Ending the cycle of exploitation for immigrant workers

15 November 2018

Dr Francis Collins.

Waikato’s Professor Francis Collins is one of those leading research for the Government to help curb migrant exploitation in the workplace.

He is working with Associate Professor Christina Stringer and Professor Snejina Michailova from the University of Auckland Business School on the seven month Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment funded project, which will help form Government policy on the issue.

The research will investigate the nature of temporary migrant worker exploitation, including international students, identify regulatory and practical gaps and opportunities to address them.

The Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says that while migrants bring the skills needed to grow the economy, many migrant workers, especially those on temporary work and student visas, are particularly vulnerable to exploitation. “Migrant exploitation takes many forms, including workers not getting paid properly, working excessive hours or in unsafe conditions. Crucially, far too many migrant workers do not feel empowered to speak up or seek help when they are being subjected to unfair conditions.”

Professor Collins, from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, says the team will be looking at what leads to migrants being exploited and what drives employers to exploit people. The main research will be interview based, with a wide range of participants from different occupations, industries and regions in New Zealand.

One of the challenges is getting people who are, or have been, exploited to speak out. Professor Collins says they will be working with unions and migrant advocacy and community groups, plus use other tools  gain access. “For people who have been or are being exploited, their experiences mean that they can be particularly vulnerable. As a team we have a carefully planned research process to explore these issues while protecting people who choose to take part.”

The team expects to provide research results to MBIE by mid-2019.

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