Report Examines the Migrant Wage Gap in High-Income Countries

The roofline of Sterling Law Building with three brick chimneys of different sizes

The Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School and the Global Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School have released a report indicating that migrant workers, in comparison to national workers, often face adverse wage differentials solely because of their status as migrants.

The report, Unpacking the Migrant Wage Gap: A Three Country Case Study, supplements and develops the empirical findings from a report on the migrant pay gap published by the International Labour Organization (ILO). This report intends to shed light on many of those findings, particularly as they relate to low-wage workers in high-income countries.

This report examines factors that may influence the migrant wage gap in three high-income countries: Spain, the United States, and Belgium. The three case studies were selected as representative of high-income countries that enjoy relative economic wealth while having variable wage gaps to the detriment of migrants. Together, the case studies reveal that immigration laws and policies play a significant role in facilitating employment discrimination against migrants — but even where adequate protections do exist, there is persistent underenforcement of those protections. Moreover, laws and policies regulating workplace protections and benefits often exclude migrant workers, exposing them to worse labor conditions. When migrant workers do face inequality and unfairness in the workplace, common practical barriers frequently prevent them from exercising any formally protected labor rights. Considering these common themes, this report concludes by offering general recommendations for creating and reforming instruments of governance so that migrant workers can fulfill their human rights along with nationals.