Migration, Labor, and the International Political Economy
Posted: 12 May 2015
Date Written: May 2015
In the field of international political economy, workers are commonly analyzed as objects of global economic forces whose fate is determined by the profit-seeking behaviors of firms and governments. Workers, however, can also assert themselves to protect their rights, and they can emigrate to other countries to find employment. We analyze the literature on the nexus between the international economy and labor with a focus on workers on both the receiving and originating ends of global finance. Beginning with workers as inputs in multinational production, we explore the roles of economic openness, factor endowments, government policy, and unionization as drivers of workers' rights. We then shift to workers as migrant labor and explore the impact of migrants' own cross-border financial transfers — also known as remittances — on political outcomes in their home countries. Our overview not only highlights tremendous progress in explaining the agency and vulnerability of labor in the global economy but also reveals significant weaknesses in recent research, especially a mismatch between micro-level theorizing and macro-level data analysis.
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