Regulating Transnational Labor: Trafficked, Forced, and Informalized Labor

Scholar in Residence Lecture Teil 3

  • Date: Feb 1, 2022
  • Time: 17:00
  • Speaker: Karen Shire
  • University of Duisburg-Essen
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Regulating Transnational Labor: Trafficked, Forced, and Informalized Labor
The three lectures assess the possibilities and challenges for regulating cross-border labor mobility in the global economy. Migration scholars often advocate for free mobility, while labor scholars focus on how cross-border labor is used to evade and undermine hard-won labor protections. Her lectures seek to gain leverage on the contradictions between liberalizing labor mobility and regulating employment. The focus is on the theorization of the regulatory challenges posed by cross-border labor mobility, and assessments of regulatory practices emerging at a transnational scale.

The extreme exploitation of labor in the form of trafficked, forced, or informalized employment has pervaded the labor-intensive, low-wage segments of labor markets across the global economy. While the discussion of regulatory pathways in this series of lectures so far has attributed challenges to gaps in international conventions and national/sectoral regulations, in this domain, international rules and normative principles are extensive and widely shared. Moreover, extreme exploitation is not confined to the institutionally thinner labor market contexts of the developing world. The available statistics suggest that a large share of trafficked labor is situated in Europe, and occurs between the EU member states. Why then, does extreme exploitation persist, even where conventions are ratified, norms become guiding principles, and employment is heavily regulated at the national level? In this last lecture, the persistence of forced and informalized labor in the advanced economies is explained in relation to the intersection of employment regulation with mobility infrastructures and the gender regime, with evidence taken from comparative research on the regulation of prostitution and welfare markets for domestic/care labor in Europe.

Publication recommended for preparatory reading

Selected publications

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