JUST MIGRATION: Labour Migration Regimes in transnationalised contexts

Conceptual Outline

Over the last decade, the EU and its Member States have intensified their efforts to attract labour migration not least due to demographic change and the perceived needs of labour markets in a still globalised economy. The regulation of labour migration through law, however, is facing manifold challenges and complexities. By labour migration I primarily denote legal migration, i.e. temporary or permanent cross-border relocation of residence for the purpose of taking up employment, but also labour market access of persons who initially and legally crossed the border for other purposes (e.g. family, protection). Legal regulation of labour migration in the EU and its Member States currently faces three core challenges: (1) a significant marketisation of labour migration with more and also private actors being involved in regulatory activities (marketisation); (2) increasing claims that labour migration governance should to take into account the effects on countries of origin and on migrants themselves (transnationalisation); (3) an increasing demand to organise labour migration in a manner that ensures economic, social and ecological sustainability (sustainability). While these challenges are not genuinely new, they gain new salience in the context of an aging population in Europe, a world economy under pressure by war, climate change, tendencies of de-globalisation and, lastly, strong political pressure from right-wing populists.

In the complex processes of labour migration, law plays an ambiguous role and operates in a complex interplay of various commercial, economic, cultural and technological variables that shape labour migration today. It involves a multitude of stakeholders, both public (countries of origin and destination) and private (migrants, employers, intermediaries), the procedural role and legal accountability of which is often not fully transparent. Labour migration is thus situated in a triangle between private interests, public interests and sustainability in terms of long-term impact on the economy, the environment and societies. This context makes labour migration governance through law particularly challenging. And, yet the consequences of these challenges for the legal regulation of labour migration are, as of today, not fully grasped by legal scholarship. We still know too little about how labour migration law is perceived by those who it is supposed to govern, i.e. the migrants themselves. Likewise, we are often unaware of the impact labour migration law has on the countries of origin and their societies or economies and have little idea how to integrate this perspective into the law.

In this light, JUST MIGRATION i) explores how labour migration regimes are negoiated and shaped in the context of the three challenges (marketisation, transnationalisation and sustainability); ii) investigates potentially adverse, exclusionary and deterring effects of current labour migration law in the EU and its Member States; iii) examines the perception of EU and Member States’ labour migration law on countries of origin and migrants and, iv) seeks to identify ways in which labour migration law could take the interests of various stakeholders better into account to enhance their agency in labour migration governance.

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