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Rethinking migration: work and welfare in a mobile economy

  • Date(s)
    12 December 2008
  • Location

Marking the culmination of a twelve-month project of investigation into the “myths and realities of labour migration”, Policy Network in partnership with the Barrow Cadbury Trust, has held a high level conference in London on 12 December.

The conference entitled "Rethinking migration: work and welfare in a mobile economy" brought together centre-left politicians, academics and policymakers from across Europe. It seeked to redefine the terms of the immigration debate and encourage new strategic thinking about the European Social Model, which ensures that labour market, welfare and immigration policies are properly coordinated.

Key speakers included Pat McFadden MP, minister of state for employment relations and Trevor Philllips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

As the global economic downturn deepens, various European governments are responding to the prospect of increasing unemployment by reducing, or promising to reduce, levels of inward migration. While it is wise to try to tailor the flow of migrants in response to changing economic conditions, as Britain is doing with the new points-based system, these efforts will fail if they are conducted in isolation.

Evidence from Policy Network’s research project suggests that the number and type of migrants who cross our borders, and the type of contributions they make, are not only the result of specific immigration policies. They are also influenced by Europe’s diverse labour markets structures and welfare systems. This does not mean that states should abandon efforts to select migrants, but rather that immigration, labour market and welfare policies need to be developed in tandem.

By refocusing attention on the demand side of migration – especially on the labour market and welfare conditions which attract or repel different kinds of migrants – the conference seeked to expand the range of policy options available for European governments to reap the rewards of migration while minimising the social costs.

The Policy Network work programme entitled Disentangling the myths from realities: building a progressive centre-left narrative on labour migration has, over the last twelve months, aimed to help build a progressive narrative on labour migration by disentangling public perceptions of migration – often influenced by inaccurate reporting in the media – from a more balanced understanding of migration’s actual economic impact.

A new paper launched at the conference entitled Rethinking Migration by Policy Network’s head of research Elena Jurado and policy researcher Annie Bruzzone reflects on the projects findings and questions the utility of an approach to labour migration that aims to attract “useful” migrants to our borders, while keeping “unwanted” migrants out.

If you have any questions about the event, or the research programme, please contact Isra Jawad at ijawad@policy-network.net.

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