Irregular Migration

Irregular Migration

The Dilemmas of Transnational Mobility

Bill Jordan and Franck Düvell

Irregular Migration is an extremely timely and topical book, analysing the fundamental tensions at the core of present attempts to manage the movement of population in today’s world. Recent events around the globe have prompted a reappraisal of the emerging consensus on migration control.

Chapter 3: Irregular Migration, Labour Markets and Social Protection

Bill Jordan and Franck Düvell

Subjects: development studies, migration, social policy and sociology, comparative social policy, migration, urban and regional studies, migration


So far we have analysed migration mainly as the interaction between relatively poor and oppressed populations of developing and post-communist countries, and governments of relatively rich and free ones. However, migration and its management must also be understood in terms of interactions between owners of capital and those who supply the labour used in production, with governments setting the rules under which these take place. Mobility is again a key element in the power relations that shape these interactions and these rules. In an integrated world economy, having the freedom to move is a key advantage in power relations, and having the access to mobility is an important determinant of status. Power consists in imposing one’s choices on others; power is institutionalised when the rules of competition allow one to restrict the range of choices open to others (Lukes, 1974). Mobility allows capital to hold over labour the constant threat that it will withdraw, and go elsewhere in search of profit (Cohen, 1995). This, in turn, enables capital, through the rules imposed by governments, to regulate and channel the mobility options open to workers. Labour markets have been made more ‘flexible’ in line with capital’s requirements, as the restrictions on the opportunities of the many are tightened, giving more freedom to the mobile few (Bauman, 1998, pp. 69–73). As full-time industrial employment for men in the First World countries has declined, and service employment has expanded, employers have drawn on supplies of part-time female labour, and have developed...

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