Semi-Compliance in the Migrant Labour Market
COMPAS Working Paper No. 30
47 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2006
Date Written: June 2006
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
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