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The Politics of Seasonal Labour Migration in Switzerland, France and Spain



This article analyses the effects of the politics of seasonal foreign worker admissions on migrant legality in the context of the post-1945 and the post-1990 seasonal foreign worker policy in Switzerland, France and Spain respectively. It seeks historical evidence attesting to the ability of seasonal admissions to restrict workers to their non-resident status. It presents implications for circular migration, the dernier cri in European migration policy aimed to strike a compromise between a perceived post-crisis demand for the admission of foreign workers and the reluctance to make them prospective citizens.

Policy Implications

  • Migration policy stakeholders have shaped foreign worker admissions according to their interests.
  • Under some conditions, low-skilled seasonal foreign worker admissions have contributed to irregular migration, either through workers' overstays or through parallel irregular entries
  • There are both differences and similarities between the seasonal admissions advocated under the post-2007 circular migration schemes, and those of the 1950s–1960s, as well as those of 1990s to early 2000s. The similarities could, under some conditions, trigger the repetition of some of the unexpected outcomes revealed by historical seasonal foreign worker admissions under the post 2007 schemes.