Brokered Migration for Domestic Work and Construction Work in Ghana and Myanmar: Examining the Relevance of the Slavery and Trafficking Discourse

This project builds on existing research on migration into low-skilled occupations in Ghana and Myanmar to understand the infrastructure of brokerage and how migrants view the process.
Project status

The aim of the project was to better understand the infrastructure of brokerage in migration for low-skilled occupations from Ghana to Libya and the Middle East and from Myanmar to Thailand and Singapore. The research generated insights into the structure and functioning of brokerage and the range of informal and formal organisations that are involved in facilitating mobility.

This project has revealed that due to cultural notions of 'women’s' and 'men’s' work, migration patterns are highly gendered, with a majority of migrant domestic workers being female and a majority of migrant construction workers being male. The brokerage systems associated with these occupations are distinct in terms of modes of recruitment, costs, modes of transport and placement with employers. Systems of brokerage are complex and they can result in migrants experiencing suffering and exploitative conditions. Yet, they also allow migrants to enter the informal economy which gives flexibility in choosing jobs and changing employers. Migrants use brokers to exercise agency, though in highly constrained conditions. Brokered migrant journeys and stays at destination may be a combination of regular and irregular status, and different parts of the brokerage system may be involved in different parts of the journey and residence at destination.

The research has yielded new knowledge on the nexus between policy, culture, brokerage and poverty, and has served to highlight the complicity of the state in perpetuating systems of migration mediation that can lead to exploitation and human rights violations. This aspect of brokerage is under-reported in academia and is mostly absent from policy narratives that tend to shift the blame on to other actors. This project has drawn attention to how the tightening of borders and reduced opportunities for legal migration as well as complex and hard to reach procedures for formal migration have spawned a migration industry which includes rent-seeking officials. In order to reduce the costs as well as the risks and hardship associated with migration, the research suggests that it is important for governments to find ways of facilitating legal mobility and improving access to information on migration procedures and risks. 

Principal Investigator: Dr Priya Deshingkar, University of Sussex

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