Coordinators: Francesca Gambarotto
University of Padua, Italy
Stefano Solari
University of Padua, Italy

The aim of this research area is to promote and discuss the territorial impact of increased human mobility with a ‘political economy’ perspective. Territories subject to incoming or outgoing migration undergo deep structural modifications. Therefore, the topic of this research area is the relationship between people’s mobility and regional structural transformation, innovation dynamics and institutional change. The role of socio-economic integration and policies enacted to control such processes are equally interesting. Although the main spatial focus will be Europe, comparative as well as case studies are welcome from any region.

The main task of the research area will be performed by organizing specific sessions at the annual EAEPE conference and also promoting quality publications. The final aim is the development of a relatively stable network of research units able to perform research in a coordinated way.


Human mobility, intended as a broader notion compared to labour mobility, is a crucial element of change in this globalized world. Europe is still characterized by a relatively stable divide between emigration and immigration countries. The recent crisis has further modified this picture amplifying existing tendencies and opening new destination flows. That is consequently modifying the demography of some regions.

Although migration is often thought as a ‘South-North’ problem, at the global level, we assist also to reverse flows, ‘North-South’ as well as ‘South-South’ and ‘North-North’ directions. According to the last estimate of the United Nations, in 2013 migrants were above 232 millions. About 36% moved ‘South-South’, while 35% moved to the ‘North’ from ‘South’. Forced migrations as asylum seekers (about 7% of migration) usually follow a ‘South-South’ direction (90% in 2013, maybe only slightly increased in 2015). Therefore, most of migrants aim not to change radically the environment they are used to.

Data highlight how migration is also becoming a structural phenomenon for European regions since it represents a relevant factor of social regeneration. This phenomenon is not fully acknowledged by both politics and public opinion (OECD, International Migration Outlook 2014). However, there is a qualitative dimension in human mobility that is crucially important to assure valuable effects on the socio-economic system. In fact, the danger of ‘uprooting’ people from their territory and social relations for pure economic terms, which reduces the level of social capital formation (in both incoming and outgoing regions). On the contrary, integration is fundamental for a healthy society and economy, and that can be favoured by helping people find new roots. In this regard, the Western countries’ challenge will be to match principles guiding short term policies with those on the long term. The short span of political cycles and the hostility of public opinion hinder the formulation of long term plans. Similarly, migration has long run effects on demographic and territorial development, requiring adequate investments, but it has also to respond to changed economic conditions.

The political economy of migration in Europe is a matter of regions and location factors. The study of the causes, quality and effects of migration on different local production systems is therefore of primary importance to understand the evolutionary patterns of territories. The capacity to attract, select and insert new human capital is a primary source of competitiveness in many areas. On the other hand, immigrated persons, both as employees and entrepreneurs, contribute in any case to the enrichment of the human capital of the territory. The European Commission in its entrepreneurial action plan 2020 has attributed to migrant entrepreneurs an important role in the regeneration of the European Union’s production system.   Economic and social institutions are called to frame and mediate these problems of reproducing and evolving the social and entrepreneurial system in a suitable direction.

Working programme: Migration as a carrier of social innovation

We plan to organise a thematic session in EAEPE Manchester 2016. As a consequence, we are diffusing a call for paper for that conference. The plan is to eventually select a set of papers to achieve a publication.

The themes that we would particularly like to develop are:

  • How can we assess the role of migration in the development of a territory? Can we distinguish different trajectories?
  • What are the main patterns of human mobility in Europe? How can they represent a vector of socio-economic innovation?
  • Can we still speak of different ‘models of integration’? Are there some relationships between ‘models of integration’ and territorial development?
  • Can we affirm that late development regions attract unskilled migration flows and most developed regions attract high skill labour? Can we see some relevant difference in the pattern of human capital mobility according to the quality of production systems?
  • Can we perceive some relevant differences in immigration policies among European regions? Are there cases of success?
  • The effects of uprooting on social capital formation and the consequences for different economic systems.