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A Market for Work Permits: How to Make Migrants and Refugees More Popular in Host Countries

January 9, 2020

Kuala Lumpur World Bank-University of Malaya Joint Seminar

  • An asset of citizenship is being able to accept any job offer in your country—the citizen’s implicit work permit. That asset is not currently marketable. Yet some citizens have useful things to do if they could rent out their work permits, and some foreigners would value the new employment opportunities. We have a missing market for work permits. A solution is to allow people to rent out their citizenship work permit for a period of their choice. On the other side of the market, foreigners can purchase time-bound work permits. Better social protection in host countries would be financed by tapping into the unexploited gains from international migration. Simulations for the US and Mexico suggest that this policy would attract many skilled migrants, boosting US GDP while also substantial reducing the US poverty rate. Malaysia could probably also benefit substantially from such a policy. 

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  • Martin Ravallion is visiting the University of Malaya as the Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Chairholder. He is based in Washington DC where he holds the inaugural Edmond D. Villani Chair of Economics at Georgetown University. Prior to joining Georgetown in 2013 he was Director of the World Bank’s research department, the Development Research Group. He joined the Bank in 1988 and worked in almost all sectors and all regions over the following 24 years. Prior to joining the Bank, Martin was on the faculty of the Australian National University. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from the London School of Economics, and has taught economics at L.S.E., Oxford University, the Australian National University and Princeton University. Martin’s main research interests over the last 30 years have concerned poverty and policies for fighting it. He has advised numerous governments and international agencies on this topic, and he has written extensively on this and other subjects in economics, including six books and 250 papers in scholarly journals and edited volumes. His latest book, ''The Economics of Poverty: History, Measurement and Policy,'' was published by Oxford University Press in January 2016. Martin is the ex-President of the Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, a Non-Resident Fellow of the Center for Global Development and a Senior Fellow of the Bureau for Research in Economic Analysis of Development. Among various prizes and awards, in 2012 he was awarded the John Kenneth Galbraith Prize from the American Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, in 2016 he received a Frontiers of Knowledge Award from the BBVA Foundation, Madrid, and in 2018, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Economics by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.


  • WHEN: Thursday, January 9, 2020; 12:30 - 2:00PM
  • WHERE: World Bank Malaysia Office, Level 3, Sasana Kijang, No. 2, Jalan Dato’ Onn
  • RSVP: Kindly RSVP by Wednesday, January 8, 2020