Building Migration Pathways at All Levels: Encouraging a Skills Mix

Tuesday, May 11th | 9.00 – 10.30 ET | Online


  • Natasha Iskander, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service
  • Zuzana Cepla, Senior Associate, Labor Mobility Partnerships (LaMP)


  • Simon Bowyer, Chief Executive, Concordia, UK
  • Kangyeon Lee, Senior Social Protection Specialist, World Bank and Secondee, Ministry of Employment and Labor, South Korea


  • Helen Dempster, Assistant Director and Senior Associate for Policy Outreach for Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy, Center for Global Development


High-income countries around the world depend on immigration to help foster strong societies and economies. Yet when deciding who is allowed to enter, many high-income countries use a simple dichotomy based on educational attainment – “high” and “low” skilled.

This dichotomy ignores three key facts. Firstly, economies require a wide variety of skills and abilities to thrive; admitting people at either end ignores this complexity. Secondly, most foreign workers bring a “skills mix”. This could include educational attainment and knowledge of a foreign language, but also abilities learnt at previous and current jobs as well as interpersonal and other social skills. Thirdly, COVID-19 has exposed the essential roles occupied by foreign workers at all skill levels, and many locals recognize and support this dynamic.

Despite these facts, there is little willingness among high-income countries to admit more workers at a range of skill levels, or even do away with a stringent focus on educational-based skill levels overall. In this event, we will discuss how to build this willingness, and more mutually beneficial migration pathways at all skill levels.