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)
ZiF Research Group Workshop

Opening Conference
In Search of the Global Labour Market: Actors, Structures and Policies

16 - 18 October 2017
Convenors: Ursula Mense-Petermann (Bielefeld, GER), Thomas Welskopp (Bielefeld, GER), Anna Zaharieva (Bielefeld, GER)

Since October 2017, the three organisers of the research group, four long-term fellows, and weekly incoming guests have been living and working at ZiF to advance research on 'global labour markets'. The group is addressing the question whether there is a global labour market at all and how it should be analysed from a theoretical and empirical perspective.

For the ten months that the group is working at ZiF, we have put together a programme of four thematic workshops investigating the key questions of our research group: (1) What exactly is the commodity exchanged on labour markets, (2) where do global labour markets come from, (3) what enables labour markets to cross national borders, and (4), reacting on recent developments in the context of the 'refugee crisis', how the latter can be analysed in a labour market perspective. In addition, we have several guest lectures and our weekly jour fixe that serves to discuss key concepts, draft papers and empirical materials.

At our opening conference on the 16th-18th of October, two keynote speeches and four panels on the abovementioned workshop topics were our framework to collect input and set out different perspectives on the questions to be scrutinized during the months ahead – and especially to get acquainted with each discipline`s concepts and approaches. In the first keynote presentation, Michael J. Piore, one of the most well-known labour market theorists for his works on dual labour markets, set the stage by sharing some observations on policy paradigms and the challenges to immigration and globalisation. He reflected on different political paradigms of the past decades and pointed out the implications of these paradigms for labour markets. He questioned the term 'global labour market' and suggested that it might be an oxymoron.

Panel 1 discussed the theoretical and empirical challenges connected with conceiving of labour as a commodity. For example, Richard Hyman argued from a labour and industrial sociological perspective that it is important to differentiate between the concepts of labour and labour power and emphasized the importance of decommodification.

Panel 2 examined the question of how cross-border labour markets emerge and the role that 'market makers' play in this regard. Presentations ranged from Chinese market-making in the context of the "Belt and Road Initiative" (Graham Hollinshead) to Eastern European contract workers in the German meat industry (Ursula Mense-Petermann) to shadow labour markets (Peter-Paul Bänziger). A recurrent question throughout all contributions was how forms of intermediated exchange and organisationally embedded forms of cross-border labour contribute to the social construction of border-crossing labour markets at various scales of analysis (near-shoring, off-shoring, world regional and global labour markets).

Panel 3 discussed the role of institutions, international intermediaries and social networks for border-crossing labour markets. This panel looked, for instance, at better labour allocation (Béla Galgóczi), global social policies and regulation (Alexandra Kaasch) and work mobilities (Sven Kesselring).

In Panel 4 we addressed the question of in how far and what a labour market-perspective can contribute to a better and more fine-grained understanding of the complexities of the so-called 'refugee crisis'. This panel focused on Germany (Michele Battisti, Helen Schwenken, Anna Zaharieva) and the UK (Eleonore Kofman), bringing together different disciplinary perspectives on labour market integration and migration governance.

At the closing of the conference, Frédépic Docquier`s keynote speech followed up on the discussion of the last panel, speaking about the effects of immigration on the welfare of native population in a number of OECD countries. He paid special attention to the effects of immigration on wages and employment chances of native workers, as well as the implications for the fiscal budget and price adjustment. Integrating all these factors, his research indicates that the post-crisis migration wave induces smaller welfare gains compared to the previous one.

The opening conference made it clear just how challenging and complex the topic of 'global labour markets' is and served to collect pending research questions that the group will address during the year of residence. In bringing together perspectives from Economics, Sociology, History, Political Science, Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Management Studies and Migration Studies, our group is excited to get to work and looks forward to meeting again for lectures and workshops at the ZiF during the next months.

Conference Programme
Keynote Lectures

For further questions, please contact the coordinator of the Research Group, Annika Andresen.

phone: +49 521 106-12837