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The Governance of Migrant Labour Supply in Europe, Before and During the Crisis

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After more than two decades of policy inertia, since the late 1990s a new interest in labour migration arose across Europe and at the EU level. This translated into a new season of policy experimentation which expressed itself in very different forms across the continent. Such an uneven wave of policy change has not been interrupted by the crisis, which however has deeply altered its dynamics, propelling innovation in some countries and blocking it elsewhere. Based on in-depth fieldwork carried out in the framework of a comparative research project ( in six European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) and at EU level, this special issue aims at generating fresh empirical knowledge and new theoretical insights into the complexities of labour migration governance in Europe. In an attempt to go beyond a limited understanding of labour migration policies as admission of foreigners for working purposes, all the articles share a common theoretical framework based on the concept of ‘migrant labour supply (MLS) policies’. Under this conceptual umbrella, different functional equivalents of (and alternatives to) direct labour migration policies are considered.

Besides setting the broad empirical scene, illustrating the common conceptual foundations of the special issue and providing an overview of the articles’ main findings, this Introduction formulates some core arguments. It is argued that determining and constantly adjusting the composition of MLS policy mixes is a fundamental expression of states’ agency in the field of labour migration, especially in times of major economic fluctuations. I also contend that such national MLS policy mixes can be explained as country-specific attempts to find and constantly adapt ‘paths of least resistance’ meant to maximise fulfilment of labour immigration demands while minimising resistances to it.


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  • Migration policy
  • Labour migration
  • Economic crisis
  • Europe