Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Strategic contextualisation: free movement, labour migration policies and the governance of foreign workers in Europe

an article by Regine Paul (Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Universität Bremen, Germany) published in Policy Studies Volume 34 Issue 2 (2013)


Heightened levels of internal labour mobility since the European Union (EU)’s Eastern enlargements in 2004 and 2007 have shifted the context for member state policies geared towards the admission of non-EU workers.

This article contends that the strategic use of the internal mobility régime by member states, as a justification for selective recruitment of labour from outside the EU, deserves more analytical attention.

This contribution examines how labour migration policies (LMP) in the United Kingdom, France and Germany make use of the EU free-movement framework in current legislation, and how associated policy rationales are justified.

In an interpretive policy analysis of legislative documents and decision-makers’ meaning-making, as related in semi-structured interviews, the article identifies the logics, tools and rationales which link LMP to EU free movement. These links are shown to be highly selective and they serve common as well as nationally distinct governance goals.

Across all three cases LMPs ascribe various degrees of relevance to EU internal labour supply, depending on the different skill levels of migrants targeted in respective policies. This shared pattern of economic coordination of LMP by skill level – in which the EU common labour market plays the role of delimiting additional migration in the skilled and especially low-skilled segments – is conflated with national migration control agendas.

Member states draw on EU free movement to justify migration restrictions targeted at specific sending countries. As a result, the governance of the foreign workforce produces skills- and origin-based privileges rather than granting rights to mobile migrant workers in Europe.

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