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Illegal Immigrants and the Informal Economy: Worker and Employer Experiences in the Asian Underground Economy

IJED, Vol. 6 No. 2, (2004)

The informal economy and migration in advanced economies are two major political issues. This paper connects them through a study of the concrete experiences of workers, and the firms employing them, in the exemplary case of the clothing and catering sectors in a British city. This experience illustrates, notably through wages as low as £2 per hour, how people live through the tensions of economic pressures for cheap labor and political attempts to regulate its use. Illegal migration was a key reason for the survival of these firms, in supplying cheap and flexible labor. It was not, however, organized in any way by the firms, and they disliked it in principle while having little option but to employ illegals. Workers largely had to accept their lot. An approach to managing the issue through encouragement, rather than strict enforcement, is suggested.

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