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MIGRANT WORKERS │ Meaning │ Definition │ Causes of Migration and Work Conditions

A "migrant worker" is a person who migrates one place to another place within their home country or outside the country to gets better work opportunities. Usually, migrant workers do not have the intention to stay permanently in the country or a region where they work.

Migrant workers are also called foreign workers as they work outside their home country. In some places they may also be called expatriates or guest workers (i.e. Kerala, India), especially when they have been sent for or invited to work in the host country or state before leaving the homeland.

In 2014, The International Labour Organization estimates worldwide 232 million international migrant workers who were outside their home country for at least one year and about half of them were estimated to be economically active (i.e. being employed or seeking employment) (ILO, 2015). The numbers of migrant workers varied from one country to another. Some countries have millions of migrant workers. Some migrant workers are illegal immigrants.

Definitions of Migrant Workers

The "United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families" defines migrant worker as follows:

The term "migrant worker" refers to a person who is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national.

Guest workers may have their status defined in their host country by a particular guest worker program.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines migrant labour as casual and unskilled workers who move about systematically from one region to another offering their services on a temporary, usually seasonal basis.

General Causes of Migration

In Europe and the Middle East, most of the migrant worker has been recruited for urban centers rather than agricultural sectors and settle for longer periods. Whereas, in North America migrant workers mainly hire for farming work, primarily during harvesting time. This demand for agricultural migrant labour depends on seasonal harvesting.

In the Northern Hemisphere, migrant labour moves seasonally from south to north following the harvest, while this pattern is reversed in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of these agricultural workers move in established patterns within these general directions, and their work typically involves tasks that are manual, repetitive, and easily learned (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

So the basic reasons behind the migration of workers are as follows.

      • High wages and higher demand in agriculture sectors in North American countries attracts workers from underdeveloped countries.
      • The huge demand for urban-based work opportunities in Europe and Middle East countries instigate to move workers from their native country.
      • Normally, the wages of labour outside the agriculture sector are higher and thus, workers moved into urban-based other sectors from rural agriculture-based livelihood and this scenario mostly observed in developing countries.
      • Seasonal variation of agriculture practice is responsible for the migration of workers from one place to another place mainly in the Northern Hemisphere.

      • In some cases, migrant workers come to their workplace far from home because of unfavourable economic and social conditions in their home regions.
      • Extreme population growth in developing countries creates huge unemployment and therefore, people try to move some other places for work opportunities.

Work Conditions

The short-lived relationship between migrant workers and employers create a disorderly labour market. Most migrant labourers have no reemployment rights, are usually not organized in unions, and have limited access to the job market.

Middlemen, job brokers, labour contractors, and crew leaders add some order to the system. For example, labour contractors will recruit workers, transport and supervise them, and dispense their pay. Contractors also negotiate wages and working conditions with the employers.

On the other hand, the wages, working conditions, and standards of living for migrant workers tend to be lower than those of other labourers, and migrants must often work long hours under exacting requirements.

In some countries, child labour is widespread among migrant labourers, and even in the United States those children who do not work might not attend school, because in many localities schools are open only to legal residents. There can also be inadequate housing for migrant workers, and their literacy levels, social cohesion, and rates of political participation are low.

Whether native or foreign-born, migrants are fundamentally alien to the community in which they work. As a result, migrant workers can have difficulty accessing local health and social services and can be deprived of rights either because of their illegal status or because they lack easy recourse to the courts. The nomadic nature of migrant workers makes the regulation of their working and living conditions difficult and may negate union and government labour standards that apply to regular work settings.


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Source of informationWikipedia │ Encyclopaedia Britannica

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