International Conference
September 20-21, 2018, Waseda University, Tokyo




In the knowledge-based world of the 21st century, human talent is seen to be the key to generating innovative, enterprising economies. Given labour shortages as a result of ageing local populations and the added complexity of low fertility rates, many countries have introduced new measures to (selectively) attract skilled migrants in the quest to augment their talent pools. While different countries have different experiences and degrees of success with attracting variously ‘skilled’ migrants, they also face comparative issues relating to categorizing, utilizing and integrating these migrants. This conference takes as a point of departure the notion that ‘skills’ and as such the idea of ‘skilled migrants’ are socially constructed categories shaped by immigration and labor policies, as well as public discourse. The principle question we would like to examine in this workshop is the way nation-states as well as migrants interpret and engage with the notion of skills.


With this seminar we aim for the following: 1) clarify the existing knowledge in the field and identify areas that need further inquiries. In particular, we contend that rationales of government’s skill categorization have yet been thoroughly investigated. How the migration policies impact on migrants’ deskilling or upskilling and their mobility across the labor market deserves much more scholarly attention. Therefore, 2) we aim to bring together scholars who critically engage with these questions in their own grounded research. In this way, we seek to question categorical thinking of skills and move the analysis to a processual approach in terms of understanding the acquisition, loss and utilization of skills. More specifically, 3) we seek to advance the research by bridging the gap between state-level conceptualizations of skills in policy-making and the way migrants themselves perceive, valorize and act on skills as a form of migration capital.


We invite submissions that engage with the following questions:

  1. Policy analysis: What are the policy directions and objectives in migration and labour policies aimed at attracting, retaining and integrating various ‘skill’ categories of migrants, and to what extent have they been successful? What can a comparison of the policies of different countries tell us about the conditions and contexts for success/failure?
  2. Skill utility: How do migrants engage with the notion of skills, when strategizing towards a particular migration destination? How do they project their mastery of skills and skill levels, and how are they assessed in relation to national skills categories? Is there wastage of skills, and how are skills mediated by factors that impose constraints on or create opportunities for migrants of particular backgrounds such as ethnicity, race or gender?
  3. Skill acquisition: How does migration create skills and other types of migration or mobility capital? We seek to explore and compare how migrants actively negotiate various skill categories, the way they engage with professional opportunities, and deal with social constraints and stereotypes that come with respective categories.
  4. Skill transfer and mismatch: What types of skills are transferrable? What are the extent of skill mismatches? Under what circumstance do skill mismatches occur?


We welcome submissions from all disciplines in the social sciences. While our focus is primarily Asia, we are also open to receiving abstracts based on groundbreaking research on other parts of the world. Since the conference aims to produce a collective publication, the article must be original, unpublished and not committed elsewhere. Please submit an abstract (300-500 words) that summarizes the arguments, methods and empirical basis. The deadline for submissions is 16 March 2018. Decisions will be made by 30 March 2018. Full papers (6,000-8,000 words) will be due by 1 September 2018.


This conference is sponsored by TGP-Waseda Global Asia Program. If accepted, presenters’ travel expenses will be covered by the conference organizers and accommodation at Waseda University will be provided.


If you have any questions, please email:


Find abstract submission form here: CFP-Skills Workshop_Waseda