CFP: New Migration Dynamics: Regular and irregular activities on the European labour market

6-8 December 2007, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France

During the last decade, the will shown by the European Union member states’ of increasing borders controls enters, in apparent contradiction with practices one can observe in few sectors of the economy which rely on the exploitation of a labour force cheaper and more readily available than national workers. Thus, foreigners, usually finding themselves in a situation of legal inferiority vis-à-vis nationals and often confronted with discriminations on the labour market, turn frequently to the most precarious jobs, or contribute to the functioning of activities which involve a mixture of officially regulated exchanges and informal practices, sometimes even illegal ones.

Without stating if these activities can be considered properly as “work” or not, we will hypothesise that invisibility imposed to the persons concerned, be they employed on specific contracts, under international sub-contractingagreements, on moonlighting or involved in illegal economies, relies globally on the precariousness of foreigner’s status and tends to modify traditional migration patterns. We will discuss the fact that in modern European societies, the position of the foreigner does not correspond any longer to the status of the industrial not qualified worker situated at the bottom of the social scale.

Nowadays we observe that foreigners have been reduced to marginal or semi marginal existence and have been excluded to any protection by the state. We intend to examine this situation and its consequences on migratory movements.

The objective of the conference will be to draw up a comparative assessment of the research carried out of the theme of foreign workers and the new migratory dynamics in Europe, by articulating several angles of approach. On the one hand, taking into account the diversification of the migrants’ profiles, we intend to approach this theme according to a gender perspective.

The foreigner’s activity, seems to be, even more than nationals’ one, touched by categorizations focusing on the gender naturalised differences. Meanwhile, official policies tend to reduce sexual inequalities in the main society, the marginal branch of foreign labour, left to the employer’s free will, seems to follow another path, enhancing sexual specialization.

On the other hand, this gendered dimension is articulated, in analysing the foreigners’ work, by an ethnic dimension. Questions related to ethnicity and racism – terms which respectively describes phenomena of identification of the individuals and a brutal classification of foreigners according to their origins – are in effect, just as questions of gender, at the hearth of social relations and, thus, of the management of the various forms of employment, wage-earning or else, which are the purpose of this call for papers.

Eventually, many recently conducted studies have underlined the increase of population movements and circulatory migration within Europe. We intend to observe how this ever increasing mobility is connected to the creation and emergence of new types of jobs, unknown until recently and, from the migrants’ point of view, to original practices and migratory projects.

Confronting these research perspectives with particular fieldworks, we will examine the diverse forms of employment of foreign workers and new working relations in more or less deregulated economic sectors, linking the question of the transformations of modern employment to these of migratory practices. At first, and non-exhaustively, four areas of investigation, yet insufficiently explored, have emerged as particularly relevant to the
investigation of this set of problems.

A first area concerns the wage-earning labour and the diverse types of seasonal services in agriculture, where precarious modalities of employment appear to have multiplied simultaneously with the acceleration of the world economic competition. The status of temporary farm labourers has become more and more complex in the course of the last decades. The ever more complex nature of the status of temporary farm labourers where the illegal use of non declared work should not be neglected, have bee made possible thanks to the evolution of different European legislations which installs additional legal instabilities.

It seems, but this point remains to be investigated further, that this situation forces foreign workers to multiply their temporary occupations trough diverse sectors of the economy and over large migratory space, better and better connected by migrant social networks extended throughout Europe. Another approach suggests interpreting this diversification and the evolution of Community law as an answer to the collective resistance of agricultural workers.

A second research area covers the in-house services. These jobs are often performed as black market activities; but when there are regulated they are either organised on the basis of self employment or through the mediation of different associations. In this way, these workers are subject to a double exclusion, both because of the precariousness of the employment and because of derogations from labour legislation. Moreover, workers in those jobs are embedded in a complex set of social relations and domination patterns closely linked to family and gender related structures. Thus, domestic jobs represent simultaneously the externalisation, outside the family, of domestic work and the persistence of family related domination patterns. Work relations in this sector of the economy call us to reconsider the opposition between wage-earning and unpaid domestic activities and invite to examine the paternalistic approach toward dependent work. At the same time, when occupied by migrant women for limited periods, those jobs may allow them to continue occupying a reproductive role in their own family while supplying it with material resources.

A third research area is the prostitution sector. Most of the time, these activities are relegated to the margins of legislation while they are obviously fully integrated to the socio-economical systems of the rich receiving countries. Even if the sector is marked by harsh exploitation of nationals and foreigners who, being often illegal, can hardly apply for the State’s protection, we must also consider the free will of a part of these sexual workers. Prostitution is not a homogenous sector and various situations arise. Those may range from criminal activities implying human trafficking and sexual slavery to the case of sexual activities conceived as a voluntary and consented upon wage-earning activity which remains socially unacknowledged. Thus, it can be considered by certain migrants as a temporary job, supplier of economic resources. This area is still not much investigated by researchers and deserves, from our point of view, a special attention as it is a sector of employment very much concerned by foreigners’ fragility.

Finally, a fourth area is related to illegal or illegally performed activities. Illegality is not avoided in the previous three areas, neither are violence or Mafiosi patterns; thus this field is in a way transversal to the others. Trying to go further, we advance the hypothesis that the official policies of closing European borders, and consequently, the impossibility for some migrants to access legal labour markets, open a large space for various forms of irregularity, from the most tolerated to the one severely punished by national authorities. Irregular employment -that concerns nationals as well as foreigners- develops in some economic sectors, such as construction, agriculture or services, where it is said that it would be impossible to function otherwise, as irregularity and regularity are in these cases closely inter-linked. More generally, being available for work in our countries and, simultaneously excluded from any legal situation, the State leaves to some foreigners no choice but to enter into any kind of trafficking. This participation in the informal economy can rather be on a self employed basis or more or less close to a wage-earning job. In both cases, our point will be to identify the specific relations that govern the sector as well as the space of autonomy that legal exclusion can possibly offer.

The above mentioned list should not be regarded as restrictive. Any proposals related to a similar problematic but concerning a different sector of activity are welcome. Papers may present a cross analysis of several areas and perspectives or be based on a single one. The European dimension of the conference would give possibilities for comparative
analysis such as between new and old migration destinations or between receiving and destination countries and those which has subsequently passed from the position of a sending to the position of receiving countries. A particular attention will be given to the submissions that interpret new migration situations in the European space. Marginally, if presented in a comparative perspective, presentations on other geographical areas may be welcome.


Abstracts should be in English or in French and should be about one page long. They should contain the essence of the proposed contribution, including:

Title; Name and affiliation of the author(s), with full address, phone/fax/e-mail of the principal author; Background and purpose of the research; Data and methods used; Main results and conclusions.

Abstracts should be forwarded by e-mail to migractivities [AT] (.doc or .rtf)
Deadline for abstracts: 1st May 2007
Notification of acceptance: June 2007
(Nota: Acceptations will be confirmed following the reception of the full papers.)
Papers due: 15th October 2007
Working languages: English and French (translation available during the conference)
Scientific committee:

  • Emanuela Abbatecola, University of Genoa, Italy
  • Amina Haddaoui, LAMES (UMR6127), France
  • Marta Kindler, Center for Migration Research (CMR), Warsaw University, Poland
  • Blanca Miedes Ugarte, Universidad de la Huelva, Spain
  • Alain Morice, URMIS (UMR7032), Université de Paris 7, France
  • Joanna Napierala, CMR Warsaw University, Poland
  • Marek Okolski, CMR, Warsaw University, Poland
  • Swanie Potot, URMIS (UMR7032), Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis, France
  • Andrea Rea, GERME, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium
  • Dolores Rodondo-Toronjo, Universidad de la Huelva, Spain
  • Francesca Scrinzi, LAMES (UMR6127), France
  • Ralitza Soultanova, GERME, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium

Local Organizing Committee:

  • H.Andres, URMIS-SOLIIS (UMR7032), Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis
  • J.Darrieumerlou, URMIS-SOLIIS (UMR7032), Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis
  • B.Michalon, ADES (UMR 5185)
  • A.Morice, URMIS (UMR7032), Université de Paris 7
  • S.Potot, URMIS-SOLIIS (UMR7032), Université de Nice Sophia-Antipolis
  • F.Scrinzi, LAMES (UMR6127)

For any further information, please see:
or contact: migractivities [AT]


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