Chapter 18: Chasing Ghosts: Researching Illegality in Migrant Labour Markets
Bridget Anderson, Ben Rogaly and Martin Ruhs The issue of migrant ‘illegality’ and labour markets is the subject of intense policy concern and public debate in Britain and many other high-income countries. Fears of migrants working illegally and thereby undercutting domestic workers (and legally resident migrants), or concerns about exploitation of vulnerable workers by unscrupulous employers have been given fresh impetus by economic recession. Yet the evidence for these concerns is limited. Data is poor, and the analysis of the impacts of migrants on labour markets is highly complex, even without introducing the additional element of legal status. It is clearly an area where research is needed, but it is also one which is dogged with complexity, theoretically and in practice. Thus the methodological challenges are not simply logistical, but reflect broader theoretical and political issues. Academics from a wide range of disciplines have been engaging in research on illegality and immigration. Their contributions (geographers, sociologists, economists, anthropologists, political scientists, philosophers, to name but a few), have tended towards a qualitative/ quantitative division. There is an interest in estimating the size and economic impact of the population of illegally resident migrants, often using standard sources of demographic data though, particularly in the USA, also by generating new data. There are particular interests from policy actors in this kind of quantitative research. There have also been smallscale qualitative studies, principally with migrants, but occasionally with employers. As yet the mixed method approach advocated by prominent migration scholar Douglas Massey has been...
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