Circulation of Competencies and Dynamics of Regional Production Systems

Alain Berset and Olivier Crevoisier

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Abstract:

As borders become more open, regional production systems (RPSs) are tending to become increasingly specialised. In any given sector, two or three cities or regions compete on a global scale while other systems disappear. The specialised RPSs concentrate the know-how, the knowledge, the major companies, and the most important research and training institutions relating to a given sector. As capital moves around freely between these various spaces, labour and competencies are increasingly described as the main anchoring factors of these activities. Many authors speak of the existence of specific know-how, or of a specialised labour market. Consequently, what role do migrations play? In the post-war “Fordist” period, migrations above all provided cheap labour for the industries of northern countries. Today, the profile of migrations has diversified considerably. They are located at the two extremes of the pyramid of competencies. Our hypothesis is that movements of highly qualified labour play a determining role in the renewal of those RPSs that are competitive on a global scale. This paper considers in parallel the historical evolution of three Swiss production systems representative of current transformations (watch industry, micro technologies, advertising/marketing) and the evolution of migrants’ competencies. Based on empirical surveys, the link between these evolutions is examined, in particular from the point of view of innovation and structural change. Our assumption is that migrations can be the driving force behind the dynamics of knowledge and competence. Consequently, the insertion of migrants and the various ways in which this integration takes place in the workplace becomes the central question. A typology of the relations between the insertion of migrants and regional industrial dynamics is built up, ranging from rigidified productive structures to the creation of new competencies and new economic activities.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Berset, Alain and Crevoisier, Olivier. Circulation of Competencies and Dynamics of Regional Production Systems. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2006, vol.8, no.1, pp. 61-83. UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574. www.unesco.org/shs/ijms/vol8/issue1/art4

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