University of Oulu

Prokkola, E.-K. (2021). Labor migration: Dynamics and politics. In M. P. Jones (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science. Oxford University Press.

Labor migration : dynamics and politics

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Author: Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa1
Organizations: 1Geography Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: , 2021
Publish Date: 2023-03-24


Much of the early research on labor migration drew on the push-pull factors of migration. The emphasis was on economic and individualistic assumptions with little notion of institutions, power, and politics. Since the early 1970s, the interest has shifted toward historical and institutional processes and structural factors and their explanatory power regarding the dynamics and patterns of labor migration. The national and international regimes of migration control have expanded and directed scholarly attention toward border and migration policies and their production of migrant categories. Migration policy research has also extended the focus from receiving countries toward complex dynamics and interactions between the labor-sending and labor-receiving countries. The migration trajectories from the global South to North have been studied extensively and more and more attention is paid to South–North, South–South and North–North migrations. Different types of labor migration and mobilities are also subject to different regional, national, and international policies and policy change. In current literature, the heterogeneity of migration is underlined, as well as how labor migration politics and policies address high-skilled migrants in different ways than low-skilled ones. However, the categories of migration are in many ways arbitrary. Labor migration is a highly complex and politically contested issue that intersects and forms a continuum with other types of migration and migration politics. Migration politics and the precarious conditions of foreign workers have been studied, among other ways, in explorations of what influence the temporal nature of migration and restricted permission to stay in the foreign territory have. Moreover, although labor migration is usually understood in terms of voluntary migration, the conditions of migrants sometimes resemble those of unfree labor, illustrating the complexity of determining what is counted as labor migration and what politics it concerns. The recent research on migrant rights and political atmosphere brings together the subjects of different migrations and how migrants navigate between different legal and political statuses. The literature is organized chronologically into eight themes that have a similar theoretical approach or similar thematic perspective to labor migration: (1) Theoretical and Historical Overviews, (2) International Division of Labor, (3) the Political Economy of Labor Migration, (4) Regulation and Management of Labor Migration, (5) Regional Migration Governance, (6) Skilled Labor Migration, (7) Temporary and Precarious Labor Migration, and (8) rights and protection in a Rights-Based Approach. The historical and geographical migration trajectories are visible through the themes, revealing how and why the particular aspects of labor migration have become questions of politics in different parts of the world.

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ISBN: 978-0-19-975622-3
DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0329
Host publication: Oxford bibliographies in political science
Host publication editor: Jones, Mark P.
Type of Publication: A3 Book chapter
Field of Science: 520 Other social sciences
519 Social and economic geography
5142 Social policy
Copyright information: Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved. Republished by permission of Oxford University Press.