Globalization generates intense competition for labor that has had a profound effect in both developed and developing countries. In developed countries’ economies, there tend to be more jobs available at the high and low ends of the labor market than in the middle. Available or unemployed national workers are unwilling to fill low-status jobs because of poor pay, dangerous conditions, and the existence of alternative welfare provisions.
Given the absence of a willing domestic workforce, rich countries are increasingly looking outside their borders for low-skilled workers in agriculture, food-processing, construction, manufacturing, and low-wage services such as domestic work, home health care, and the sex sector. Migrant workers and irregular migrants from poorer countries have stepped in to fill the demand.
Extensive globalization promotes to increasing flow of migrant workers from countries with economic problems to help nations with a decreasing labor supply. While globalization may help the acceleration of trade and investment, it doesn’t create an environment that protects migrant workers’ economic, social and physical security.
According to International Labor Organization there are about 100 million migrant workers all over the world. Migrant workers are present in many sectors such as construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants, health care, education and agriculture.
According to the United States Public Health Service, in the United States there are over 3.5 million migrant and seasonal workers – men, women, and children who work in all fifty states during peak periods of agriculture (a migrant farmworker is an individual who moves from a permanent place of residence in order to be employed in agricultural work). Seasonal farmworkers perform similar work but do not move from their primary residence for the purpose of seeking farm equipment.
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Migrant farmworkers are usually either newly arrived immigrants or individuals with limited skills or opportunities. Although American agriculture depends on the labor of these workers, employment is usually of short duration and requires frequent moves. Many men travel without their families, and most workers return during the winter to a home base, usually in Florida, Texas, California, Puerto Rico, or Mexico. Migrant farmworkers are predominantly Latino (78 percent); 2 percent are African American, 18 percent Caucasian, less than 1 percent Caribbean, and less than 1 percent Asian. Almost half have less than a ninth grade education and many speak little or no English. Children of migrant farmworkers often change schools several times a year.
Most migrant farmworkers earn annual incomes below the poverty level and few receive benefits such as Social Security or worker’s compensation. The style of their work often prevents them from establishing any local residency, excluding them from benefits such as Medicaid and foot stamps. The majority of migrant farmworkers are either U.S. citizens or legal residents of the United States. Some foreign workers enter the United States under guest-worker programs when there are not enough available workers to satisfy the demand.
Farm work and mining are considered to be the most dangerous occupations. There is a high exposure to pesticides, resulting in the highest rate of toxic chemical injuries of any group in the United States. Farm injuries, exposure to heat and sun, and poor sanitation in the fields are other factors that contribute to the dangers of this work. Every year nearly three hundred children die and twenty-four thousand are injured in farm work.
Housing and living conditions are poor for migrant workers. Housing is often overcrowded, poorly stuffed and kept, and lacks ventilation, bathing facilities, and safe drinking water. These conditions contribute to an increased risk of accidents, sanitation-related diseases, and infectious diseases. Several studies have shown a 40 percent positivity rate in tuberculosis testing of migrant populations. One migrant farmworker group was found to have a 5 percent incidence of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection. Another study showed that 78 percent had parasitic infections.
Health care problems faced by migrant farmworkers are similar to those of other disadvantaged populations, but the factors of poverty, mobility, difficult living and working conditions, and cultural isolation put them more at risk for illness and injury. Those who work with migrant farmworkers find that, not only do common disease conditions occur more frequently, but they are often more severe because they are allowed to progress to more advanced stages before accessing care. These factors make migrants more vulnerable to abuse, depression, and self-medication.
The most countries where people are trying to get job abroad are European countries. The crisis is the one of the problems that explains why there are a lot of migrant workers. Crisis had a big influence on restaurants, hotels, manufacturing – people were loosing their jobs and needed to find new places of work.
A lot of people moved to the United States, Ireland and Spain, migrant workers in construction were particularly affected. But in Korea, Malaysia and Japan there was the largest job-loosing problem. The nations were really scared because of crisis, they were scared not only about themselves, but about their families also. Depressive questions were swimming in people’s heads every day, every second, and the fear of being poor, hungry and without any apartment, seized with a horror all population.
Ukraine is no exception to other countries of the world concerning this issue. According to the official statistics, over 2 million Ukrainians are currently employed abroad, with around 48 percent in Russia and almost the same in EU countries, mainly Spain, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal. Migrant workers of Ukraine are facing the same problems that those of other countries – poor living conditions, no health care, poor nutrition, etc. Since the start of 2007, around 500 Ukrainian migrant workers have died while doing a variety of jobs abroad, most of them middle-aged.
Majority of Ukrainian labor migrants to Italy work in a care sector where they have to look after old and terminally sick people. For most migrants the death of the person in care means not only personal trauma intensified by the intimate care work during the last days of the person’s life but also is a loss of job and home for the migrant. For many, the burden is intensified by the tortures of remorse for leaving their own parents and children without proper care at home in Ukraine. Death, therefore, stretching across the borders, exposes migrants’ structural and spatial limitations, financial and legal restrictions, symbolically represents migrants’ loss of time spent away from the families, and the loss of intimacy with their dear ones in the course of migration.
There are over 300,000 Ukrainian women working in Italy alone. Few of them have jobs that match the terms and conditions that were promised to them when they were being hired. In the last six years the numbers of women in Ukraine who have been hospitalized with severe mental disorders as a result of their employment in Italy have risen.
Most Ukrainian women who travel abroad to work in bars or other entertainment establishments are aware that their jobs can lead to prostitution. Some truly believe that they will do their jobs with no strings attached. These women find themselves in a strange country without a passport and money, so they have to pay “in kind” for their return ticket, in an absolutely different manner than stated in their employment contract.
According to experts, Ukrainian girls who are willing to be hired as nannies, governesses, or caregivers for the elderly face special risks. Very often they are asked to provide intimate services to their clients. A girl who refuses may find herself without her passport and besides having to provide sexual services she has to do all the housework. Not every woman can escape this kind of bondage; many simply don’t know that there are people willing to help them.
In other cases, citizens of Ukraine are used as donors of human organs, as illustrated by the case of a newly-married couple from Donetsk, who went on a honeymoon to Egypt and escaped by sheer miracle.
Most people who go to work abroad are aware of the danger that they are facing in the foreign country but it doesn’t stop them. Why they continue desire to go abroad? The hope to have a better life and earn more than they earn in their home country make them move regardless to the risks. Many of migrants deliberately go through all the difficulties of work abroad to bring some money home to start their business, as they have no opportunity to earn this money home.
The ETF survey contains a telling statistic. Only about 10 percent of returning migrants in the survey indicated they could start up a business in Ukraine. One of the reasons for this low number is a lack of proper experience, and less than sufficient information and support from the state. Creating opportunities for ex-migrants to invest their money into starting businesses after returning home looks like a win-win solution for both the state and the individuals. It’s not a secret that Ukrainians can grow good crops but have major problems with processing and distribution. This gap could be filled in with private businesses, in particular, set up by former migrants who have brought their agricultural work experience from abroad. Hopefully, infrastructure development will be one of the state priorities in the next few years, also because of the European Football Cup to be held in Ukraine and Poland in 2012, which also presents opportunities for tourism-related business.
Ukraine still does not have national programs for controlling the dynamics of the departure of specialists to other countries.
Several recent surveys showed that despite all the problems, many Ukrainians are still determined to seek their fortunes abroad. The survey “Human resources development and migration policy in Ukraine”, conducted by the European Training Foundation (ETF), found that 26.7 percent of Ukrainians aged 18-40 were seriously thinking about going abroad for work. Spain and Italy, although facing serious unemployment problems now, will probably remain the traditional destinations for Ukrainian migrants, as well as the Czech Republic which, starting from January 1, 2009, introduced a “green card” program for immigrants from certain countries including Ukraine.
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In reality, no social service can say how many Ukrainians are working abroad. For each person working legally, there are another two or three without legal status. These people return to Ukraine with money but without any guarantees – they were not officially working and therefore can forget about a pension of unemployment benefit. The Government has passed a Resolution aimed at regulating this situation. Labor migrants will be able to move onto a simplified system of taxation, paying 200 UAH per month and having the same rights as people who work in Ukraine.
People who are working abroad illegally experience other problems when they return. If they want to buy a flat, an office, etc, according to the law, they must produce a declaration of income. Now many of them are worried about openly revealing money earned abroad, and avoid even putting it in the bank. Now by making voluntary contributions of around 250 Euros a year, the person will have social guarantees and also be able to legalize their income. Ms Kuzhel, who pushed for these changes, says that any claims that the tax people will demand taxes are lies. She stresses that the contributions are voluntary and that the Resolution is not designed to extract taxes but to help people.
Ukraine has taken some steps towards solving the problem of migrant workers on a state level. On December 10, 2008 the Government approved the draft Concept on State Migration Policy that will now be adopted in the form of a law by the Parliament. There are some good directions set in the area of improving the internal labor market and business environment through providing incentives for individuals to start up and run businesses, and also social benefits and state support for those working abroad. The Concept also looks into improving the situation with immigrant workers in Ukraine. Still, there is perhaps too much faith that all problems can be solved through changing the law. There is often the risk that the law will remain simply a well-written piece of paper and nothing more, without the necessary work that needs to be done by all stakeholders in society to really improve the situation.
On an international level the situation also looks to be improving, mainly for Ukrainian migrant workers who work in Portugal. After 10 years of Ukrainians working in Portugal, an agreement has finally been signed between Ukraine and Portugal on social protection for migrant workers. It should make it possible to count one’s work record abroad as part of ones period of work in Ukraine.
An international Ukrainian school has also been opened in Portugal. There are 20 Saturday schools and centers for studying Ukrainian; there are 14 religious communities where the children of migrant workers study, and who are entitled to apply for Ukrainian higher institutes. On the other hand, the most numerous Ukrainian community in Portugal, unlike the Russian community, does not have a single Ukraine media outlet.
But in general, unfortunately, the migrant workers do not perceive any great interest from the Ukrainian State in their fate. Thus, migrant workers should protect themselves. And the best kind of protection while working abroad – is awareness. Those who want jobs abroad must first verify the employment contract. This can be easily arranged by, for example, consulting the League, where staff experts help men and women alike. They will check your contract from the legal point of view, and then verify the company through their sources.
However, anyone can verify this contract if she/he knows the basic tricks of the employers’ trade.
Here are some advices for migrant workers: never borrow any money from your employer, never give your passport to anyone, and always have a photocopy of your passport information handy; watch out for situations in which your personal freedom can be restricted; do not allow your employer to treat you unfairly or rudely; when faced with any kind of harassment, contact the embassy.
People, who go to work abroad must know how to take care of themselves in dangerous situation. Before going abroad, they must learn about the other country and where they can address in case the employer violates their rights.
Also they should know, that “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” Every country has its problems. There is no perfect country for living. A migrant – is only a stranger, a working force, who never will be treated with due respect as other countrymen, will never feel home and have protection. The motherland can be only one.
List of source material
2. http://crisistalk.worldbank.org/2009/02/creating-jobs-for-ukraines-migrant-workers.html Creating Jobs for Ukraine’s Migrant Workers;
3. http://www.imfmetal.org/files/09100613304266/IMFmigrantworkers.pdf Report of International Metalworkers Federation about the problems that migrant workers face in the Metal industry all over the world;
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