Comparative Migration Studies

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 445–467 | Cite as

Government Responses to Foreign Worker Demand During Economic Crises

The Cases of Britain and France 2008–2013
Open Access


With the aim of developing existing theories of labour immigration policy, I focus on the question of persisting demand for foreign workers during economic downturns and how governments attempt to respond to this. The argument is that, apart from turning a blind eye to irregular labour migration, there are two ways in which governments respond to demand for migrant labour during economic hard times. First, despite a rhetorical emphasis on restricting labour immigration, they continue to facilitate the entry of highly skilled labour migrants and the employment of migrants who enter a country with a non-economic motive. Second, they encourage resident workers to take up jobs in occupations where migrant workers are concentrated. This hypothesis is borne out in my exploration of French and British government responses to foreign labour demand between 2008 and 2013.


labour immigration labour supply policy Britain France economic downturn 


  1. Bertossi, C. (2008). ‘France: the State strives to shape “chosen” immigration’, Politiche Migratorie e Modelli di Società (Rome: CeSPI).Google Scholar
  2. BIS (2009). ‘Skills for growth: National skills strategy’, (London: BIS).Google Scholar
  3. Blinder, S. (2013). ‘Non-European Labour Migration to the UK’, (Oxford: Migration Observatory Oxford).Google Scholar
  4. Bonoli, G. (2008). ‘The Political Economy of Activation: Explaining Cross-National Variation in Active Labour Market Policy’, Working Paper De l’IDHEAP, (1), 1–21.Google Scholar
  5. Boswell, C. (2008). ‘UK Labour Migration Policy: Permanent Revolution?’, (Rome: CeSPI).Google Scholar
  6. Boswell, C. (2009). The Political Uses of Expert Knowledge (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cameron, D. (2013). ‘David Cameron’s Immigration speech’, in University Campus Suffolk (ed.), (Ipswich).Google Scholar
  8. CAS (2006). ‘Besoins de main-d’œuvre et politique migratoire’, (Paris: Centre d’analyse stratégique). [‘Labour shortages and migration policy’, Paris: Centre for Strategic Analysis]Google Scholar
  9. Castles, S. (2004). ‘Why migration policies fail’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 27(2), 205–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clasen, J. & Clegg, D. (2003). ‘Unemployment Protection and Labour Market Reform in France and Great Britain in the 1990s: Solidarity Versus Activation?’, Journal of Social Policy, 32(3), 361–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cornelius, W. Martin, P. & Hollifield, J. F. (eds.) (1994). Controlling Immigration. A Global Perspective (Stanford: Stanford University Press).Google Scholar
  12. Crouch, C. (2005). ‘Skill formation systems’, in S. Ackroyd, et al. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Work and Organization (Oxford: OUP).Google Scholar
  13. Devitt, C. (2010). ‘The Migrant Worker Factor in labour market policy reform’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 16(3), 259–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Freeman, G. (1995). ‘Modes of Immigration Policies in Liberal Democratic States’, International Migration Review, 29(4), 881–913.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Guiraudon, V. & Joppke, C. (eds.) (2001). Controlling a new migration world (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
  16. Hollifield, J. F. (2004). ‘Migration and International Relations: the Liberal Paradox’, in Entzinger, H. et al., (ed.), Migration between States and Markets (Aldershot: Ashgate).Google Scholar
  17. Home Office (2002). ‘Secure borders, safe havens: Integration with diversity in modern Britain’, in Home Office (ed.), (London).Google Scholar
  18. Joppke, C. (1998). ‘Why Liberal States Accept Unwanted Immigration’, World Politics 50(2), 266–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. King, D. (1995). Actively Seeking Work? The Politics of Unemployment and Welfare Policy in the United States and Great Britain (Chicago: The University of Chicago).Google Scholar
  20. Krings, T. (2009). ‘A race to the bottom?’ Trade unions, EU enlargement and the free movement of labour’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 15 (1).Google Scholar
  21. Le nouvel observateur (2013). ‘La France “n’a pas besoin de maçons et de serveurs” immigrés 22 May 2013’.Google Scholar
  22. Lochak, D. (2006). ‘La loi du 24 juillet 2006 relative à l’immigration et à l’intégration 45–55’, La française Regards sur l’actualité, 326, 45–55.Google Scholar
  23. MAC (2009). ‘Analysis of the Points Based System Tier 2 and Dependants’, (Croydon: Migration Advisory Committee).Google Scholar
  24. Martin, P. & Ruhs, M. (2010). ‘Labor Shortages and US Immigration Reform: Promises and Perils of an Independent Commission’, COMPAS WP, No. 81.Google Scholar
  25. Menz, G. (2005). Varieties of Capitalism and Europeanisation: National Responses to the Single Market. (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  26. Migration Observatory (2011). ‘A loose fitting cap: why is the limit on skilled non-EU workers undersubscribed?’, (Oxford: University of Oxford).Google Scholar
  27. Ministère de l’Intérieur (2013). ‘Les données de l’immigration professionnelle et étudiante Document préparatoire au débat au Parlement’, (Paris).Google Scholar
  28. Ministère de l’Intérieur, de l’outre-mer, des collectivités territoriales et de l’immigration et Ministère du travail, de l’emploi et de la santé. (2011). ‘Maitrise de l’immigration professionelle’, (Paris).Google Scholar
  29. Ministère de l’Intérieur, de l’outre-mer, des collectivités territoriales et de l’immigration, Ministère du travail, de l’emploi et de la santé et Ministère de l’Enseignment Supérieur et de la Recherche. (2012). ‘Circulaire du 12 janvier relative à l’accès au marché du travail des diplômés étrangers de niveau au moins équivalent au Master: modalités d’examen des demandes’, (Paris).Google Scholar
  30. OECD (2009). ‘International Migration Outlook’, Sopemi edition (Paris: OECD).Google Scholar
  31. Ruhs, M. & Martin, P. (2008). ‘Numbers vs Rights: Trade-offs and Guestworker Programs’, International Migration Review, 42(1), 249–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Schain, M. (2006). ‘The Extreme Right and Immigration Policy-Making: Measuring Direct and Indirect Effects’, West European Politics, 29(2), 270–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Somerville, W. (2007). Immigration Under New Labour (Bristol: The Policy Press).Google Scholar
  34. Sparrow, A. (2011). ‘Businesses reject call from Iain Duncan Smith to employ more Britons’, The Guardian.Google Scholar
  35. Stephens, P. (2013). ‘Britain ‘Open for Business, Closed to Foreigners’ (20th of February 2013)’, Financial Times.Google Scholar
  36. Summers, D. (2009). ‘Brown stands by British jobs for British workers remark’, The Guardian, 30th of January 2009.Google Scholar
  37. The Economist. (2012). ‘Marine Le Pen Waiting in the shadows (11th April 2012)’.Google Scholar
  38. Transatlantic Trends. (2012). ‘Transatlantic Trends: Immigration 2011’, (German Marshall Fund of United States).Google Scholar
  39. UKBA (2010). ‘The Student Immigration System: a consultation’, (Croydon: UKBA).Google Scholar
  40. Weil, P. (2006). ‘Lettre de Patrick Weil à Nicolas Sarkory sur la réforme, 24 février 2006’, (Paris). [‘Letter from Patrick Weil to Nicolas Sarkozy concerning the 24th of February 2006 reform’]Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyTrinity CollegeDublinIreland

Personalised recommendations