International Labour Migration: Economics, Politics and Ethics (Online)


This global course analyses one of the most controversial public policy issues of the 21st century: how to regulate international labour migration and the rights of migrant workers. Integrating economics, politics and ethics, the course comprehensively discusses the determinants, impacts and regulation of labour immigration and emigration around the world.

Listen to Dr Martin Ruhs talking about the course:

The regulation of labour immigration and the rights of migrant workers are among the most controversial policy issues around the world. In public and media debates, migrants can be development 'heroes' for their countries of origin, 'villains' that threaten the jobs and welfare of workers in host countries, and/or 'victims' of exploitation by people traffickers, recruiters and employers.

This global course discusses key facts and fiction in debates about international labour migration. It comprehensively analyses the determinants and consequences of labour migration for host countries, migrants and their countries of origin. Drawing on economics, politics and ethics, the course debates the fundamental policy questions, trade-offs and moral dilemmas that are inescapable in the regulation of labour immigration and emigration.

Written by Martin Ruhs, Associate Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University and migration advisor to a wide range of national governments and international organisations, the course includes interviews with over fifteen global experts global experts, on international migration, migrant rights and development.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

The areas you will cover in this course are:

1.  International labour migration: Global trends and determinants.

  • Definitions and their consequences
  • Public attitudes
  • The scale, patterns and drivers of migration
  • Reflection

2.  Beyond control? Objectives and limitations of the immigration state.

  • The objectives and limitations of the immigration state
  • Interests, institutions and ideas: What are the drivers of labour immigration policies?

3.  Burden or benefit? The impacts of migrant workers in receiving countries.

  • The economic effects of immigration
  • The social effects of immigration

4.  Opening doors: Labour immigration policies in high-income countries.

  • Policy tools for regulating labour immigration
  • Labour immigration policies in high-income countries: Key features and drivers

5.  Labour emigration and rights abroad: The perspectives of migrants and their countries of origin.

  • The effects of emigration on migrants, their families and countries of origin
  • Labour emigration policies and dilemmas in practice

6.  Temporary labour migration programmes: Past, present and future.

  • Looking back: Experiences with past guest worker programmes
  • Looking forward: Can we make TMPs work better?

7.  Open borders: The economics and politics of free movement agreements.

  • Drivers and effects of free movement agreements
  • Policy changes: Comparing the EU and ASEAN

8.  Illegal and exploited? Functions and impacts of illegality in labour migration.

  • Definitions, functions and impacts of illegality in labour migration
  • Policy responses

9.  Inclusion and exclusion: The ethics of labour immigration policy.

  • Fundamental ethical questions in labour immigration policy
  • The ethics of temporary migration programmes that restrict migrant rights

10. Toward a World Migration Organisation? The global governance of international labour migration.

  • The human rights of migrant workers: Why do so few countries care?
  • The global governance of international labour migration: Where next?

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course Fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:


Concessionary fees for short courses


Mr Mohammed Abdullahi

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • Analyse global trends, patterns and determinants of international labour migration and discuss the changing role of migrants in the global labour market.
  • Introduce students to theories and empirical research about the impacts of international labour migration on immigration countries, migrants and their countries of origin, highlighting the key role of migrant rights in shaping effects for all sides.
  • Discuss and compare the key features of labour immigration policies and the rights of migrant workers in high- and middle-income countries.
  • Critically analyse the drivers of labour immigration policies in high-income countries and labour emigration policies of lower-income countries.
  • Using specific case studies from around the world, highlight the many trade-offs and policy dilemmas involved in the regulation of international labour migration, and discuss the consequent ethical questions about how to prioritise different interests in policy making.
  • Compare and discuss different policy approaches to regulating low- and high-skilled labour migration, including temporary and permanent migration programmes.
  • Discuss key issues in the supra-national and global governance of international labour migration and the rights of migrant workers.
  • Provide a multi-disciplinary and integrated discussion of labour migration drawing on economics, politics, and ethics.

Teaching methods

There are several kinds of activity that students will be asked to complete while on this course. Some of these will be ongoing throughout the course, whereas others will relate to the topic of a particular week. Activity types include:

  • Readings of book chapters and articles.
  • Listening/watching podcasts/vodcasts including over 15 interviews with global migration experts.
  • Group discussions in unit-specific group forums (e.g. discussing a specific case study / policy).
  • Interactive analysis and debate through our InfoMap tool which allows students to answer questions or gather information from the perspective of a particular country and share this information with other students via a map interface.
  • Participating in online surveys and polls.
  • Two Q&A sessions with the course author.
  • Adding terms to glossary wiki.
  • Adding a resource to the 'resource bank'.
  • Reading of newspaper clippings / webpages.

Assessment methods

You will be set two pieces of work for the course. The first of 500 words is due halfway through your course. This does not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.