ZiF Research Group

In Search of the Global Labour Market

Actors, Structures and Policies

October 2017 - July 2018

Convenors: Ursula Mense-Petermann (Bielefeld, GER), Thomas Welskopp (Bielefeld, GER), Anna Zaharieva (Bielefeld, GER)
Grafik: Ex Tempore Pudentia

Globalisation is on everybody's lips. Like few others this catchword epitomises the dynamic changes of present times, not least with regard to labour markets. Never before have such a large number of people emigrated in the hope of better working and living conditions. Never before were so many flight miles spent on business travel. For the highly qualified elites globalisation appears as a cornucopia of opportunities. In less privileged sectors of the labour market, above all in industry, employers refer to the 'pressure of globalisation' to justify the lowering of standards and wages or the shifting of jobs abroad.

Employee organisations such as trade unions, but also populist movements, demonise 'global labour markets' as a threat resulting in a downward spiral for working conditions and substantially menacing Western welfare states and democracies. According to this reading, immigration of any kind, refugees included, is threatening to push aside a low-qualified domestic workforce from the national labour markets.

There is, however, little verifiable empirical knowledge about the consequences of globalisation for labour markets. Thus, it is unclear both what the catchword 'global labour markets' means specifically and how to tackle the phenomenon in research and politics. Many studies in the Social Sciences and Economics have dwelled on particular aspects of manifestations and processes involved in globalisation, but without focussing on 'global labour markets' themselves. This is the starting point of the ZiF Research Group "In Search of the Global Labour Market".

The group is concerned with questions such as: What can be conceived of as 'global labour markets' from a theoretical perspective, and what exactly is the 'commodity' traded here? Which terminology and concepts, methodologies and empirical approaches are suitable for identifying and describing 'global labour markets' in an analytically profound manner? What do the existing empirical findings reveal about 'global labour markets' – in a present-minded as well as in a (long-term) historical perspective, provided they can be regarded as 'global' and/or functioning 'labour markets' in the first place? Which role is played by migration and the growing mobility of the workforce for the transformation of national labour markets towards a single 'global market'? How is this transformation influenced by existing institutions, international intermediaries and social networks?

To pursue these questions the ZiF Research Group assembles renowned scholars and younger academics from Economics, Sociology, History, Political Science, Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Management Studies and Migration Studies.

The opening conference took place at Bielefeld from 16th to 18th October 2017.

Please direct any inquiries about the Research Group In Search of the Global Labour Market – Actors, Structures and Policies to Annika Andresen.

Email: global.labour.market@uni-bielefeld.de