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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 10, 2022

Blas as sites for the meso-level dynamics of institutionalization: A cross-sectoral comparison

  • Yahel Kurlander and Avinoam Cohen


In this Article we seek to shift the focus from the texts of bilateral labor agreements (BLAs) to the context of their emergence and materialization. We argue that to study BLAs and evaluate their consequences and potential relevance, they must be read from the perspective of processes of institutionalization that shape the paths of different agreements. In Israel, a cross-sectoral comparison of the agricultural and construction sectors reveals that different agreements did not follow the same path and institutionalization process. The Israel-Thailand agreements for the agricultural sector and the agreements regulating migration to the construction sector did not generate similar dynamics of institutionalization. In both sectors, BLAs transformed recruitment practices and led to a sharp decrease of illicit migration costs extracted in the process. Yet due to differences in the structure of the sectors and the expected skill level of workers, significant variations remain, most notably in the effect of BLAs on the permit and quota system and in the rise of paths to import labor outside BLAs. Based on this cross-sectoral comparison, we offer in this Article a grounded analytical perspective for examining and evaluating BLAs in context. In discussing our suggestions, we will project our analysis to the more recent agreement covering the live-in care sector that is currently the largest employing sector of guest-workers in Israel.

* Yahel Kurlander is a Lecturer and a member at the Center for Rural Studies at Tel Hai Academic College and a researcher at the Trafflab (ERC) research group.

** Avinoam Cohen is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, the College of Management—Academic Studies and teaches at the Migration Studies Program at TAU and is a research fellow at the Trafflab (ERC) research group.

Joint first authors of equal contribution to the Article.

We thank the members of the Trafflab research team for ongoing, fruitful collaborative thinking that contributed to this research in many stages and to the participants in the Bilateral Agreements conference for thoughtful responses to previous drafts. Special thanks are due to Marion Panizzon and Hila Shamir for their careful reading and extremely helpful comments.

This study was funded by Trafflab, a research project funded by the European Research Council as part of the European research and innovation program Horizon 2020 (research grant number 756672) and by Tel Hai Research and Development Authority Grant and Tel Hai Gender Equity Unit Grant.

Published Online: 2022-08-10
Published in Print: 2022-07-26

© 2022 by Theoretical Inquiries in Law

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