Migrants in the Chilean Labour Market: A Story of Successful Integration?

Brics Seminar | Wednesday January 26th, 2022
6:00 pm
8:00 pm

The next session of the BRICs seminar will be held on Wednesday, January 26th, 6pm (Online).

It will be organized in tribute of Xavier Richet, co-founder and moderator of the BRICs seminar, who died prematurely on 16 January.


Kristen Sehnbruch, British Academy Global Professor and Distinguished Policy Fellow International Inequalities Institute – London School of Economics and Political Science,

Link to the event

On the theme: Migrants in the Chilean Labour Market: A Story of Successful Integration?

Abstract :

In recent years, Chile has become one of the top 5 destination countries where migration has increased the most (United Nations, 2020): Just over one million migrants arrived in the last five years in a country with a total population of 19.1m. This is part of an increasing trend in South-South migration, which prompts questions as to how well these migrants integrate into local labour markets.

The theoretical and empirical literature on migrant integration into labour markets is generally based on industrialised countries (Hujo & Piper, 2007). However, the experience of migrants in developing countries is likely to be very different from what we have observed in the Global North: Large informal sectors shape labour markets, welfare states are incipient, as is the institutional infrastructure that helps migrants integrate into local labour markets (Fellini & Guetto, 2020). Also, the quality of available jobs in these countries is frequently so low that workers may be unable to achieve a minimal standard of living (Sehnbruch et al., 2020; Gonzalez et al, 2021).

This paper contributes to the existing literature in three ways: first, it uses detailed survey data – as opposed to case studies – to examine how well migrants are integrating into the Chilean labour market using a set of multidimensional indicators. Until now, this was not statistically possible as employment data did not capture enough cases of migrants to allow for a disaggregated analysis

Second, this paper presents a measure of the labour market performance of migrants that is more nuanced than existing studies. In the international literature, migrant labour force integration is often examined by studying the employment rates and wages of migrants and how different factors influence these outcomes.4 But this paper asks whether migrant workers are more deprived than local workers in terms of the quality of their jobs. In the global South, where widespread and high levels of informality characterise labour markets, a multidimensional perspective of labour market achievements and deprivations is crucial.

Third, by examining horizontal labour market inequalities (Stewart, 2008), this paper asks whether some of the findings and theoretical approaches that the literature on migration has established in the global North also hold in the global South. In particular, it will examine whether the relationship between the educational levels of migrants and their employment outcomes are similar, and whether the liberal institutional arrangements for immigration and employment in Chile have positively affected the integration process of migrants in the labour market.

About the author :

Kirsten Sehnbruch is a British Academy Global Professor and Distinguished Policy Fellow at the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is known for her work on conceptualising and measuring the quality of employment, particularly in developing countries. Her research subjects include quality of employment, multidimensional indicators, Latin American labour markets, labour relations, Chilean politics and public policy.


Published at 26 January 2022