Since the late 1940s, countries have frequently used bilateral labour agreements (BLAs) to address labour needs – in particular low-skilled labour. While addressing specific labour shortages in destination countries, most BLAs aim to govern labour migration processes between origin and destination countries and can help to protect migrant workers’ welfare and rights. Conclusions of BLAs have been in line with global economic cycles. The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of BLAs in Western countries. The 1970s saw a dip in new BLAs, likely as a result of the economic downturn due to the oil crisis. In the 1990s and 2000s BLAs have re- emerged, reflecting countries’ greater economic interdependence, alongside an increase in memoranda of understanding (MOUs) on labour migration, which are less legally binding than BLAs. This evolution raises questions on the quality and effectiveness of these BLAs: What are the objectives of these BLAs/MOUs and are they effective in achieving those objectives? What benefits/outcome do they produce for workers as well as for origin and destination countries? What needs to be done in order to improve their effectiveness?