The significance of labour migration to development has drawn the attention of researchers and policy-makers alike. However, the vast and growing theoretical and policy-oriented literature on the subject is largely focused on push and pull factors and the outcomes of migration. The role of institutions in influencing who goes where, when and to do what is not adequately considered, in spite of the fact that a multitude of institutions at multilateral, regional and bilateral level exist and regulate, to varying extents, the cross-border movement of workers.
This article advocates an institutional perspective in analysing labour mobility, since rules governing cross-border labour markets are an embodiment of access and participation rights, and can determine the formalisation or informalisation of work and the protection and benefits accrued by migrant workers.
It examines the East African Community's Common Market Protocol of July 2010, which seeks to promote the ‘free movement of workers’ within the Community. It argues that there are contradictions and inconsistencies in implementing the Protocol and provides recommendations for addressing them.