Migrant Agricultural Workers and Their Socio‐Economic, Occupational and Health Conditions – A Literature Review

Måns Svensson, Rustamjon Urinboyev, Anders Wigerfelt Svensson, Peter Lundqvist, Margareta Littorin, Maria Albin
2013 Social Science Research Network  
Objective This study provides the summary of current knowledge about migrant work in agriculture available from journal articles, books, reports and other relevant academic publications, focusing on political, economic, legal, social and medical aspects of migrant work in agriculture. Methods A systematic search was carried out on the LibHub and Google Scholar databases in order to compile the existing peer--reviewed publications, research reports, and policy papers concerning migrant work in
more » ... g migrant work in agriculture. The literatures was selected through the following process: (1) reading the title and abstract in English for the period 1960 -2011; (2) reading the entire text of selected articles; (3) making a manual search of the relevant quotations in the selected articles; (4) eliminating articles without a focus on migrant populations and the themes of central interest, and then reading and analyzing the definitive set of articles. Results In spite of their varying geographical focus, scope, unit of analysis and settings, most of the studies reviewed highlighted that migrant farmworkers work under very poor working conditions and face numerous health and safety hazards, including occupational chemical and ergonomic exposures, various injuries and illnesses and even death, discrimination and social exclusion, poor pay and long working hours, and language and cultural barriers. Many studies also reported poor enforcement of labour regulations and a lack of health and safety training on the farms, difficulty accessing medical care and compensation when injured or ill. Conclusions The studies have also pointed out the lack of research in relation to labour, health, psychosocial, and wage conditions of migrant farmworkers. The accumulated results of the study indicate that the issues and problems migrant farmworkers face are multidimensional, and there is a need for both policy development and further research in order to address migrant workers' problems. Keywords Migration; work environment; agriculture; health of migrant workers; human rights and migration; pesticides; occupational injuries; migrant farmworkers; occupational safety and agriculture; labour migration. agriculture. The keywords used, related to migration, were entered into the search engines in a disjunctive manner (OR), and the addition (AND) of a second list of words related to agriculture and medicine, accumulated 390 articles in total. We entered the following keywords in the databases LibHub and Google Scholar for the search of relevant literatures: migrant workers in greenhouse agriculture; immigrants and agriculture; migrant workers in agriculture; farmworkers; agricultural workers; guest workers; seasonal workers; occupational safety and agriculture; migrant workers and pesticides; migrant farmworker or agricultural worker; migrant workers and health; human rights and migration; migrant; foreign worker and agriculture; labour migration; and illegal or undocumented migrant. Literature was selected through the following process: (1) reading the title and abstract in English for the period 1960 - 2011; (2) reading of the entire text of selected articles; (3) making a manual search of the relevant citations in the selected articles; (4) eliminating articles without a focus on migrant populations and the themes of central interest (migration, work environment in agriculture, health of migrant workers, legal aspects of migration), and (5) reading and analyzing the definitive article set. Our selection criteria were mainly theme--based, and we did not employ quality standards for inclusion. Rather, we made an attempt to compile the existing reports on the topic. We obtained the full text of the most interesting studies (190), and followed up cited references in those studies that seemed relevant for our research theme, obtaining a total of 360 papers in full text. One hundred and twenty three were excluded after the entire document was read. At the end of this process, the number of studies included was 237. Results The geography, scope and focus of the studies were not straightforward and necessitated careful consideration and selectivity. The natures of selected 237 studies are often multi--faceted and discuss subjects as varied as migrant farmworkers' labour (e.g., hours of work, housing) and psycho--social conditions, their access to basic social services, migrant farmworkers' exposure to various chemicals and its health consequences, ergonomic risks and occupational injuries, problems related to immigration laws and their enforcement, migration policies (models and best practices) in different countries, and the social, economic, and cultural influences of migration on the work environment in agriculture. Further, the studies were carried out by different methods -descriptive, qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. Although studies on this topic are diverse, they mainly cover migration issues of the established countries of immigration (United States and Canada), where migration has become an inalienable part of the academic and policy debates. Since we have conducted a literature search only in English (possible limitation of our study), we found limited data concerning labour and health conditions of migrant farmworkers in Europe. Key European academic journals covering rural and agricultural workers, such as Journal of Rural Studies, Sociologia Ruralis and Journal of Agromedicine have not given sufficient attention to the labour and health conditions of migrant farmworkers. Such a lack of research in Europe, particularly in a Scandinavian context, pinpoints the need for further research that addresses the work and health conditions of migrant workers in agriculture. As our results indicate, most of the literature reviewed did not make a clear distinction between greenhouse and outdoor growing (open farms) when describing labour, wage and health conditions of migrant workers.
doi:10.2139/ssrn.2297559 fatcat:qu6retcwzbcbvghwzzvlig2cpy