Semi-Compliance in the Migrant Labour Market

COMPAS Working Paper No. 30

47 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2006

See all articles by Martin Ruhs

Martin Ruhs

Migration Policy Centre (MPC), European University Institute (EUI)

Bridget Anderson

University of Oxford

Date Written: June 2006

Abstract

Discussions of "illegality" in the employment of migrant workers are typically based on a "legal/illegal" dichotomy that conflates breaches of rights of residence and rights of employment. This paper aims to facilitate a more nuanced discussion by introducing the new concept of "compliance." We identify and distinguish between three levels of compliance. Compliant migrants are legally resident and working in full compliance with the conditions attached to their immigration status. Non-compliant migrants are those without the rights to reside in the host country. Semi-compliance indicates a situation where a migrant is legally resident but working in violation of some or all of the conditions attached to the migrant's immigration status. Our empirical analysis shows that, although frequently ignored in academic and public debates, semi-compliance is empirically relevant, i.e., it clearly features in the employment of migrant workers in practice. It is also perceived and experienced by migrants and employers as different from non-compliance. We argue that - at least to some degree - semi-compliance is simply the result of the tension between the needs of a flexible labour market on the one hand, and the desire to closely monitor the employment of migrants for immigration control purposes on the other hand. This raises important questions about whether and how the state can and should act on semi-compliance in the migrant labour market.

Keywords: illegal migration, labour migration and migration typologies

Suggested Citation

Ruhs, Martin and Anderson, Bridget, Semi-Compliance in the Migrant Labour Market (June 2006). COMPAS Working Paper No. 30, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=911280 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.911280

Martin Ruhs (Contact Author)

Migration Policy Centre (MPC), European University Institute (EUI) ( email )

Villa La Fonte, via delle Fontanelle 18
50016 San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, Florence 50014
Italy

Bridget Anderson

University of Oxford ( email )

Oxford
United Kingdom

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