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Ośrodek Badań nad Migracjami

Kamil Matuszczyk, Sara Bojarczuk. 2024.

The evolution of the migration industry – how have employers been supported in sourcing their workforce?


Labor history


The migration industry consists of actors and organisations (e.g. agents, brokers, agencies, corporations) through which migration is facilitated, organised, and accelerated. Although the migration industry gained prominence in the late 20th century within labour mobility, it has relatively rarely been the subject of historical analysis. This historiographical essay argues that employers’ needs and demands for foreign workers, often ad-hoc, have triggered the emergence and development of the migration industry. Rooted in modern historical debates on labour migration, this essay aims to critically assess various forms of cooperation between employers and commercial actors worldwide and place those strategies within the migration industry. Inspired by dichotomous approach to capturing the relationships identified between employers and actors in the migration industry (i.e. agents and partners), this essay investigates the larger spectrum of types of relationships that have taken place historically. We argue that since the mid-19th century, we have witnessed an evolution of these relationships: from acting as a provider of labour (supplier or agent) to a greater professionalisation and consolidation of the relationship between employers and actors in the migration industry (partners and then allies).

Słowa kluczowe

migration industry, labour migration, brokers, employers, intermediaries, migrant workers