocates demand more equal rights for migrant workers. The Price of Rights shows why you cannot always have both.


Examining labor immigration policies in over forty countries, as well as policy drivers in major migrant-receiving and migrant-sending states, Martin Ruhs finds that there are trade-offs in the policies of high-income countries between openness to admitting migrant workers and some of the rights granted to migrants after admission. Insisting on greater equality of rights for migrant workers can come at the price of more restrictive admission policies, especially for lower-skilled workers. Ruhs advocates the liberalization of international labor migration through temporary migration programs that protect a universal set of core rights and account for the interests of nation-states by restricting a few specific rights that create net costs for receiving countries.



The Price of Rights analyzes how high-income countries restrict the rights of migrant workers as part of their labor immigration policies and discusses the implications for global debates about regulating labor migration and protecting migrants. It comprehensively looks at the tensions between human rights and citizenship rights, the agency and interests of migrants and states, and the determinants and ethics of labor immigration policy.


  • Princeton University Press; August 2013
  • ISBN: 9781400848607
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF or secure ePub format
  • Title: The Price of Rights
  • Author: Martin Ruhs
  • Imprint: Princeton University Press

In The Press

"This compelling and cogently argued book addresses an important matter, namely the conditions affecting the rights of labor migrants. Where much of the research on rights and citizenship focuses on the developed world, Ruhs rightly expands the scope to include the Persian Gulf states, as well as developing societies such as Malaysia and Indonesia."—Roger Waldinger, University of California, Los Angeles


About The Author

Martin Ruhs is associate professor of political economy at the University of Oxford, where he is also director of studies in economics at the Department for Continuing Education; senior researcher at the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society; and a fellow of Kellogg College.