Political Forces and Temporary Labor Migration in the Era of Globalization

Liao, Cheng Hao, Foreign Affairs - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Leblang, David, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Schwartz, Herman, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Pandya, Sonal, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
McLaren, John, Department of Economics, University of Virginia
Imai, Kosuke, Department of Politics, Princeton University

Understanding why and how political forces shape the three main pillars of economic globalization—cross-border flows of goods, capital, and people—is central to the study of International Political Economy (IPE). Existing research in trade and finance has advanced our understanding by distinguishing between temporary and permanent flows. Yet, extant IPE research in migration has lagged behind by focusing only on the causes and consequences of permanent migration while overlooking temporary migration. As a result, the literature misses at least half of the flows within the global phenomenon of international migration. How do political forces shape temporary migration? To what extent do these forces do so and why? What are the implications for the existing literature?

In this dissertation, I develop and test observable implications of how Multinational Corporations (MNCs) shape temporary migration policymaking with bureaucratic lobbying, and how states shape temporary migration flows with visa regulations and bilateral labor agreements. To overcome well-known challenges of sparse migration data, I compile a large and original data set that combines firm-level data on all approved intra-company transfers to the United States, firms’ financial and lobbying information, and country-specific visa regulations firms face from 2000 to 2013. Leveraging the data set, I show that firms are both effective and strategic in their target venue when lobbying on visa regulations for high-skilled temporary migrants. This is despite persistent and general public opposition to immigration and deadlocks in immigration reform. In contrast, the effectiveness of migration policies states employ is mixed. I find that more relaxed bilateral visa regulations play an important role in facilitating the mobility of high-skilled MNC professionals. However, exploiting unique data on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and Philippine Bilateral Labor Agreements (BLA), I find that bilateral labor agreements designed to promote mobility and 
worker rights reduce the mobility of low-skilled migrant workers 
who would have benefited the most.

Overall, the dissertation contributes to emerging research on the role of firms in immigration policy formation, the emerging field of migration and development, and studies on the relationship between international institutions and transnational exchange.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Temporary Migration, Multinational Corporations, Immigration Policy, Labor Mobility, Lobbying, Bilateral Labor Agreements
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