Panel 1: Precarious Migration
The conference began with a panel centered on the theme of precarity in labor migration. The opening presentation by Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration, Mobilities and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, drew attention to the importance of notions of time and life stage in the construction of the “migrant worker” and hence in the regulation of labor migration. She noted that states are much less resistant to admitting temporary migrants compared to long-term migrants. Similarly, states prefer younger migrants who are likely to be healthy, economically active, and without dependents. Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law at the University of Leicester, then offered a comparative analysis of the economic and policy impact of the integration of low-skilled migrants into the labor markets of regulated employment law systems such as Germany, on the one hand, and on flexible employment law systems such as the United Kingdom, on the other. He argued that in regulated employment systems, the worry that labor migration will undercut existing protections has led to policy responses that constrain the hiring of temporary migrant workers and irregular migrants. In flexible employment systems, by contrast, there will tend to be a greater propensity to hire temporary and irregular migrants, with the policy response limited to combatting the worst abuses.
In a third presentation, Hiroshi Motomura, Professor of Law at UCLA, developed an analysis of precarious and temporary labor migration via the lens of four different perspectives. The first perspective looks at states’ attempts to respond to unauthorized migration, given the high domestic demand for low-skilled migrant labor but restrictive legal regimes for the admission of labor migrants. The second perspective examines the tension between expanding legal routes for temporary labor immigration and the imperative of creating an underclass of second-class (de facto) citizens. The third perspective asks how immigration policy can promote, or conversely harm, international development. The final perspective then considers the domestic economic impact of labor immigration, given that different segments of the receiving society capture differing shares of the overall economic gains from labor immigration.