Differentiated Rights, Segmented Labour Markets: The Emergence of New Guestworker Regimes and the Making of Marginalised Precarity in Western Europe

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Kenneth HORVATH , University of Education Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
This paper contrasts current labour migration with post-WWII guestworker programmes and argues that hierarchical differentiation and exacerbated precarisation for some migrant groups are the main characteristics of current labour migration regimes. My main objective is to show how both low-wage and 'elite' migration programmes are structured by (i) the securitisation of migration and (ii) racialised boundary making. These processes are disguised by the hegemonial notion of migration management. Using the examples of the UK, Austria, and Spain, I first outline how labour market restructurings since 1975 have led to a layering of labour mobility: the concentration of labour migrants in low-paid industrial jobs has given way to a simultaneity of (i) even more precarious forms of employment mainly in agriculture, tourism, and construction and (ii) relatively privileged elite migration linked to the transnational mobility of capital and goods. These new labour mobilities are regulated by complex legal frameworks that are marked by a radical deprivation of fundamental rights for some migrants, while other groups face hardly any mobility barriers. Second, in all three case countries the establishment of these new frameworks was dependent on a securitised discursive context in which migration was mainly discussed as an existential threat to social security, cultural identity, and public order. This context was used to establish policies that would have been considered illegitimate under 'normal' circumstances. Third, I explore the ways in which the differentiation between migrant groups is linked to new forms of racialised boundary making, mainly in the context of EU-integration. Developments are very similar across all three countries – although they represent different "varieties of capitalism", party systems, migration histories, and welfare regimes. Together they illustrate how the neoliberal political-economic project structures life chances of millions of migrant workers throughout Europe, many of them living under conditions of radicalised precarity.