The Question of Skills in Cross-Border Labor Mobility
Date : 20 Sep 2018 - 21 Sep 2018
Venue : Waseda University, Japan

This conference is the result of longstanding collaborative research of the organizing committee members of the Asian Migration Cluster at the National University of Singapore and the Migration and Citizenship Research Group of the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Waseda University, Japan. The conference was made possible by generous sponsorship from the TGU-Waseda Global Asia Program.

In the knowledge-based world of the 21st century, human talent is seen to be the key to generating innovative, enterprising economies. Given labour shortages as a result of ageing local populations and the added complexity of low fertility rates, many countries have introduced new measures to (selectively) attract skilled migrants in the quest to augment their talent pools. While different countries have different experiences and degrees of success with attracting variously ‘skilled’ migrants, they also face comparative issues relating to categorizing, utilizing and integrating these migrants. This conference takes as a point of departure the notion that ‘skills’ and as such the idea of ‘skilled migrants’ are socially constructed categories shaped by immigration and labor policies, as well as public discourse. The principle question we would like to examine in this workshop is the way nation-states as well as migrants interpret and engage with the notion of skills.

With this conference we aim for the following: 1) clarify the existing knowledge in the field and identify areas that need further inquiries. In particular, we contend that rationales of government’s skill categorization have yet been thoroughly investigated. How the migration policies impact on migrants’ deskilling or upskilling and their mobility across the labor market deserves much more scholarly attention. Therefore, 2) we have brought together scholars who critically engage with these questions in their own grounded research. In this way, we seek to question categorical thinking of skills and move the analysis to a processual approach in terms of understanding the acquisition, loss and utilization of skills. More specifically, 3) we seek to advance the research by bridging the gap between state-level conceptualizations of skills in policy-making and the way migrants themselves perceive, valorize and act on skills as a form of migration capital.

Contributions bring together different disciplines of the social sciences and engage with questions of the three broad themes 1) policy analysis, 2) skill acquisition, 3) skills utility and transfer and 4) institutions/markets. While the focus is primarily Asia, contributions include groundbreaking research on other parts of the world and thus open up the debate to a truly encompassing theorization of the meaning of skills in global labor mobility.


Participation in the closed-door workshop is limited and by invitation only.


Prof Gracia Liu-Farrer
Graduate School fo Asia-Pacific Studies
Waseda University, Japan
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Dr Michiel Baas
Asia Research Institute
National University of Singapore
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Prof Brenda S.A. Yeoh
Asia Research Institute, and Department of Geography
National University of Singapore
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