Borderless labour mobility: An innovative global outlook for migrant workers

by Giovanni Di Lieto

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: labour; labour; migration; human mobility; global governance; international economic law; human rights; citizenship
Record ID: 1300513
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4929


Over the past few years, immigration policy literature has generally interpreted cross-border workers’ mobility as a mere function of economics. This has influenced in particular the domestic labour market policies of developed countries, where the interplay of interests in the political arena can amplify the pressure of cross-border immigration demand. Such consideration can be demonstrated by swift policy change in countries where managing immigration for national economic benefit became the imperative after decades of zero immigration being the legitimate objective. The immediate effects of this trend are the dramatic changes in the patterns and flows of workers’ mobility into old and new countries of migration, where new policies are leading to a complete overhaul of systems of migration management. This study is concerned with why such changes are taking place, starting from an approach that focuses on the role of ideas and knowledge in the policy process. Consequently, the focus is on the role of interests and institutional effects emphasised by new theories of labour mobility, and their repercussions on the policy process of migration governance. Starting with an analysis of migration dynamics and international labour rights, this study takes an international economic law outlook to pinpoint labour liberalisation as the targeted solution to the shortcomings of global governance in migration. The analysis aims at making the theoretical leap from a citizenship and border-based framework of industrial relations to a more holistic concept of borderless labour mobility that prioritises global interests. The recent trend of organising migrant workers provides the conceptual baseline for realising the potential of borderless labour mobility in linking permission to access foreign labour markets to societal membership through appropriate community and industrial institutions. Such an innovative framework aims at including pro-labour protection mechanisms in global social contract negotiation, by allocating an equal economic role to labour and capital. In this context, by analogy with trade in capital and goods, the mobilisation of labour is required to allow its participation in the creation of economic factors that affect it, and of legislative standards that protect it. This study proposes that an open-border labour process be initiated in connection with the broader trade liberalisation trend. This would thoroughly restructure the current concept of labour as a mere immobile input into the production of goods and services. In the proposed model of borderless industrial denizenship, labour movement would eventually be freed from the nation-state border constraints that undermine the enforcement of labour and other related human rights standards. In other words, the abstract right to leave and to remain would turn into a real power to enter and exit labour markets, therefore imposing a greater degree of socio-economic discipline on illiberal governments seeking to oppress the populations of their nation-states.…