Regulating Transnational Labor: Theorizing Regulatory Challenges of Transnational Labor

Scholar in Residence Lecture I

  • Date: Jun 7, 2022
  • Time: 05:00 PM
  • Speaker: Karen Shire
  • University of Duisburg-Essen
  • Sign up: info@mpifg.de
Regulating Transnational Labor: Theorizing Regulatory Challenges of Transnational Labor

An increasing share of migration no longer results in immigration and settlement, but takes the form of temporary and circular exchanges of labor across borders. Examples include posted work, labor subcontracting, cross-border temporary staffing, illegal forms of forced and trafficked labor, but also “medium-skilled” industrial and service work. Building on theoretical discussions in the economic sociology of markets and labor sociology, Shire proposes a reconceptualization of migration as the organization of cross-border labor markets. The lecture focuses on the multiplicity of market-making actors, the coordination problems specific to the transnational exchange of labor power, and regulatory challenges and solutions in a comparative transnational perspective. Recent research has focused mainly on the private governance of labor in the global economy. The talk explores the evidence of an expanding role for public governance and the extension of associational capacities for labor representation across national borders.

In her lecture series Karen Shire develops an economic sociological approach to the making and regu­lation of transnational labor markets in the global economy. What makes the cross-border mobility of migrant labor possible is the subject of migration infrastructures research, while labor market scholars have restricted their analyses to migrants in the context of national labor market institutions. In their approaches to regulation, migration scholars often advocate for free movement, while labor scholars focus on how cross-border labor threatens hard-won labor protections. Karen Shire’s three lectures seek to gain leverage on the contradictions between liberalizing labor mobility and regulating employment across territorial jurisdictions by drawing on research exploring the organization and coordination of cross-border labor markets, and the interface between legal and illegal market exchanges. Empirically the talks draw on historical research on the emergence of modern labor markets, contemporary research on labor governance, and her own empirical studies of cross-border labor mobility in the Asia Pacific and the European Union.

Publication recommended for preparatory reading

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