Yet another ‘tool for growth’? Labour migration policy and varieties of capitalism in France and Germany

Regine Paul

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The saliency of international labour migration in the ‘competition state’ and a return to active recruitment across the rich world challenges our understanding of national economic coordination processes. Departing from the Varieties of Capitalism (VoC) literature, this paper argues that labour reproduction cannot fully be captured in terms of national vocational education and training systems. Instead, we need to better understand to what extent policy forges foreign labour recruitment as yet another complement in a wider macro-economic competitiveness strategy. Evidence from document and interview analyses in France and Germany provokes ambivalent answers to this exploration. With regard to the beneficial treatment of high and specific skills entries, selection mechanisms for extra-EU migrant workers are clearly shaped by nationally distinct competitiveness strategies and narratives. They epitomise the aspirations of the ‘competition state’ bearing distinct characteristics of state-enhanced French and enabling German capitalism par excellence. The sectoral locus of foreign recruitment decisions in both countries and the specific German fixation on VET qualifications in admissions further follow well-studied economic coordination patterns. However, limits to non-EU labour entries for lower skills enforce a highly differential rights regime compared to high skilled entries. We observe a strong political demarcation of the ‘competition state’ logics in skilled and lower skilled segments, noticeably departing from orthodox economic coordination claims. This rests on a political imagination of a self-sufficient resident pool of labour, contained by domestic activation policy targets, EU free movement of labour, and, very distinctly in France, the management of a post-colonial resident population.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Apr 2011
EventMigration, Economic Change and Social Challenge Conference - University College London
Duration: 6 Apr 20119 Apr 2011


ConferenceMigration, Economic Change and Social Challenge Conference
CityUniversity College London


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