UCLA International Institute




Working Group

The human face of global mobility: Exploring international skilled and professional migration in Europe and the Asia-Pacific

Adrian Favell, Miriam Feldblum

Faculty Members:
Gary Freeman, Michael Peter Smith, Jeanette Money, Ivan Light, William Clark, Min Zhou, Lucie Cheng, Paul Ong, Cindy Fan, Phil Martin

Members of Working Group
Reports, Research Notes and Working Papers


A key part of the package of ideas sustained by political economists of globalization, such as Saskia Sassen, is that the continued liberalization of world trade – and the movement of goods and capital by which this is measured – has been matched by a spectacular liberalization of the free movement of persons, and hence a consequent decline in the control powers of nation-states over population movement. This is, it is frequently said, a new “age of migration”. And even if the control functions of states – despite market forces – continue to pose obvious obstacles to poorer international migrants, few doubt that barriers are down globally for the most educated, skilled and talented migrants, and that such free movement is growing in magnitude and significance. Some even speak of the emergence of new global elites, with unprecedented cosmopolitan lifestyles, presaging dramatic social change to the national order of things. These heroes of global free movement – top ranked employees of multinational corporations, international finance, IT companies, scientific research agencies, and so on - are, presumably, the human hands, faces and brains behind the impersonal dynamics of global markets and nation-state decline.

The goal of our working group is to examine the human reality behind this high rhetoric. For all this quick talk about mobility and the global information society, the actual physical movement and resettlement of people – with families, cultures and complex social needs – is nothing like the instantaneous relocation of money within an international computer network, nor even the transport of goods around the globe. International skilled and professional migrants may fulfill a key theoretical role in the so-called “connectivities, flows and networks” of the global system, yet the details of this migration remain largely unexamined. Demographic sources on its volume and originality are far from conclusive; the migration patterns and qualitative reasoning of those who choose to move (and those who do not) continue to defy the predictions of economic theory (for example, the spectacularly low rate of free movement in the EU). At the same time, the political science and sociology of the global remains dominated either by an unreconstructed focus on the institutions of the nation-state, or conversely, by idealist normative concerns (ideas on global governance or global citizenship and such like). On an ethnographic level, the shape and narrative of lives lived out on a global, or even cross-national regional scale – the costs and benefits, the human consequences of life beyond the nation-state – are even less well known. And the nation-state apparently remains the primary source of social identity of the vast majority of mankind, including expatriates!

Our CCGR working group offers a fresh opportunity to bring together hitherto unconnected scholars from the various disciplines mentioned above, and a variety of regional specializations to take a closer look at global mobility. We aim to examine the evidence on international skilled and professional migration, and seek to define a more sustained, interdisciplinary research agenda on the subject. Specifically, we will be working towards defining a research template (specifying leading questions, bibliographic overview, data sources, and research methodologies) for this patchy area of research, before working towards an integrated edited volume in the second year.


Six meetings in all are planned:

  • Meeting 1 (Nov 9th 2002) ‘Demographic and Economics background, and agenda for research’, focused on the quantitative background of international and professional skilled migration in the two regions, seeking to specify what we know about these migrations and their impact on sending and receiving countries.
  • Meeting 2 (Feb 22nd 2003) ‘Legal and political perspectives in a global context’ focused on the impact of international political and legal institutions governing these processes (such as EU, WTO, GATS, ILO and so on), together with emerging patterns of national level policy relevant to the subject on immigration, visas, citizenship.
  • Meeting 3 (May 18th 2003) ‘Sociology/ethnography of international skilled migrants’ focused on scholars working on qualitative case studies of the migrants themselves, particularly their experience of career and family mobility on a global scale, and their forms of social organization or networks.
  • Meeting 4 (Nov 15th 2003) ‘Studying high end and low end labor migration’, focused on new work on H1-B workers in the US IT sector, and on comparing frameworks for studying high and low end migration in the context of globalization.
  • Meeting 5 (March 2004) will take a look at new forms of skilled migration between Mexico and the US.
  • Meeting 6 (May 2004) will work as final editorial session for an edited volume planned with Michael Peter Smith, and Transaction publishers in late 2004.

Members of Working Group


Adrian Favell, Sociology, UCLA (EU free movement, professionals in global cities)
Miriam Feldblum, Political Science, California Institute of Technology (international migration institutions, comparative citizenship law)

UCLA faculty

Ivan Light, Sociology (immigrant entrepreneurs, Koreans in LA)
Min Zhou, Sociology (Asian migration in US)
William Clark, Geography (demography, immigration and urban change in California)
Lucie Cheng, Sociology/Urban Planning (global cities, migration in Pacific rim)
Cindy Fan, Geography (migration in China)
Paul Ong, Urban Planning (Asia-Pacific labor market, high tech workers)

California faculty

Michael Peter Smith, Political Science, UC Davis (transnationalism, migrants in Silicon valley)
Jeanette Money, Political Science, UC Davis (international migration control policies)
Phil Martin, Economics, UC Davis (international labor migration)

Visiting faculty

Gary Freeman, Political Science, University of Texas, Austin (comparative immigration politics)
Paula Chakravartty, Communication Studies, U Mass, Amherst (Indian IT workers in US, transnational networks)
Lindsay Lowell, Georgetown University (H1B workers, demography)

Graduate and post-doc researchers

Ödül Bozkurt, Sociology, UCLA (migration within multinationals, Europe)
Sabeen Sandhu, Sociology, UC Irvine (Indian IT workers in California)
Jeanne Batalova, Sociology, UC Irvine (skilled migration and labor market competition)
Kati Szelenyi, Education, UCLA (education and migration)
Kristin Surak, Sociology, UCLA (German immigration policy, Japanese in LA)
Xiaolei Wu, Anthropology, UCLA (Western professional migration in China)
Renee Reichl, Sociology, UCLA (Indian IT workers in US labor market)

Reports, Research Notes and Working Papers

The Human Face of Global Mobility: Year One Report
Exploring International Skilled and Professional Migration in Europe and the Asia-Pacific

Meeting One Report: The Human Face of Global Mobility
Exploring International Skilled and Professional Migration in Europe and the Asia-Pacific: Demographic and economic background & agenda for research

William Clark Reseach Note
Thoughts on skilled international migration

Katalin Szelenyi Working Paper #1
Explaining the Migration and Settlement of Foreign Graduate Students: Global Integration Theory and the Theory of Cumulative Causation

Katalin Szelenyi Working Paper #2
The Politics of Highly Skilled Migration: Policies in Whose Interest?

Kristin Surak Working Paper
Methodological Issues in Studying Japanese High Skilled Migration

Marian Katz Working Paper
Skilled and Professional International Migration and the Professionalization of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Southern California

Andrew Geddes Working Paper
The Political Economy of Migration in an Integrating Europe: Patterns, Trends, Lacunae and their Implications

Sandra Lavenex Working Paper
Globalization, trade and migration: towards the dissociation of immigration politics?

Gary Freeman Working Paper
Political Science and Immigration: Policy Types and Modes of Politics

IT Workforce Data Project
The Outlook in 2003 for Information Technologies Workers in the US

Renee Reichl Working Paper
Indian H1B workers

Ödül Bozkurt working paper
Transient Transnationality: Revisiting the Managerial Class Thesis in “Globalizing” Europe

Rubén Hernández León working paper
Reestructuracion Industrial y Migracion Metropolitana de Mexico a Estados Unidos: El Caso de Monterrey


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