Audra Mockaitis, Professor of International Business at Maynooth University explores the importance of global migration in improving equity and fairness in international business.
The 2022 theme of the Academy of International Business (AIB) annual conference, Equity and Fairness (EF), highlights equitable treatment, fairness, and impartiality as global pursuits in the field of International Business (IB). The conference call  outlines several key issues related to research and practice in International Business on this important theme: EF in post-pandemic globalization, EF in research, EF for foreign firms in global competition, EF in stakeholder interests, EF in the leadership of multinational enterprises (MNEs), EF in competition across nations, and EF in our evaluation of economic and political models. These “big questions”  are salient in addressing the broader issues facing societies and firms and in forming policy to overcome any identified inequalities.
An important issue at the heart of this theme that at once drives international business and magnifies the importance of Equity and Fairness is global migration. As a “grand challenge”  it is difficult to address its complexity at multiple levels and via multiple lenses of the migration phenomenon. The connection between global migration in IB and EF is simultaneously evident and difficult to dissect, however, I will outline some of these challenges that I hope can be an impetus to further research in this yet emerging research area.
Migration shapes the societal and organizational contexts of IB. At the macro level, migration is often driven by inequalities and perceptions of (un)fairness, such as: lower economic development, few job opportunities, wage and income inequality, inequalities in healthcare and education, discrimination, and corruption. Migrants often pursue better opportunities, attracted by career prospects or better quality of life; migrants fleeing war or environmental catastrophe seek the right to cross borders, refuge, and safety en masse. MNEs have been encouraged to step up during the migration crisis  and can play a major role in reducing these inequalities within and between countries.
What is the role of MNEs in mitigating push factors and reducing human displacement?
MNEs depend on the mobility of people; MNEs source, develop, deploy, and utilize global talent. Although traditionally global mobility in MNEs has been linked to the management of international assignments, this talent pool includes skilled expatriates, culturally and ethnically diverse workforces comprised of first- and second-generation migrants, highly skilled refugees that help organizations enhance their legitimacy in host countries, and returnee immigrants encouraged by changing home country conditions. Diaspora communities that are large and have strong ties in the home country are also a resource for MNEs, leading to international business opportunities but also idiosyncratic challenges.
How can MNEs turn the benefit that they derive from migrants into gains for migrant communities?
At the micro and contextual levels tales abound of migrants facing unfair treatment and discrimination, a lowering of status and struggling in the host labor market while pursuing instrumental careers. Migrants who were once professional employees in their home countries struggle in the host labor market, many experiencing in-work poverty and nonrecognition of their qualifications. Skilled migrants experience work and general acculturation difficulties; poorer host country language proficiency can become a barrier to career advancement.
Recent events in our world have introduced new and far-reaching challenges for international firms in managing their international workforces and international mobility while dealing with restrictions. The above issues are compounded for migrants having to cope with multiple work and nonwork demands because of the COVID-19 restrictions and isolation, issues that differ in degree from those faced by domestic workers.
How can MNEs close the chasm between migrants and home-country employees that has been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic?
A grand challenge question  is whether MNEs are part of the problem or the solution to these issues as they pertain to equity and fairness.
Audra I. Mockaitis is Professor of International Business at Maynooth University in Ireland. She is the Editor of the forthcoming book The Palgrave Handbook of Global Migration in International Business. She has held tenured positions in Australia (Monash) and New Zealand (Victoria University of Wellington). Her research interests center on cross-cultural management, cultural values, multicultural virtual teams, global leadership, and migration and identity. Her work is widely published and has received multiple best paper and best reviewer awards. She has also co-authored a recent book on migration, Migration Culture: A Comparative Perspective. Her personal website is www.mockaitis.com.