Der Zwang zur Arbeit. Verwertungslogiken in den umkämpften Regimen der Anwerbe-, Flucht- und EU-Migration

In current debates on the transformation of the German border and migration regime, the idea of labour market integration is increasingly popular. Migrants’ rights are increasingly bound to their perceived ability to integrate into the labour market, i. e. to migrants’ economic utility. In this article, we discuss the development of discourses on the economic utility of migrants and labour market policies concerning migrants, starting with the ‘Gastarbeiter’ regime (1955–1973). We also analyse contemporary discourses on migration and migrants, policies that (attempt to) regulate migration, and the struggles and forms of resistance against these policies in the current regimes of EU migration and refugee migration. We show that the role economic utility plays within migration policies has changed repeatedly over the last fifty years; today, the concept of economic utility is re-articulated within a neoliberal logic of workfare and activation. Our analysis is based on current research, selected media reports from daily newspapers, and policy documents. When examining discourses associated with a given migration regime, we distinguish between various topoi (patterns of argumentation that form narratives). These include migration as a security issue (the control of borders and conditions of access, terror threats or threats to social peace), migration as a humanitarian issue (asylum, family reunification, protection), and migration as a question of economic utility with respect to the migrant workforce (a shortage of skilled labour, seasonal work, demographic change). At first sight, these topoi seem to exclude and contradict one another, but we show that the economic dimension is gaining weight without displacing the others. Instead, it intersects with humanitarian and security concerns.

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