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This paper aims to improve the understanding of migration-development links by comparing the evaluation of Mexico-US and Morocco-EU migration over the twentieth century. Despite significant differences, Mexico and Morocco share a common geopolitical location on the global South-North migration frontier as well as their position as prime source countries of predominantly low-skilled migrants into the US and EU. The analysis highlights the large extent to which Mexican and Moroccan migration is determined by political-economic transformations in the US and EU. Persistent economic gaps and migrant networks partly explain why, instead of decreasing migration, the recruitment freezes in Mexico (1964) and Morocco (1973) have contributed to increased reliance on family and irregular migration and a diversification of migration origins and destinations. Simultaneously, policy-driven changes in labour market structure caused an increased demand for casual and informal labour in the service sector, agriculture and construction. In light of this evidence, it would be naïve to expect the 2008 financial crisis to cause a fundamental shift in migration trends because political-economic conditions fuelling migration have remained unaltered. Similarly, in spite of the considerable contributions of Mexican and Moroccan remittances to the improvement of income and living standards in origin areas, it is unrealistic to assume that migration and remittances alone can overcome generically unfavourable development conditions. Therefore, improving general development conditions through structural political and economic reform seem the most viable policy to increase the development potential of migration. If such reform does occur, Morocco and, particularly, Mexico may transform into immigration countries in the medium to long term.



Working paper


International Migration Institute

Publication Date




Total pages



International migration, development, transformation, Mexico, Morocco, US, EU, policy