The Paradox of 'Legality': Temporary Migrant Worker Programs and Vulnerability to Trafficking
Revisiting the law and governance of trafficking, forced labor and modern slavery ( ed. Prabha Kotiswaran)
32 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2018
Date Written: July 1, 2017
The paper analyzes why temporary work migration programs (TMWPs) - the very migration regimes that are supposed to protect migrant workers from vulnerability to the severe labor market exploitation caused by undocumented status - paradoxically may end up exacerbating vulnerability to human trafficking. The paper identifies the common features of TMWPs that might increase or decrease workers’ vulnerability to trafficking. Seven main elements of such programs are discussed: recruitment practices and debt; travel documents withholding; labor market mobility restrictions (such as binding arrangements); family accompaniment restrictions; housing requirements and restrictions; exclusion from labor and employment laws; and the temporary nature of migrant workers’ stay in the host country and the obstacles to naturalization there. The paper concludes by addressing the question whether such programs should therefore be the target of anti-trafficking campaigns. It argues that while TMWPs do indeed inherently and necessarily limit migrant workers' market mobility and bargaining power to some extent, the degree of harmfulness of these limits and restrictions is contingent on the details of the program and the wider context of employment and labor market practices.
Keywords: temporary work migration programs, vulnerability, labor market exploitation, features of temporary work migration programs, Migration, Trafficking, guest work programs, debt, labor exploitation.
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