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Meeting One Report: The Human Face of Global Mobility

Exploring International Skilled and Professional Migration in Europe and the Asia-Pacific: Demographic and economic background & agenda for research


The following is a schematic report of highlights from the first meeting of the CCGR working group on “The Human Face of Global Mobility”, held at UCLA on Nov 9th 2002. The next meeting will take place on Feb 22nd 2003 at UCLA, and focus on the legal and political dimensions of international skilled and professional migration.

Meeting one was designed principally as an orientation and brainstorming session. In the first half, participants presented their interests in the subject, raising possible areas of new research in this field. In the second half, Gary Freeman presented a possible template for research on the topic. This was followed by a discussion about data sources, and the potential deliverables for the working group. Combining Gary’s framework with other suggestions put forward by the group, the following lays out our first sketch of what a general research template for the subject might look like. At this stage it is merely a provisional list of topics and possible research questions, and we welcome all further suggestions.


  • Adrian Favell (Sociology, UCLA) Co-convener
  • Miriam Feldblum (Political Science, Caltech) Co-convener
  • Min Zhou (Sociology, UCLA)
  • Ivan Light (Sociology, UCLA)
  • Paul Ong (Public Policy, UCLA)
  • Gary Freeman (Political Science, University of Texas, Austin)
  • Michael Peter Smith (Community Studies, UCDavis)
  • Kristin Surak (Sociology, UCLA)
  • Katalin Szelenyi (Education, UCLA)
  • Jeanne Batalova (Sociology, UCIrvine)
  • Sabeen Sandhu (Sociology, UCIrvine)
  • Mingang Lin (Suchong University, China)

Research template

Goals of template:

  • To organize workshop discussions
  • To canvass existing theories
  • To lay out an analytical framework for future possible research topics

Scope and location of research

Europe and Asia-Pacific countries/regions from the point of view of:

  • Sending countries
  • Receiving countries
  • Regional or 3rd country effects of migration
  • Transnational processes/spaces

Our framework will address, in turn, economic, political/policy/legal, and social/cultural questions

1. Economic questions

1.1. Relationship between trade and migration

  • Does trade spur migration, or is it a substitute for migration?
  • Studies show that migrants do spur trade, certainly for product specific markets

1.2. Brain drain/brain gain

  • in education
  • in high tech
  • in nursing (ie. Philippines)
  • the phenomenon of “brain storage”

1.3. Labor market performance of migrants

  • impact on US since legislation of 1990s
  • has change impacted on national labor market although markets are geographically specific?
  • example of Silicon valley – labor displacement took place in other industries, there was no wage depression of US employees

1.4. Entrepreneurship and other ‘spin offs’

  • Relationship with high tech industries
  • Remittances and new commercial, business and scientific activities

1.5. Recruitment brokers/agents:

  • the business of international migration
  • role of universities as independent brokers/facilitators

1.6. Global competition for skill

  • Canada/Australia comparison
  • the global centrality of USA
  • new European initiatives: ie, German IT recruitment
  • country specific schemes: ie, Mexico-US “high tech braceros”

1.7. Effects on global trends in inequality/polarization

  • weaknesses in global cities argument and data

1.8. Outsourcing of work

  • mid-west Macy’s telephone operators in Bangalore
  • high tech outsourcing

2. Political/policy/legal questions

2.1. National policy and recruitment schemes

  • contrast between points and preference systems
  • movement towards temporary systems
  • decentralization and fragmentation of policies – each visa has its own specialists, interest groups, committees

2.2. Visas and legal issues

  • the H1B scheme in US

2.3. Technology transfer and development

  • special relationships: US/Taiwan, US/South Korea, US/Philippines

2.4. Developments in international law

  • Intellectual property law
  • International private law

2.5. Multi-lateral regional schemes

  • The EU model: freedom of movement, education/technology investment
  • The emerging role of NAFTA: ie, GATS, etc
  • More than 40 other different IOs involved

2.6. Education policies in sending and receiving countries

  • training/employment of Philippine nurses

3. Social/cultural questions

3.1. Impact of migrants on global cities

  • looking at migration as city level process rather than national/international level

3.2. Social position of non-citizens, dual-nationals

  • glass ceiling phenomenon for Indians in Silicon valley
  • new rights, legal dilemmas re: non-citizens

3.3. Global elites or transnational middle classes?

  • new transnational practices – expat knowledge banks, web-based associations
  • family contexts
  • pressures of mobility and settlement

3.4. Effects on sending countries

  • the impact and scope of remittances – ie, Indian govt raising billions of dollars by selling bonds to Indian high tech workers in the US
  • entrepreneurial investment in countries of origin
  • networks – governments trying to capture benefits of diaspora
  • technology/science transfer

3.5. The global role of education

  • a route to citizenship for foreign students
  • do international students take away places from native students at top schools?
  • Chinese students abroad - US largest market, then France, Britain, Switzerland
  • The H1B route – changing status
  • European countries more restrictive on changing visa status
  • in 1995, 23% of all foreign born tech professional got doctorates in US, 40+% of engineers and scientists got training in US
  • beyond the research universities - proprietary schools – English/IT schools as channel to international migration for students

3.6. paths/strategies to international migration

  • strategies of Chinese migration: maternity visits (nursing homes), “parachute kids” (US schooling on F1 visas)
  • does birthrate of foreign students increase while in US?

Existing studies discussed

  • Ong/Cheng projects
  • CCIS (UCSD) studies and books (Cornelius et al)
  • Eurostars project (Favell)
  • PEMINT network (Lavenex, Geddes et al)
  • Lowell report (Urban institute)

Possible data sources

  • US labor department: certification of employers, H1B visa clusters
  • Employers: CS employers, universities/research, medical research/medical service, biotech, defense related/aerospace firms
  • Alien Registration data set
  • PUMS data set
  • Administrative data sets within industries/associations
  • Longitudinal wage data sets
  • Viable sources for wage data for H1B visa holders - via ss number
  • Wage histories – linking firms with visa holders and wages
  • EU data – national collections of data – quality varies.
  • SOPEMI data sets

Specific possible projects/lines of research

Some other possible questions:

  • How highly skilled immigrants integrate into a particular site (European and Asian immigrants in the US)? How do they evolved into some transnational networks – remittances, practices, travel, engagement in transnational activities - it may look differently across these groups
  • Research focused more on receiving countries; not many systematic studies done on how skilled migration affects economy on sending countries. – trade migration, bonds, economic development, entrepreneurial investment job shop growth industries
  • There are countries that are experiencing simultaneously brain gain and brain drain – how large are these flows, what are their impact?
  • Compare places that have the similar skilled migrant populations – silicon valley in US and silicon glen in Britain
  • Take one metropolitan region and compare the impact/effect of different skilled migrant populations
  • Similar public policies across national settings – comparing the recruitment of highly skilled migrants in Germany and US
  • Backflow into different places, from different places to same country
  • Transnational space – as the topic to be investigated – connecting two ends of a skilled network – embeddedness of the international skilled migrants that enables the migrants to be active/engaged in both/one of the places
  • Comparison on issues – like remittances – between highly skilled and low skilled immigrants; and intersections of networks between highly skilled and low skilled immigrants (professionals bringing in migrant domestic labor)

Possible deliverables (on web-site and elsewhere)

  • Meeting reports
  • Working papers
  • Links to other websites
  • Annotated bibliography
  • Edited book (series edited by M.P.Smith)

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