1st Edition

The Question of Skill in Cross-Border Labour Mobilities

Edited By Gracia Liu-Farrer, Brenda S.A. Yeoh, Michiel Baas Copyright 2023

    Selecting migrants based on skill has become a widely practised migration policy in many countries around the world. Since the late 20th century, research on 'skilled' and 'highly skilled' migration has raised important questions about the value and ethics of skill-based labour mobility. More recent research has begun to question the concept of skill and skill categorisation in both government policy and academic research. Taking the view that 'skills' are socially constructed categories and highly malleable concepts in practice, this edited volume centres the discussion on the following questions: Who are the arbitrators of skill? What constitutes skill? And how is skill constructed in the migration process and in turn, how does skill affect the mobility? The empirical studies in this volume show that diverse actors are involved in the process of identifying, evaluating and shaping migrant skill. The interpretation of migrants' skill is frequently distorted by their ascriptive characteristics such as race, ethnicity, gender and nationality, reflecting the influence of colonial legacy, global inequality as well as social stratification. Finally, this edited volume emphasises the complex, and frequently reciprocal, relationship between skill and mobility. This book will be of interest to researchers and advanced students of Sociology, Human Geography, Politics, Social Anthropology, Economics, and Social Work. It was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

    1. Introduction—Social construction of skill: an analytical approach toward the question of skill in cross-border labour mobilities

    Gracia Liu-Farrer, Brenda S.A. Yeoh and Michiel Baas

    2. Skilled or unskilled? The reconfiguration of migration policies in Japan

    Nana Oishi

    3. Shifting employabilities: skilling migrants in the nation of emigration

    Yasmin Y. Ortiga

    4. Becoming global talent? Taiwanese white-collar migrants in Japan

    Yen-Fen Tseng

    5. Who are the fittest? The question of skills in national employment systems in an age of global labour mobility

    Gracia Liu-Farrer and Karen Shire

    6. Intermediaries and transnational regimes of skill: nursing skills and competencies in the context of international migration

    Margaret Walton-Roberts

    7. The work that brokers do: the skills, competences and know-how of intermediaries in the H-2 visa programme

    Rubén Hernández-León

    8. From cooks to chefs: skilled migrants in a globalising culinary field

    James Farrer


    Gracia Liu-Farrer is Professor of Sociology at the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies, and Director of Institute of Asian Migration at Waseda University, Japan. Her research examines immigrants’ economic, social and political practices in Japan, and the global mobility of students and professional migrants.

    Brenda S.A. Yeoh is Raffles Professor of Social Sciences at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Research Leader of the Asian Migration Cluster at the Asia Research Institute, NUS. Her research interests include the politics of space in colonial and postcolonial cities, and gender and transnational migration in Asia.

    Michiel Baas is Senior Research Fellow with the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle Germany. His research focuses on questions of (transnational) migration; the body, gender and masculinity; and artificial intelligence. His most recent book is titled Muscular India: Masculinity, Mobility and the New Middle Class (2020).