Jul 26, 2009

Crisis and funding of research

By Katka Svickova

In normal times, politicians of all strands are unanimously committed to the support of education, research and development. They never forget to stress how important these areas are to secure future prosperity. In crisis times, the “now” becomes more important than the future prosperity as governments are confronted with hard choices how best to use public funding to alleviate the negative effects of the economic crisis and help to re-start the up-cycle. Instead of the promised growth, public budgets for education and research either stagnate or fall in several Central and Eastern European countries (and as might be the case elsewhere in Europe, too).

A few months ago, investing in research and development was still promoted as one of the solutions to the economic crisis. Accordingly, the Czech national anti-crisis plan committed to increasing the R&D public spending over the next three years. Originally, the spending on research should grow by 8 % in 2010. Yet at the end of June, the government decided to freeze the annual outlays on research over the next three years at the level of 2009.

In addition to this, the Czech university and research community is in a sharp dispute over the allocation of these research funds. The conflict in essence boils down to rebalancing the spending to favor applied at the expense of basic research. The prevailing “now before then” logic favors the applied research – as a means to give a boost to industrial innovations. The funding allocations should be more result - and performance - oriented but the criteria, according to which the evaluation of performance is done, are far from perfect and heavily disputed.

Within Central and Eastern Europe, the Czech Republic actually belongs to countries with comparatively high governmental outlays to research: in 2007, it was 0,58 % of GDP as compared to the CEE average of about 0,4 % of GDP. However, both Czech Republic as well as the region are below the EU-27 average of 0,67 % of GDP spent on research from public funds (comparisons and calculations are based on available Eurostat data).

The education and research budget is now under strain not only in the Czech Republic. In Latvia, for example, the spending was reduced by about 65 million EUR affecting teachers’ salaries and resources to vocational schools, scientific institutions, state universities and colleges. The cuts were adopted under the pressure to trim the public budget in a country perhaps most stricken by the economic crisis in Central and Eastern Europe so far. They brought students and teachers to demonstrate in the streets in the course of spring. Also in Poland, discussions are under way to cut educational and research spending.

The developments show that despite the continuous mantras about the importance of research and development, these sectors are also subject to economic cycles and the workings of politics. A question that emerges from the Czech debate and governmental action is whether the cuts as well as the new rules for dividing public funding for research were passed after a profound weighing of short-term and long-term consequences of these decisions. To the most important consequences of the current decisions affect the capacity to engage in basic research. The abrupt shift of funding from research institutions such as Academy of Sciences (and to lesser extent universities) that are focused on basic research to institutes of applied research that are connected to various ministries and major industrial firms, may in the long term undermine both.

From the short-term perspective, more support to applied research in the situation when the budgets of the private sector are strained might bring more immediate results and help to increase the competitiveness of the industry. However, the private sector is also more likely to finance this type of research itself after the worst effects of the crisis on firms are over. On the other hand, basic research requires a lot of funds with uncertain and long-term results, and is thus not so attractive for the private sector. Moreover, the institutes focused on basic research are fundamental for creating the necessary human capital that allows applied research institutes to operate successfully within the global research networks. It is therefore here where public funding plays a crucial role.

Making public choices about educational and research priorities, and subsequent reforms of the system, including how public funds are allocated, are relevant in all conditions. However, the “now” perspective of crisis times should not prevent a decision-making based on sound weighting of both short-term and long-term consequences of the different options.

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Jul 19, 2009

The Political Economy of Managed Migration by Georg Menz (book review)

by Lucia Kurekova

Georg Menz. The Political Economy of Managed Migration. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 298 pp. ISBN: 978-0-19-953388-6. Forthcoming in Acta Oeconomica.

Migration continues to represent an important academic and policy issue, not least due to its critical implications for political, economic, social, demographic and cultural aspects of life of individuals as well as societies. Before the 2008 world economic crisis loomed in, labor and skill shortages in booming European economies incited ‘war on talent’, forcing the European governments to redefine the basic principles of their migration policies. A recent book by Georg Menz “Political Economy of Managed Migration” addresses a topical issue of development of migration policy in the EU, both at the level of the countries and at the level of the European Union, proposing a paradigmatic shift towards ‘managed migration’. His analysis of a range of traditional immigration countries - Germany, France and the United Kingdom – together with new immigration states - Italy, Ireland and Poland is a significant contribution to migration studies, international relations and Europeanization literature and to the field of political economy. Both the novelty in respect to theoretical cross-fertilization of different fields and the breath and depth of the evidence that the author assembles and presents about the issue of active migration policy make the book an important social science read.

The first part of the book engages with explaining and connecting the rationale of the three analytical angles: political economy angle, non-state actors angle and multiple arenas (Europeanization) angle. Acknowledging that migration in the EU takes on both security and economic dimension, an important contention of the book is that the states have moved towards ‘managed migration’ of labor while simultaneously taking more restrictive stand towards other forms of migration. The most crucial novelty that the work offers is an account of the factors that determine different predilections of the states in respect to preferred types of migrants in terms of their skill levels and occupational profiles. Advocating the competitive state thesis which is behind the convergence towards more open national-level labor migration policies, the author argues that regulation of migration is strongly influenced by differences in the systems of political economy across countries, namely the nexus of production strategies of corporations, the sectoral composition of the economy and labor market regulation. The major differences between prototypical liberal market economies (LMEs) and coordinated market economies (CMEs) are embodied in the preferences of labor market institutional actors, namely the employers associations and unions embedded in different systems of political economy that will seek to influence governments to adopt labor migration policies reflecting the profile of migrants deemed complementary to national production strategies. Along these lines, the active migration policy is treated as a case study of Europeanization processes where multiple arenas in which the governments play the games can be powerfully established but which essentially provides multitude of evidence of the bottom-up Europeanization and parallel rather than sequenced timing of the games.

After outlining the argument and methodological choices in the introductory chapter, chapter two engages with past legacies and experiences of the countries which play an important role in defining migration policies currently. However, the author deems traditional typology of post-colonial versus guest worker legacies in major immigration countries outdated. He contends that from a political economy angle, the similarities in labor migration regulation across countries are remarkable already in the after-war economic boom period, giving compelling examples of how (French) Renault, (German) Mercedes Benz and (British) London Underground conducted extremely similar recruitment activities in Algeria, Turkey and Barbados respectively. His analysis at this stage, however, makes the reader wonder in which way managed migration of the 21-st century is “a new paradigm” as he repeatedly argues throughout the work. The author’s own propositions suggest that if an attempt is made to understand migration policies in the context of economic conditions and fundamentals, it becomes evident that specific external and internal economic pressures make all governments susceptible to cater to the needs of big employers and drivers of job creation and economic growth.

Third chapter, a core of the book, outlines the logic of his two main hypotheses related to his innovative framework: 1) the varieties of capitalism and skill hypothesis and 2) the sectoral hypothesis. Using the extended typology of Hancke et al (2007), he anticipates that gradual innovation and concentration on high value added production in CMEs and relative to that more radical innovation in LMEs will induce the CME economies to be interested in migrants with specific skills and the LME employers rather to seek migrants that have general and transferable skills which are able to respond more readily to flexible corporate strategies. Further, the employers in the mixed and the emerging market economies (MMEs and EMEs) will resemble more divided strategies and their preferences will reflect the model that they are approaching. Sectoral hypothesis further contends that the employers will take into account the relative size of component sectors of the economy (primary-secondary-tertiary) and the relative importance of these sectors will affect the profile of economic migrants deemed desirable by employer associations. He sets out to evidence the predictions in the next two chapters. The author, however, succeeds only partly in providing sufficient evidence and clarity to his argumentation, which is partly due to a great density of information that he provides on each country study. In addition, an endogeneity issue of the sectoral hypothesis in relation to the varieties of capitalism theory needs to be raised – different preponderance towards secondary versus tertiary sector between the types of political economies is part of the VoC framework, deeming a separate hypothesis related to the effect of the size of sectors on migration policies essentially redundant and nearly inseparable from the first one.

In the fourth chapter the author looks at the traditional immigration countries – Germany, France and the United Kingdom and offers a careful overview of how migration policy evolved overtime and across issues (labor, asylum seekers, and family reunion). He carefully traces the positions of interests groups and NGOs within the countries and maps the trajectories of more or less successful representation (depending on their organizational capacities, domestic actor coalitions and other issues) of their interests vis-à-vis home governments and potentially the EU level institutions through the governments. Chapter four carries out similar analysis for the new immigration countries: Ireland, Italy and Poland which was chosen as a representative case from among the new accession states. The chapter argues that organizational power of interest groups has critically shaped national strategies which, however, has been much less the case in the new accession countries where a strong tendency to adopt acquis communitaire in the area of migration and asylum policies, in spite of some clearly negative implications for these countries, has prevailed. Mimicking of policy choices has taken place more generally in the new immigration countries which, the author claims adding refinement to the argument, tend to look for policies and solutions to their neighbors which are structurally similar. In that respect, his contention that the new accession countries adopt measures similar to CME economies, namely Germany, is particularly interesting and potentially creates an interesting avenue for further enquiry.

The two chapters with country studies are critical to the testing of the book’s framework. While his carefully gathered material univocally confirms that economic perceptions of migration have prevailed, clearly due to the active input of employers and support of unions who have changed their no immigration stance, the most innovative parts of his theory are not evidenced sufficiently. While his argument goes that Germany (or France) should want to attract ‘specific’ skills while liberal market economies such as the UK (or Ireland) should frame policies which favor generic skills, it rather seems to be the case that while low-skilled immigration is left to be regulated by the market, the governments irrespective of its political economy fundamentals have converged on explicit policies towards bringing in highly skilled migrants, regardless of their skill specificity. This critique can be proposed not only because of the evident gap between the designed active migration policies and the success of their implementation (Germany but also the Czech Republic provide ample evidence of the policy ‘failure’) but also because the author failed to provide any hard data about the skill profiles of the incoming migrants into at least the prototypical cases of varieties of capitalism that he scrutinizes.

The evidence about the incoming migrants seems to be crucial in order to substantiate the major argument about different skill cohorts being attracted based on the underlying political economy structures and institutions of host countries. Leaving such evidence out shows that the author has committed an unfortunate fallacy in failing to acknowledge that migration is a dyadic relationship and that sending countries matter as much as the receiving countries in determining the profiles (skill, education) of incoming migrants. To be fair with the author, in this respect he can only be blamed for not advancing the boundaries of migration policy studies which tend to vastly underestimate both structural and institutional home country parameters in the analysis of migration patterns. Nevertheless, the overview of the structure of East-West after-accession migration provides ample evidence of the above claim and is in contradiction to the predictions of Menz’ framework. For example, evidence suggests that relative not only to domestic population but also to the other migrant groups, a bulk of EU8 migrants in the UK and Ireland have gained employment in secondary tier of economy (manufacturing industry and construction). Further, important differences in terms of migrant sectors of employment can be drawn if sending country is accounted for (CSO, 2008; Accession Monitoring Report, 2008; European Commission, 2008).

In sum, the weaknesses of Menz’s book are a corollary of his ambitious attempt to perhaps answer too many questions, at the expense of fleshing out his main arguments about the uniqueness of managed migration in the new millennium and about the implications of various political economy structures and institutions on the active migration policy sufficiently. First, while the evidence that the current world economic crisis is providing about migration policies supports his point about the crucial weight of ‘economics’, it also seems to elucidate that it is economic fundamentals such as growth and job creation rather than economic structures that are substantial determinants of the form and shape of migration policy. Second, it is somewhat paradoxical that while the author at one hand validly and interestingly brings the agency in through the role he assigns to labor market associations, he at the same time leaves it out via failing to attribute necessary attention to the account of the actual (rather than hypothesized) migrant profiles and to take seriously the push side of the migration equation. Third, while he contends that migration policy reveals that state and state policies continue to matter and that the state has not retreated but rather “a recast state with new priorities is playing role in engineering the construction of regulatory regimes ensuring a steady labor supply of desirable talent and skill portfolio” (p.37), his evidence partly suggest that state is hardly insulated from interest groups. This is particularly clear through his ample reference to dilemmas and even conflicts attached to allocating private but also public resources to retraining and upskilling domestic labor versus importing foreign labor which have important implications for future economic and social development of host (and home) countries.

Against this critique, however, the pioneering and innovative aspects of author’s research, partly introduced in his earlier contributions, must be fully acknowledged. The inter-disciplinary nature of the book as well as a serious attempt to conduct comparative work not only across (six!) cases but also overtime make the book everything that the migration discipline has been calling for. I have no doubt that the book is likely to entice rich scholarly as well as policy debate across different research areas that the author draws on and valuably contributes to.

Accession Monitoring Report. 2008. May 2004 – December 2007. A Joint Online Report by the Home Office, Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs and Communities and Local Government.

CSO (Central Statistical Office). 2008. Census 2006. Non-Irish nationals living in Ireland. Government of Ireland. June.

European Commission. 2008. Employment in Europe 2008. DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Brussels.

Hancke, Bob, Martin Rhodes and Mark Thatcher. 2007. Beyond varieties of capitalism. Conflict, contradictions and complementarities in the European economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Jul 14, 2009

The complicated politics of free movement

by Chris Wright, guest author
PhD Candidate, Department of Politics and International Studies, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, cflw2@cam.ac.uk

Public policy-making invariably involves weighing the potential benefits derived from anticipated policy outcomes against the possible costs. This is particularly the case with labour immigration, which depending on the attributes of immigrants and the labour requirements of receiving economies, can deliver substantial macroeconomic benefits to host countries. But expansionary labour immigration policies can also deliver a range of unanticipated outcomes, and tend to be electorally unpopular. The balancing act between economic benefits and political costs was particularly apparent in the deliberations of the 15 Western European member states of the European Union (‘the EU-15’) when 10 Central and Eastern Europe states joined the EU in 2004 and 2007. The EU-15 states were permitted to restrict nationals from the new member states from freely working in their labour markets for up to seven years, but the transitional measures used by EU-15 governments were mixed and varied.

On the accession of the eight states that joined in on 1 May 2004 – the ‘A8’ states – Ireland, Sweden and the United Kingdom were the only three EU-15 states to allow free movement from the outset. When the EU further enlarged three years later to include Bulgaria and Romania (the ‘A2’ states), only Sweden and Finland opened their labour markets from the date of accession.

There is no straightforward explanation for the varying responses of EU-15 states to free movement, but domestic political pressures and economic institutional factors – not to mention the policy positions of other member states (1)– certainly played a part. This is evident in the case of the UK, which was the only large member of the EU-15 to allow A8 nationals to freely work, but subsequently prevented A2 nationals from being able to do so.

The majoritarian nature of Westminster democracy meant that Blair government had few political constraints in implementing a policy of free movement in 2004. This was a privilege that would not have been offered by the political systems of many other EU-15 states, but perhaps meant that the Blair government was more shielded from any discernable political costs, which were no lesser than elsewhere.

Nonetheless, economic considerations had the greatest bearing over the Blair government’s decision to opt for a policy of free movement. Labour shortages arising from low unemployment fuelled by over a decade of sustained economic growth meant that the competition for jobs between A8 nationals and UK residents was likely to be less of a problem than in other EU-15 labour markets. But whereas most EU-15 governments saw free movement as having a potentially adverse economic impact, the Blair government justified its position in terms of the benefits that could be delivered.

When announcing the Blair government’s intention to allow A8 nationals to work freely in December 2002, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said such a move was “in the UK’s interest” because it would “attract workers we need in key sectors”(2). By contrast, the language used by leaders of the EU-15 states that imposed restrictions was often couched in terms of the potential costs that would otherwise be imposed on their more protectively regulated labour markets. For instance, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said that domestic labour markets, particularly those in areas bordering the accession states, would not be able to accommodate a large inflow of workers (3).

This contrast was also evident in the way that interest groups and the broader community responded to the prospect of free movement. While business groups and trade unions were hostile to such a position in states such as Germany and Austria, in the UK these groups were supportive. And although public opinion and press coverage towards immigration was similarly ambivalent in the UK and Germany, concerns about labour market impact were more apparent in the latter (4).

This was not simply a question of job vacancies and unemployment; there are also structural explanations for why free movement was a more appealing prospect in the UK than elsewhere. Rates of unemployment and/or labour market inactivity were in fact lower in a number of other EU-15 states that adopted restrictive policies – such as Austria, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – than in the UK (5). But the more flexible nature of the UK labour market meant that it was better placed to absorb more workers without an accompanying increase in unemployment (6).

Despite both adopting open labour market policies with similarly low levels of unemployment, over 200,000 A8 nationals came to work in the UK each year following enlargement, compared with only around 5,000 to Sweden (7). While strong demand for labour in the UK was one reason for these disparities (8), weaker labour market regulation enabled employers to hire migrant workers on relatively lower wages and conditions, particularly compared with Sweden, where much stronger regulation afforded no such scope (9).

Moreover, various ‘system effects’ of the UK’s economic institutions had eroded the capacity of the government and employers to respond to labour shortages through orthodox strategies such as increasing wages, investing in labour-saving technology or training resident workers. As Anderson and Ruhs have argued, the self-reinforcing nature of the UK’s lightly regulated labour markets meant that many employers have been ‘unable or unwilling to train’ new staff, in part due to ‘a fear of poaching, the rise of self-employment and the consequent importance attached to on-the-job training and learning by doing’(10).

The decision of EU-15 states that imposed barriers to A8 nationals in the form of restrictions or quotas can perhaps therefore be interpreted as protectionist measures consistent with the regulatory characteristics of their labour markets, whereas the UK’s liberal stance was compatible with its more laissez-faire approach to market regulation. But why then did the UK opt to restrict free movement to A2 workers when the EU further expanded in 2007? Essentially because this time around, the Blair government saw the potential political costs as being greater than the economic benefits that it expected to garner.

Before the 2004 enlargement, the government had commissioned a report to predict the likely size of the migration flows from the A8 states. The authors of the report estimated, that between 5,000 and 13,000 people would arrive per year, but strongly warned that because of a ‘lack of good data’, there was, ‘a large potential error’ in their analysis (11). Nonetheless, these estimations gained much media attention, and indeed turned out to be rather inaccurate. The underestimation made the Blair government much more cautious about free movement for Bulgarians and Romanians.

Opposition was more widespread and vocal to the prospect of free movement than it had been in 2004, and although the institutional capacity of the government to override this opposition was no weaker, the economic benefits were less obvious than they had been three years earlier. The Blair government saw the economic impact of A8 workers as positive and a reason to consider continuing a policy of free movement. But it believed that changes in the UK economy, and different attributes of Bulgarian and Romanian workers, meant that the economic case for opening the labour market once again was less compelling.

Ultimately, the response of the UK and other EU-15 governments shows the complex and often entangled considerations that inform labour immigration policy-making. While such decisions invariably involve balancing anticipated economic and political benefits and costs, these benefits and costs are more apparent in some circumstances than others.

(1) Kvist, Jon (2004) ‘Does EU enlargement start a race to the bottom? Strategic interaction among EU member states in social policy’, Journal of European Social Policy, 14(3): 301-318
(2) Quoted in The Independent (2002) Castle, Stephen, ‘UK lifts bar on workers from new EU countries’, 11 December: 12
(3) Jileva, Elena (2002) ‘Visa and free movement of labour: The uneven imposition of the EU acquis on the accession states’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 28(4): 694
(4) Boswell, Christina, Chou, Meng-Hsuan and Smith, Julie (2005) Reconciling Demand for Labour Migration with Public Concerns about Immigration: Germany and the United Kingdom, Anglo-German Foundation for the Study of Industrial Society: London, 27
(5) OECD (2005) Employment Outlook, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development: Paris, 237-239
(6) Somerville, Will and Sumption, Madeleine (2009a) Immigration and the labour market: Theory, evidence and policy, Equality and Human Rights Commission/Migration Policy Institute, available at: www.migrationpolicy.org/pubs/Immigration-and-the-Labour-Market.pdf, 13
(7) Drew, Catherine and Sriskandarajah, Dhananjayan (2007) ‘EU enlargement in 2007: No warm welcome for labor migrants’, Migration Information Source, 1 January, available at: www.migrationinformation.org/feature/display.cfm?ID=568
(8) Krings, Torben (2009) ‘A race to the bottom? Trade unions, EU enlargement and the free movement of labour’, European Journal of Industrial Relations, 15(1): 54
(9) Ruhs, Martin (2007) ‘Greasing the wheels of the flexible labour market: East Central European labour immigration in the United Kingdom’, in Smith-Bozek, Jen (ed) Labour Mobility in the European Union: New Members, New Challenges, Center for European Policy Analysis: Washington DC, 24
(10) Anderson, Bridget and Ruhs, Martin (2008) A need for migrant labour? The micro-level determinants of staff shortages and implications for a skills based immigration policy, Paper prepared for the Migration Advisory Committee, September, available at: www.ukba.home office.gov.uk/mac, 38-42
(11) Dustmann, Christian, Casanova, Maria, Fertig, Michael, Preston, Ian and Schmidt, Christop M. (2003) The impact of EU enlargement of migration flows, Home Office Online Report 25/03, available at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/rdsolr2503.pdf, 58

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