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International Labour Migration: Economics, Politics and Ethics

This global course analyses one of the most controversial public policy issues of the 21st century
University of Oxford University Offices Wellington Square Oxford ,OX1 2JD United Kingdom
(4418) 65270000

Course at a Glance

Mode of learning : Online - Instructor Lead(LVC)

Domain / Subject : Law and Management

Function : General

Starts on : 22nd Sep 2014

Duration : 10 Weeks

Difficulty : Advanced

About the course

The regulation of labour immigration and the rights of migrant workers are among the most controversial policy issues around the world. In public and media debates, migrants can be development 'heroes' for their countries of origin, 'villains' that threaten the jobs and welfare of workers in host countries, and/or 'victims' of exploitation by people traffickers, recruiters and employers. 

This global course discusses key facts and fiction in debates about international labour migration. It comprehensively analyses the determinants and consequences of labour migration for host countries, migrants and their countries of origin. Drawing on economics, politics and ethics, the course debates the fundamental policy questions, trade-offs and moral dilemmas that are inescapable in the regulation of labour immigration and emigration. 

Course Aim

This course aims to:

  • Analyse global trends, patterns and determinants of international labour migration and discuss the changing role of migrants in the global labour market
  • introduce students to theories and empirical research about the impacts of international labour migration on immigration countries, migrants and their countries of origin, highlighting the key role of migrant rights in shaping effects for all sides
  • discuss and compare the key features of labour immigration policies and the rights of migrant workers in high- and middle-income countries
  • critically analyse the drivers of labour immigration policies in high-income countries and labour emigration policies of lower-income countries
  • using specific case studies from around the world, highlight the many trade-offs and policy dilemmas involved in the regulation of international labour migration, and discuss the consequent ethical questions about how to prioritise different interests in policy making 
  • compare and discuss different policy approaches to regulating low- and high-skilled labour migration, including temporary and permanent migration programmes 
  • discuss key issues in the supra-national and global governance of international labour migration and the rights of migrant workers
  • provide a multi-disciplinary and integrated discussion of labour migration drawing on economics, politics, and ethics

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment due half way through the course and one longer assignment due at the end of the course. Students will have about two weeks to complete each assignment.

Teaching methods

There are several kinds of activity that students will be asked to complete while on this course. Some of these will be ongoing throughout the course, whereas others will relate to the topic of a particular week. Activity types include:

  • Readings of book chapters and articles 
  • Listening/watching podcasts/vodcasts including over 15 interviews with global migration experts
  • Group discussions in unit-specific group forums (e.g. discussing a specific case study / policy)
  • Interactive analysis and debate through our ‘InfoMap’ tool which allows students to answer questions or gather information from the perspective of a particular country and share this information with other students via a map interface.
  • Participating in online surveys and polls
  • Two Q&A sessions with the course author
  • Adding terms to glossary wiki
  • Adding a resource to the 'resource bank'
  • Reading of newspaper clippings / webpages

Course eligibility

Course Requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following book: Ruhs, M. (2013) The Price of Rights. Regulating International Labor Migration, Princeton University Press, Princeton and Oxford

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Course Content

The areas you will cover in this course are:

  • International labour migration: Global trends and determinants
  • Beyond control? Objectives and limitations of the immigration state
  • Burden or benefit? The impacts of migrant workers in receiving countries
  • Opening doors: Labour immigration policies in high-income countries
  • Labour emigration and rights abroad: The perspectives of migrants and their countries of origin 
  • Temporary labour migration programmes: Past, present and future 
  • Open borders: The economics and politics of free movement agreements 
  • Illegal and exploited? Functions and impacts of illegality in labour migration 
  • Inclusion and exclusion: The ethics of labour immigration policy
  • Toward a World Migration Organisation? The global governance of international labour migration

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