Special issue on employment relations, migration and geographical mobility

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 4 October 2011


(2011), "Special issue on employment relations, migration and geographical mobility", Employee Relations, Vol. 33 No. 6. https://doi.org/10.1108/er.2011.01933faa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Special issue on employment relations, migration and geographical mobility

Article Type: Call for papers From: Employee Relations, Volume 33, Issue 6.

Guest Editors: Jenny K. Rodriguez and Lesley Mearns

This special issue aims to provide a forum to discuss intersections between employment relations, migration and geographical mobility. Globalisation has a multidimensional impact on employment relations (Lansbury et al., 2003). Distinct changes in the relative power of capital and labour, work regulations within and outside countries and regions, have brought new interactions between different stakeholders with some authors (see Kalleberg, 2009), arguing that precariousness and job insecurity are central elements of the globalised employment relationship.

The interconnectedness, multiplexity and hybridisation of social life at spatial and organisational levels attributed to globalisation (Amin, 1997, p. 129) are directly related to the increasingly changing nature of the employment relationship, where contradictory dynamics emerge. On the one hand, the metaphor of the "borderless world'' would seem to suggest that workers benefit from the opportunities available everywhere and anywhere and all workers have to do is migrate towards those opportunities. On the other hand, realities of inequalities, mobility restrictions, and deskilling are reported as being central to migrant workers' experiences, where complex dynamics intersect inter alia with language, ethnicity, immigration policies and cultural assimilation (Peixoto, 2001; Raghuram and Kofman, 2004; Kofman and Raghuram, 2006).

Within this discussion, migration and geographical mobility have emerged as important elements that intersect with the new forms of employment and work, formally and informally articulated. Interaction between labour and market could suggest that workers have leveraged power over these dynamics. However, context-specific constraints on employment relations raise issues about the way migration is regulated and the underlying assumptions about migrant workers. So, amid the alleged "triumph of capitalism [...] over national and local autonomy and identity'' (Amin, 1997, p. 123), a salient and contradictory feature of these dynamics is the strict way in which nationality and citizenship are defined in order to delimit and enforce immigration policies (Cohen, 2006) and how they impact migrant labour and inter-regional geographical mobility.

A central element of the relationship between employment relations, migration and geographical mobility is the assumptions made about workers. For example, migrants often cannot escape stereotypes of "precarious workers'' and as a consequence experience imposed employment relations that generate patterns of inequality and abuse (see Anderson, 2010). For instance, discussions about the new migrant division of labour (May et al., 2007) find support in theover-representation of migrant workers in dangerous industries and in hazardous and low-skilled jobs, occupations and tasks (Datta et al., 2007; Benach et al., 2010).

On the other hand, workers with specific patterns of geographical mobility and groups with limited mobility, such as couples and large families (see Green and Canny, 2004; Nivalainen, 2004), can also experience similar circumstances. The idea of location-specific capital (see DaVanzo, 1981) is a central element to geographical mobility, where it is assumed that workers move from declining areas to areas that provide more opportunities for employment (Arntz, 2005). This could make them more vulnerable to oppressive employment relationships. However, although some literature (Robson, 2009) suggests that structural organisational change is significantly influenced by regional variation, limited research (Martin et al., 1994a,b; McGrath-Champ, 2002) has been undertaken with regard to the impact of geographical location on the employment relationship. Undoubtedly, changes in the structure of the global economy have seen a shift from traditional manufacturing to services (Romero, 2009), where the economic base has seen a transformation of working practices due to shifts in dominance of the working population from blue-collar to white-collar. Nevertheless, these changes have not been matched by a corresponding migration of workers and, whilst this in itself has changed the nature of the employment relationship, the impact of these changes has not been evenly distributed throughout the different regions (Robson, 2009). As a result, the way people are managed has changed and could be linked to how certain regional locations influenced the employment relationship through their pre-existing cultural traits which dominate the workplace relationship.

The special issue aims to show-case fresh discussion that explores the intersections between employment relations, migration and geographical mobility. We welcome empirical, conceptual and theoretical contributions. Some areas of particular interest for the special issue are detailed hereafter. However, this list is not exhaustive and the Editors encourage contributions within the broader theme of the special issue:

  • Experiences of migrant labour

  • Deskilling of migrant workers

  • Precariousness of migrant work

  • Inequalities of skilled migrant workers

  • Surveillance and control of migrant labour

  • Immigration and employment rights

  • Experiences of geographical (inter- and intra-regional mobility)

  • Impact of geographical mobility on career progression

  • Impact of kinship networks on the employment relationship.

The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2011, the Editors of the special issue welcome discussion of initial ideas for articles via e-mail.

Guest Editors

Jenny K. RodriguezE-mail: jenny.rodriguez@ncl.ac.uk

Lesley MearnsE-mail: lesley.mearns@ncl.ac.uk

Further reading

Belot, M. and Ermisch, J. (2009), "Friendship ties and geographical mobility: evidence from Great Britain'', Journal of Royal Statistical Society, Vol. 172, pp. 427-42.

Martin, R.L., Sunley, P. and Willis, J. (1994a), "The decentralisation of industrial relations? New institutional spaces and the role of local context in British engineering'', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers NS, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 457-81.

Martin, R.L., Sunley, P. and Willis, J. (1994b), "Local industrial politics: spatial subsystems in British engineering'', Employee Relations,Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 84-99.



Amin, A. (1997), "Placing globalisation'', Theory, Culture and Society, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 123-37.

Anderson, B. (2010), "Migration, immigration controls and the fashioning of precarious workers'', Work, Employment and Society, Vol. 24 No. 2, pp. 300-17.

Arntz, M. (2005), The Geographical Mobility of Unemployed Workers, Discussion Paper No. 05-034, Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW).

Benach, J., Muntaner, C., Chung, H. and Benavides, F.G. (2010), "Immigration, employment relations, and health: developing a research agenda'', American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 53

No. 4, pp. 338-43.

Cohen, R. (2006), Migration and its Enemies: Global Capital, Migrant Labour and the Nation-state, Ashgate, Aldershot.

Datta, K., McIlwaine, C., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. May, J. and Wills, J. (2007), "From coping strategies to tactics: London's low-pay economy and migrant labour'', British Journal of Industrial Relations, Vol. 45

No. 2, pp. 404-32.

DaVanzo, J. (1981), "Repeat migration, information costs, and location-specific capital'', Population and Environment: Behavioural and Social Issues, No. 4, pp. 45-78.

Green, A.E. and Canny, A. (2004), Geographical Mobility: Family impacts, The Policy Press, Bristol.

Kalleberg, A.L. (2009), "Precarious work, insecure workers: employment relations in transition'', American Sociological Review, Vol. 74 No. 1, pp. 1-22.

Kofman, E. and Raghuram, P. (2006), "Gender and global labour migrations: incorporating skilled workers'', Antipode, Vol. 38 No. 2,

pp. 282-303.

Lansbury, R.D., Kitay, J. and Wailes, N. (2003), "The impact of globalisation on employment relations: some research propositions'', Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 41 No. 1, pp. 62-74.

May, J., Wills, J., Datta, K., Evans, Y., Herbert, J. and McIlwaine, C. (2007), "Keeping London working: global cities, the British state and London's new migrant division of labour'', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 151-67.

McGrath-Champ, S. (2002), Regional Employment Relations at Work: The Illawarra Regional Workplace Industrial Relations Survey, book review, by Markey, R., Hodgkinson, A., Maylett, T. and Pomfret, S. with Murrat, M. and Zanko, M., International Journal of Employment Studies, Vol. 10 No. 1,

pp. 151-8.

Nivalainen, S. (2004), "Determinants of family migration: short moves vs long moves'', Journal of Population Economics, Vol. 17, pp. 157-75.

Peixoto, J. (2001), "Migration and policies in the European Union: highly skilled mobility, free movement of labour and recognition of diplomas'', International Migration, Vol. 39 No. 1, pp. 33-61.

Raghuram, P. and Kofman, E. (2004), "[Introduction] Out of Asia: skilling, re-skilling and deskilling of female migrants'', Women's Studies International Forum, Vol. 27, pp. 95-100.

Robson, M. (2009), "Structural change, specialisation and regional labour market performance: evidence for the UK'', Applied Economics, Vol. 41, pp. 1466-83.

Romero, R.G. (2009), "Estimating the impact of England's area-based intervention `New deal for communities' on employment'', Regional Science and Urban Economics, Vol. 39 No. 3, pp. 323-31.