Handbooks of Research on International Political Economy series
Edited by Leila Simona Talani and Simon McMahon
Chapter 7: Global foreign workers’ supply and demand and the political economy of international labour migration
As specialists have argued for several decades, the place of migrant workers in the economy of high-income countries is a ‘structural necessity’ (Castles and Kosack 1973; Cohen 1987; Bauder 2011). More recently, it is recruiting practices by a growing yet unregulated ‘migration industry’ which receive the attention of policy-makers, scholars and activists. Several cases of frauds, of abuses of migrant workers sometimes verging on trafficking, led to calls for stricter rules at the international and national levels (ILO and Global Migration Group 2014; International Labor Recruitment Working Group 2013). From a political economy perspective, the case of international labour recruitment needs to be put in the broader context of the production of labour supply at the world level. The global labour supply is partly shaped by the complex migration management dynamics of high-income countries where the combined effect of more restrictive migration policies and of the proliferation of labour migration visas feed the migration industry (Schierup and Castles 2011). It is also related to the existence of transnational migrant networks and the constitutions of migrants as new entrepreneurial subjects (Goldring and Landolt 2012; Schierup and Castles 2011; Dreher 2007; Schwartzman 2010). The role of corporations and employers in these dynamics also needs to be accounted for. In various sectors of the economy, industries adopt strategies and make restructuring decisions by taking into consideration the presence of mobile workers.
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