Labour Migration Management as Multidimensional Border-drawing: A Comparative Interpretive Policy Analysis in the EU

  • Regine Paul

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis examines and compares current labour migration management of non-EU workers in Germany, France and the United Kingdom. It aims to explain cross-national similarities and differences from an interpretive policy analysis perspective. The research entails analyses of 33 legal documents and in-depth interviews with 25 high-ranking policy-makers and is anchored in case contexts. In order to gain comparative explanations the analysis maps legal classifications and rights regimes governing incoming migrant workers, explores meanings policy-makers vest in these, and thereby reconstructs the economic, social and political normative references these meanings entail in comparative perspective. By conceptualising migration policy as border-drawing I challenge the main stream migration policy literature, offering an alternative approach which changes the parameters of policy analysis more generally. While most migration policy research concentrates on explaining the control gap between restrictive admission policies and de facto migratory flows, I shift the analytical focus towards states’ power to define legal and illegal positions through policy and allocate rights in a differential way. Empirically, I overcome partial policy accounts by contributing a multidimensional analysis of labour migration policy across its economic, social, and politico-formal dimension, and develop an innovative methodology to explain crossnational variation in the interaction of these aspects. By associating each dimension with a specific borderdrawing site – capitalist coordination system, welfare state regime, and citizenship model – the thesis utilises regime theories to develop benchmarks for the empirical analysis while at the same time testing the explanatory scope of these theories in the field of labour migration. Migrant workers are selected by skill level and labour scarcity in all three cases in line with widely shared economic values surrounding labour migration agendas. Yet, the analysis also pinpoints considerable divergences when selecting migrants by origin, social cohesion concerns or with annual caps. The variable labour geographies into which migrant workers are admitted – mainly relating to post-colonial relationships, distinct uses of EU free movement, and demographic context – are seized by policy actors to selectively contextualise economic border-drawing. It is this distinct socio-political contextualisation of a shared cultural political economy of labour migration which explains similarities and differences in European labour migration management. The thesis hence contributes an empirically detailed understanding of an integrating EU common market which coexists with persistently diverging labour geographies and societies. Findings bear considerable policy implications in terms of European integration and the unequal distribution of labour mobility rights for migrants in Europe.
Date of Award5 Jul 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorEmma Carmel (Supervisor) & Susan Milner (Supervisor)


  • migration
  • EU policy
  • Political Economy
  • welfare states
  • comparative policy analysis

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