Migrant workers in the World

The United Nations defines the term 'migrant worker' as follows: "The term 'migrant worker' refers to a person who is to be engaged, is engaged or has been engaged in a remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national." Migrant workers have a lot of problems which they are faced with all the time. They are confronted with hardship such as extremely low wages, terrible housing situation, unacceptable health care, little or no education, no perspectives for a better life, few rights due to their illegality, separation from their families and origins, physical and mental disorders, extremely long working hours and many more.

In order to show the situation of migrant workers in the world in general we chose three countries: India, a developing country, China, a newly industrialized country and Italy a fully industrialized country.
In South African shanty towns like this, migrant workers have to live in single sex shacks.


In India most workers on building sites are migrants from rural areas. Once they come to the cities they live similarly to nomads, moving from one workplace to another. Often their children work from an early age on for example in houses or as errand-boys. On every major construction site there is a shanty town where the workers live. It depends on the construction company whether there are facilities such as lavatories, water outlets or even schools for the children. The workers have hardly any social rights such as a day off or fair wages. These migrant workers are exploited by people who find the jobs for them and insist on an extremely high commition.

Nowadays there is big machinery used on construction sites. Since only 5 out of 35 million construction workers in India are qualified, companies have a problem finding skilled workers despite the abundance of workers.


In China there has been a big increase of urbanisation. A lot of people leave the countryside hoping to improve their standard of living. The consequence is a surplus of workers, who are mostly illegally in the cities. This fact leads to a decline of wages and a disregard of migrant workers' rights. Migrant workers in China are often occupied in the textile industy, in coal mining or in the construction sector, in which 80% of the workers are migrants. They also do not have access to proper healthcare because they cannot afford it.

Additonally, the government does not do anything about it because of corruption and lack of interest in improving the situation. The regime is afraid that foreign companies will leave the country because of stricter controls. This would be devastating to China’s economy since external investments are the most important reason for China’s economical growth.

In China there also occur cases of slavery. Even though it is not an official form of slavery like it happened in North America during the eighteenth century, we can compare it with the situation in China. These workers are exploited by their employer so much and they have to execute any order they receive because they have absolutely no choice. Additionally they have to work long hours and very hard for almost no money and they do not have any spare time.

It is hard to estimate the exact number. In the last few years more and more migrant workers have been held as slaves. The fact that the government is involved in slavery and that it gains a lot of money with it makes the fight against slavery even more difficult, especially in rural areas.


Many migrant workers come from Africa to southern Italy every year. Often these people are picked up by the mafia and have to work for them. An example is Calabria, the southernwest part of mainland Italy. In this region migrant workers are forced to harvest oranges. They are working under terrible conditions. They have to sleep in old, unheated factory buildings. The money they earn is a starvation wage. Besides that they have to pay "protection money" to the mafia. Since these migrant workers have no papers they cannot do anything about it and are treated almost like slaves. Some of these workers have tried to protest against the Mafia by refusing to pay the protection money. As a reaction to that the Mafia has shot some of them. This has lead to a major riot in which even the police has been involved.

These riots do not have an impact at all and so they have to go to so called reception camps in which they ought be deported. As a matter of fact the Italian police is not strict: After a short period of time the migrant workers are allowed to return to their work places and continue with their harvest. The migrant workers are discriminated by some Italians since they are taking away their jobs.


In these three countries the situation of migrant workers is very bad. Nearly in all cases they are men who leave rural areas and go to the cities illegally or they come from other countries as in Italy. Most of the time they are occupied in the construction or in the mining sectors. Since there is a lot of competition for jobs, workers have to be satisfied with starvation wages. Additionally they are being exploited by their emloyers and people who find jobs for them and insist on a high commission, especially in Italy. Therefore they cannot afford proper healthcare and housing and have to live in run-down shanty-towns. They are often victims of discrimination. Since they do not have permits they cannot claim their rights. In China there are even cases of slavery. The government does little to help since they also profit from this business.