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This paper aims to improve our understanding of migration–development links by comparing the Mexico–US and Morocco–EU cases. Despite significant differences, Mexico and Morocco share a common geopolitical location on the global South–North migration frontier and a common position as prime reserves of low-cost, low-skilled migrant labour for the US and the EU. The analysis highlights the large extent to which Mexican and Moroccan migration is determined by business cycles and political-economic and labour-market transformations in the US and the EU. Mexican and Moroccan migration patterns and trends show striking similarities. Persistent economic gaps and migrant networks partly explain why, despite recruitment freezes in Mexico (1964) and Morocco (1973) and increasing border controls, migration has endured through family and irregular migration and a diversification of migration origins and destinations. Simultaneously, economic liberalisation and labour-market transformations in origin and destination countries have increased supply and demand for casual and informal labour in the service sector, agriculture and construction. In spite of surging remittances and the considerable contributions of Mexican and Moroccan migrants to improved living standards in origin areas, migration cannot overcome structural development obstacles and deeply ingrained political and economic inequalities in Morocco and Mexico. In fact, migration may deepen such inequalities and deflect the attention away from states' failure to create favourable conditions for equitable development.

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Journal article


Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies

Publication Date



39 (7)


1041 - 1065

Total pages



International Migration, Development, Transformation, Mexico, Morocco, Policy