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Title: Policy legacies and the politics of labour immigration selection and control : the processes and dynamics shaping national-level policy decisions during the recent wave of international migration
Author: Wright, Christopher F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2708 3125
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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The two decades preceding the global financial crisis of 2008 saw an increase in international migration flows. This development was accompanied by the relaxation of immigration entry controls for select categories of foreign workers across the developed world. The scale of labour immigration, and the categories of foreign workers granted entry, varied considerably across states. To some extent, these developments transcended the traditional classifications of comparative immigration politics. This thesis examines the reform process in two states with contrasting policy legacies that adopted liberal labour immigration selection and control policies during the abovementioned period. The instrumental role that immigration has played in the process of nation-building in Australia has led it to be classified as a 'traditional destination state' with a positive immigration policy legacy. By contrast, immigration has not been significant in the formation of national identity in the United Kingdom. It has a more negative immigration policy legacy and is generally regarded as a 'reluctant state'. Examining the reasons for liberal shifts in labour immigration policy in two states with different immigration politics allows insights to be gained into the processes of policy-making and the dynamics that underpin it. In Australia, labour immigration controls were relaxed incrementally and through a deliberative process. Reform was justified on the grounds that it fulfilled economic needs and objectives, and was consistent with an accepted definition of the national interest. In the UK, liberal shifts in labour immigration policy were the incidental consequence of the pursuit of objectives in other policy areas. Reform was implemented unilaterally, and in an uncoordinated manner characterised by an absence of consultation. The contrast in the manner in which reform was managed by the various actors, institutions and stakeholders involved in the process both reflected, and served to reinforce, the immigration policy legacies of the two states. Moreover, the Howard government used Australia's positive legacy to construct a coherent narrative to justify the implementation of liberal reform. This generated greater immediate and lasting support for its reforms among stakeholders and the broader community. By contrast, lacking a similarly positive legacy, the Blair government in the UK found it difficult to create such a narrative, which contributed to the unpopularity of its reforms. This thesis therefore argues that policy legacies had a significant impact on the processes and dynamics that shaped labour immigration selection and control decisions during the recent wave of international migration. The cases demonstrate that a nation's past immigration policy experiences shape its policy-making structures, as well as institutional and stakeholder policy preferences, which are core constituent components of a nation's immigration politics. The UK case shows that even when reluctant states implement liberal labour immigration policies, these characteristics tend to create feedback effects that make it difficult for reform to be durable. The relationship between immigration policy and politics thus becomes self-reinforcing. But this does not necessarily mean that states' immigration politics are rigid, since the institutions that help to make a nation's immigration policy and shape its politics will inevitably undergo a process of adaptation in response to changing contexts.
Supervisor: Brown, William ; Thompson, Helen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Immigration ; Labour markets ; Comparative politics ; Policy-making ; Political economy ; Historical institutionalism ; Australia ; United Kingdom