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Moving Trades: Skill formation and the Role of National Vocational Training in Transnational European Labour markets (Forskerprosjekt - FINNUT)

Funded by The Research Council of Norway, Project number 255001/H20

Project team at the Cologne Center for Comparative Politics, University of Cologne:

Prof. Dr. Christine Trampusch (Principal Investigator)

Michael Kemmerling (Research Assistant)

Project Partners:

Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research (Oslo, Norway: Jon Erik Dølvik, Line Eldring, Kristin Jesnes, Torgeir Nyen, Johannes Oldervoll, Anna Hagen Tønder)

Roskilde University/Department Psychology and Educational Studies (Roskilde, Denmark: Christian Helms Jørgensen)

Funding period and amount for the Cologne Team: March 2017 to February 2020, 204.800€


Project description

The primary aim of this collaborative research project is to provide an understanding of how intra-European labour migration affects skill formation and utilization by workers and firms in countries that have firmly established traditions of training via dual apprenticeship. While labour migration is a long-standing phenomenon, the recent opening of European markets for labour and services after a historical period of closure has spurred unprecedented flows of labour and skills from the countries around the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe to neighbouring countries. Yet, the pertinent literature has paid little attention to the question of how this enlarged pool of (skilled) workers affects the training behaviour of firms and individuals and the use of skills in both receiving and sending countries of migrant workers. On the one hand, there are ample studies of how different institutional factors, actor-coalitions and migration policies condition migratory flows, but these studies have largely neglected how labour migration affects skill formation as an independent variable. On the other hand, the recent turn to the analysis of skill formation within the political economy literature has mostly focused on domestic factors that affect training in a national setting and hardly analysed if and how the transnational phenomenon of labour migration influences training decisions by firms and individuals.

We aim to bridge this gap by analysing how worker migration as an independent variable influences training decisions by firms and individuals as well as institutional changes at the national, regional and sectoral level in selected cases. On the receiving end we focus on Norway, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland, which have collective systems of vocational education and training (VET) based on apprenticeships. We compare how labour migration affects particular industries and sectors in which apprenticeships have traditionally delivered the majority of skilled workers such as manufacturing, construction and hospitality. Moreover, we will analyse whether labour migration has a differential effect on firms of different sizes (large-, medium- and small-enterprises) and market orientation (export-oriented versus domestic).  This multilevel approach (firm, branch and country) will enable us to identify variables on different levels that affect skill formation and use and the role of VET. In the sending countries we aim to give an overview of the VET-systems, the developments since 2004, and to identify responses and patterns of skill formation that have arisen as a consequence of the outflow of labour. In a regional perspective there might be win-win dynamics, but collective action problems may also lead to systematic under-provision of vocational skills, to the detriment of growth and employment in the whole region.

The team in Cologne will primarily be responsible for analysing the Swiss and German cases, which have received renewed attention for the strong cooperation between employers in skill formation and low rates of youth unemployment in the context of the current European economic crisis. We will conduct case studies on how labour migration affects skill formation within firms and industries in both countries and combine available quantitative data and evidence gathered by interviews with employer representatives, public officials and further stakeholders of the respective training systems.

Our main research interests are:

- How does intra-European labour migration affect skill formation systems and firms’ recruitment and training strategies in both countries?

- Does the effect of worker migration differ between different sectors and different types of firms (firm-size and export-/domestic-market orientation)?

- How is the impact of labour migration on skill formation mediated by institutions such as collective wage bargaining, sectoral training arrangements, occupational licensing, inter-firm cooperation and coordination between employers, unions and state actors?

- Does labour migration lead to new collective actions problems in the coordination between firms and how are they solved?

- How does the availability of a larger pool of skilled workers influence the politics of training reforms between firms, employer associations, unions and state-actors and, in turn, the patterns of institutional change of skill formation arrangements?

We will keep this website updated with new information about the project. In case that you have any comments or questions regarding the project, please contact vossiek(at)wiso.uni-koeln.de.