From Triple Win to Sustainable Labour Migration

Dancing the Dance of Complexity with Transnational Skills Partnerships


  • Prof. Dr. Michael Sauer Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Germany



labour migration, triple win, skill partnership, sustainability, vocational training


What does ‘desirable’ or ‘sustainable’ mean in the context of labour migration? And what should programmes geared towards making migration more compatible with development look like? These questions provided the starting point for the ‘Sustainable Labour Migration’ research project implemented by Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg University of Applied Sciences between December 2020 and August 2022. The project looked at how sustainability in different transnational skills partnership schemes was perceived by different stakeholders in three countries chosen as case studies: Georgia, Kosovo and Vietnam. Embracing the notion of a ‘triple win’, many transnational skills partnership schemes aim to deliver benefits for their main stakeholder groups. As well as reflecting critically on this triple-win narrative, this paper also argues for a more nuanced approach in order to grasp the complexity of skilled labour migration. The paper introduces one such approach, namely the sustainable labour migration framework, and highlights the key elements of the research project. It details the methodology used in the study (systematic literature review – employer survey – semi-structured, in-depth interviews – focus group interviews) and explores the perception of sustainability in skilled labour migration with a focus on the cost/benefit ratio, the relationship between vocational education and training and labour migration, and the various arrangements for the partnerships employed in the schemes. In introducing the key findings from the three countries selected for the case studies, the paper highlights that the perception of sustainability is not underpinned by a comprehensive understanding of the term amongst most stakeholders. Within all the schemes, however, some stakeholders identified elements which make a positive contribution to development in the respective countries of origin and thus identify elements of sustainable labour migration with room for improvement in multiple areas. The paper concludes with a presentation of overall policy recommendations: The ongoing reform of Germany’s labour migration policy should be accompanied by more development-oriented activities. As part of this, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) should stand up more forcefully for the needs of migrants and potential partner countries in order to reduce existing inequalities

Author Biography

Prof. Dr. Michael Sauer, Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Germany

Dr. Michael Sauer is a professor for social policy in the Department for Social Policies and Social Security at the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, Germany.


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How to Cite

Sauer, M. (2023). From Triple Win to Sustainable Labour Migration: Dancing the Dance of Complexity with Transnational Skills Partnerships . Quarterly on Refugee Problems - AWR Bulletin, 62(4), 346–374.

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