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Expanding the knowledge base of European labour migration policies

Final Activity Report Summary - KNOWMIG (Expanding the knowledge base of European labour migration policies)

The project explored the relationships between social knowledge, migration decisions, and policy-making on immigration. It addressed two main sets of questions:
- How does the dissemination of knowledge about policy change influence east-west European migration? How is such information channelled through migrant networks? Do established networks and 'cultures of migration' facilitate or impede adaptation to new opportunities? (Project 1).
- How do policy-makers produce and draw on social knowledge about immigration? What are the different functions of expert knowledge in policy-making? Is it valued as a means of problem-solving, or in order to legitimise policy- makers and their decisions? (Project 2).

Project 1: Analysing East-West European migration flows
This project examined how changes such as EU enlargements, regularisations, or new labour migration programmes, influenced patterns of emigration from four locations in Poland and Romania. Drawing on interviews with over 100 people in places of origin and destination, we analysed how information on policy change is disseminated through networks, and how networks mediate responses to new opportunities.

We also applied econometric methods to explore temporary migration from East European countries. We analysed the determinants of temporary, employment related mobility and return migration, including the impact of social networks and peer effects. We explored the behaviour of temporary migrants both while abroad and on return, including their occupational mobility and performance, savings and remittances, and labour market and entrepreneurial activities. The research drew on World Bank, European and national labour force data.

Our research found that migration networks facilitate adjustment to policy change, allowing established trans migrant communities to take advantage of new policies. Thus networks have a strong mediating role in shaping migration decisions. This was also borne out by econometric analysis which showed that network effects and social ties are the most significant determinant of migration decisions.

However, networks can also create path dependency, impeding the take-up of opportunities in new destinations. Networks can also help migrants circumvent official channels for movement, work and stay. Thus regularisations or changes in visa regimes can have unintended effects, prompting an increase in irregular movement or work to try to exploit loopholes in the new provisions.

Project 2: Uses of knowledge in policy
This project explored the uses of research in migration policy-making in Europe. It developed a typology of the different political functions of expert knowledge: knowledge as as a means of adjusting output; to substantiate policies; or as a source of legitimation. The theory was applied to analyse patterns of knowledge use in political debates and policy making on immigration in the United Kingdom, Germany and the European Union.

The project also examined the use of research in political debates on labour migration in Germany and the United Kingdom. It compared how politicians and the media deploy research to substantiate claims, and how far expertise was considered authoritative in debates.

Research drew on interviews and participant observation; and analysis of policy documents, political discourse and print media.

The project found that research is frequently valued by policy-makers as a source of legitimacy, rather than a means of adjusting policy. This is especially likely where: (a) policy impacts are diffuse; (b) there is intense rivalry between agencies; (c) the policy community is highly specialised. Where organisations are under intense political pressure, they tend to draw on applied 'management' research to help meet targets, rather than academic studies.

Research units within ministries often face a trade-off between retaining scientific standards and meeting organisational needs. In most cases, they opt for either scientific credibility but limited research use by officials; or applied management research.