Special Issue "Migration, Labour and Health: Unravelling the Links between Labour Exploitation and Health Disparities of Migrant Workers"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 1480

Special Issue Editors

Department of Public Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of West Attica (UNIWA), 11521 Athens, Greece
Interests: migrant health; labour migration; sociology of migration; precarious employment; low-status work; migrants’ access to healthcare services; social integration/exclusion of migrants; migrant community associations; female migration; irregular migration; immigration and asylum policy; solidarity; political participation; trade unions
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Michael Gusmano
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Community and Population Health, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015, USA
Interests: health and social policy in the United States and internationally
Dr. Janet McLaughlin
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Health Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford, ON N3T 2Y3, Canada
2. International Migration Research Centre (IMRC), Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, ON N2L 3C5, Canada
3. Social Justice and Community Engagement Master’s Program, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford, ON N3T 2Y3, Canada
Interests: migrant agricultural workers’ health and safety; health care and workers’ compensation access; human rights and social justice

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues, 

Target 8.8 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda urges states to “protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment” (UN, 2015). According to the ILO (2021), 73 per cent of migrants are workers and international migrant workers constitute nearly 5 per cent of the global labour force, comprising an integral part of the world economy. The World Health Organization (WHO) (2022:294) underlines that “low-skilled migrant workers are highlighted as a priority population as they suffer greater occupational health risks and are less likely to use healthcare services for a variety of reasons.” Unemployment and increasing poverty have prompted many workers in the Global South to seek work elsewhere, while in industrialized countries demand for unskilled labour has increased (Berlinger and Gusmano, 2013). One of the main indicators for examining the degree of integration of labour im/migrants, asylum seekers and refugees is their access to healthcare services, both at the level of institutional frameworks and in challenges they face when seeking and utilizing healthcare services. Moreover, their concentration in precarious, low-status/low-wage jobs affects their access to healthcare, especially in the case of irregular migrants who are severely affected (Fouskas, 2018). Precarious work is employment that lacks all the standard forms of labour security, typically takes the form of wage work, and is characterized by exceptionally limited social benefits and legal rights, job insecurity, low wages, and a high risk of ill health (Vosko, 2006:3-4). Migrants are a social category with particular needs in the health sector, given their generally poor living conditions (both in sending and receiving countries), but also due to additional problems caused by difficulties adapting to a new social and cultural environment (Sassen, 2016; Fouskas, et al., 2022). Thus, the relationship between social exclusion and the health status of migrants works in a bidirectional manner. On the one hand, the experience of social exclusion—as reflected via poor living conditions, low income, difficulties in communication, institutional or actual exclusion from health and other services and the phenomena of racism and xenophobia—has detrimental effects on the health of im/migrants. On the other hand, a possible health disorder leads to social exclusion due to difficulty finding formal employment. Such pre-existing inequities were only further entrenched in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which disproportionately affected marginalized and racialized populations, particularly migrant workers.

The development of a global labour market is linked to social inequalities and the use of migrants to form a flexible workforce characterized by invisibility, precarity and the denial of rights. Precarious employment comprises a substantial social determinant of health inequities, with multiple health repercussions. Migrant workers are at a higher risk of hazardous employment conditions and health problems due to their precarious employment and immigration status and socio-economic marginalization (Binford and McLaughlin, 2021; Hennebry, McLaughlin and Weiler, 2021; Mayell and McLaughlin 2016). They are disproportionately represented in temporary, low-status, low-paid, and dangerous jobs arising from unequal class and ethnic-racial divisions of labour, and positioned predominantly in the informal sector of the economy, where employers benefit financially by avoiding social security contributions and hiring people without permanent, or any, contracts. In this context, migrants are concentrated in manual labour in agriculture, construction, crafts, domestic work, restaurant and hotel services, personal care, nursing, factory work, fisheries, food production, public transportation and in itinerant trade. These jobs are not attractive, offer little social prestige and are socially inferior. In such settings, workers have an increased risk of numerous health hazards, including exposure to COVID-19 due to close contact with the public or other workers, and they often lack benefits such as health insurance and paid sick leave.

This Special Issue invites original articles based on quantitative or qualitative empirical research, or theoretical in nature, from scholars and policymakers working at the nexus of migration, international labour migration and public health policy to critically examine migrant workers’ health.


Berlinger N, and Gusmano, MK. Undocumented patients: Undocumented immigrants and access to health care. The Hastings Center, Executive Summary. 2013.

Binford, L. and McLaughlin, J. Entrenched Exploitation: Temporary Foreign Agricultural Worker Programs in North America. In Handbook on the Human Impact of Agriculture. James, H., Ed., Edward Elgar Publishing, 2021, 256-285.

Fouskas, T. Precarious employment repercussions on migrants’ perceptions regarding healthcare. International Journal of Human Rights in Healthcare 2018, 11, 298-311.

Fouskas, T.; Koulierakis, G.; Mine, F.-M.; Theofilopoulos, A.; Konstantopoulou, S.; Ortega-de-Mora, F.; Georgiadis, D.; Pantazi, G. Racial and Ethnic Inequalities, Health Disparities and Racism in Times of COVID-19 Pandemic Populism in the EU: Unveiling Anti-Migrant Attitudes, Precarious Living Conditions and Barriers to Integration in Greece. Societies 2022, 12, 189.

Hennebry, J., McLaughlin, J., and Weiler, A. Fresh Food, Stale Schemes: Comparing Agricultural Labour Migration in Canada and Spain. In Immigrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Times of Crises: B. An International Handbook on Migration, Asylum, Social Integration and Exclusion; Fouskas, T., Ed.; European Public Law Association Publications, 2021, 351-376.

International Labour Organization (ILO). Global Estimates on International Migrant Workers. Geneva: ILO, 2021 https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_808935.pdf

Mayell, S. and McLaughlin, J. (2016). Migrating to Work at what Cost?: The Cumulative Health Consequences of Contemporary Labour Migration. Handbook of Migration and Health, Felicity Thomas (ed.), Edward Elgar Publishing, 230-52.

Sassen, S. A Massive Loss of Habitat: New Drivers for Migration. Sociology of Development 2016, 2, 204–233.

United Nations (UN), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1.

Vosko, L. Precarious employment: Towards an improved understanding of labour market insecurity. In Precarious Employment: Understanding Labour Market Insecurity in Canada; Vosko, L., Ed.; McGill-Queen’s University Press: Montreal, QC, Canada, 2006; pp. 3-42.

World Health Organization (WHO) World report on the health of refugees and migrants. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2022.

Dr. Theodoros Fouskas
Prof. Dr. Michael Gusmano
Dr. Janet McLaughlin
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • migration
  • social determinants of health
  • health policy
  • labour migration
  • health care

Published Papers (1 paper)

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21 pages, 347 KiB  
From Migrant to Transnational Families’ Mental Health: An Ethnography of Five Mexican Families Participating in Agricultural Labour in Canada
Soc. Sci. 2023, 12(9), 523; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci12090523 - 19 Sep 2023
Viewed by 735
This focused critical ethnography aimed to deepen our understanding of the impact of participating in a temporary, cyclical, low-wage migration program on the mental and emotional health (MEH) of Mexican women and their non-migrating family members. Except for global care chains research, the [...] Read more.
This focused critical ethnography aimed to deepen our understanding of the impact of participating in a temporary, cyclical, low-wage migration program on the mental and emotional health (MEH) of Mexican women and their non-migrating family members. Except for global care chains research, the field of migrant mental health has paid limited attention to the importance of transnational family dynamics and the MEH of relatives beyond the workers’ children. The current study broadens this framework to examine how family-level changes brought about by migration affect the MEH not only the migrant and her children, but also extended family members. Participants included five women employed in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program and an average of five non-migrating members of their families in Mexico. The study combined four data generation methods: participant observation, ‘emojional’ calendars, semi-structured interviews, and sociodemographic questionnaires. Study participants’ MEH was significantly influenced by gendered selection processes and the cyclical pattern of migration. Similar impacts were observed within and across four groups of participants (workers, their children, the children’s caregivers, and extended family members) during their periods apart and together. There were significant effects of their relative’s migration on the MEH of extended family members, a population group commonly overlooked in the literature. Findings from this study suggest that public health research, programs, and policies using a transnational approach are best suited to effectively address the impacts of migration on the MEH of migrants and their non-migrating families. Full article
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