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

Conference, 31 January - 1 February 2019, Bielefeld, Germany

From October 2017 until July 2018, the fellows of the research group “In Search of the Global Labour Market” have been living and working at ZiF to examine the question of whether there is a global labour market at all and how it should be analysed from a theoretical and empirical perspective. The closing conference will bring together the group‘s fellows from the fields of Economics, Sociology, History, Political Science, Social Policy, Industrial Relations, Management Studies and Migration Studies and aims at presenting the research results and continuing the comparative discussions.

The Research Group reacted to a widely and either enthusiastically or gloomily publicised current topos: Never before has such a large number of people left their home countries and migrated in the hope of better working and living conditions elsewhere in the world. Never before did so many people travel between countries on an everyday basis. In Germany alone, some 180 million business trips abroad are made each year. Are such observations a sign of an emerging and vastly expanding global labour market or should we better speak of cross-border work migration among nation states? There is little verifiable empirical knowledge about the consequences of globalisation for labour markets and it is baffling that the 'global/transnational labour market' has yet rarely been subjected to theoretical clarification and systematic research.

This was the point of departure of our Research Group for solving this conundrum by bringing together expertise and perspectives from a number of disciplines usually not very prone to talking to one another: history, economics, the sociology of markets and of work, industrial relations, migration research, regulation research, political economy and geography. We agreed to start by working out disciplinary differences in the understanding of each and every term of our common theme 'Global Labour Market': 1. the notion of labour, 2. concepts of markets and 3. the question of what is 'global'.

The upshot of our discussions and analyses may be summarised to the effect that 'global labour markets' can be both seen as a way of thinking of central actors and effects of their practices. This means that the notion of 'global labour market' is an effect rather than a substantial reality. The consequences of the global and cross-border labour migration movements we have observed and analysed are that transactions of such kind may have very different consequences — from brain drain in the sending countries to increased economic growth from remittances sent back home. There will be more international competition but also more job vacancies — due to internships abroad, young people tend to have a more international orientation which might result in a self-reinforcing effect. The benefits to international trade through new networks between countries should also not be underestimated.

Labour markets do have become more global. International migration is an important manifestation of this globalisation and the members and guests of our ZiF Research Group will discuss this further it our concluding conference.


In Search of the Global Labour Market 
Ursula Mense-Petermann (Bielefeld) 
Thomas Welskopp (Bielefeld) 
Anna Zaharieva (Bielefeld) 
Coordinator: Annika Andresen

31st January – 1st February 2019

Thursday, 31st January (Plenary Hall) 

09:00 Arrival/Coffee 

09:30 - 10:00 

Welcome addresses by ZiF and the organisers 

Panel 1: Labour – Or what is exchanged as a commodity in labour markets? 

10:00 - 10:45 

What is exchanged in labour markets? Some heterodox thoughts
Marcel van der Linden (Amsterdam)

10:45 - 11:30 

Capitalism and free wage labour 
Thomas Welskopp (Bielefeld)

11:30 - 11:45 Coffee break 

11:45 - 12:30

Is forced labour the new normal?

Richard Hyman (London)

12:30 - 13:30 Lunch 

Panel 2: The market concept and its heuristic potential 

13:30 - 14:45 

What is so unique about labour markets? 
Patrik Aspers (Uppsala) 

The contributions and limits of a market perspective on labour markets 
Karen Shire (Duisburg-Essen)

14:45 - 15:30 The co-production of labor markets and nation states, 1850-2000 
Peter-Paul Bänziger (Basel)

15:30 - 16:00 Coffee and cake

16:00 - 16:45 
Is there a global labour ‘market‘? Analytical capacities and ‘blind spots‘ of the market concept in analyzing cross border labour migration 
Ursula Mense-Petermann (Bielefeld) & Helen Schwenken (Osnabrück)

Panel 3: What enables a labour market to cross national borders? 

16:45 - 17:30 

Intermediaries and the making of cross-border labor markets
Karen Shire (Duisburg-Essen)

17:30 - 18:15 

Emergence and decline of institutions: A transnational perspective
Sigrid Quack (Duisburg-Essen) 

19:00 Dinner at ZiF

Friday, 1st February (Plenary Hall) 

Panel 3 cont’d 

09:00 - 09:45 

Immigration, social networks and occupational mismatch (joint work with S. Alaverdyan) Anna Zaharieva (Bielefeld)

09:45 - 10:30 

Cross-border journalism and mobility 

Sven Kesselring (Nürtingen-Geislingen)

10:30 - 11:00 Coffee break

11:00 - 11:45 

Eastern European service contract workers in the German meat industry – A case study in market making of a transnational labour market 
Ursula Mense-Petermann (Bielefeld)

11:45 -12:30 

Can job search assistance improve the labour market integration of refugees? 
Michele Battisti (Glasgow)

12:30 - 13:30 Lunch

Panel 4: Are there global labour markets? 

13:30 - 14:15 

The global and its scales 
Eleonore Kofman (London)

14:15 - 15:00 

What are ‘global‘ markets? Historical-sociological ideas 
Tobias Werron (Bielefeld)

15:00 - 15:30 Coffee and cake

15:30 - 16:15 

Global policies and discourses of intergovernmental and nongovernmental 
international organisations: The example of refugees and migration 
Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick (London) & Alexandra Kaasch (Bielefeld)

Dinner (Restaurant Vahle, Wertherstraße 24, 33615 Bielefeld, self pay)


Attached document(s):