Hyper-Precarious Lives Migrants, Work and Forced Labour in the Global North

Lewis, Hannah, Peter Dwyer, Stuart Hodkinson, and Louise Waite. “Hyper-Precarious Lives Migrants, Work and Forced Labour in the Global North.” Progress in Human Geography, September 17, 2014, 0309132514548303. doi:10.1177/0309132514548303.
This paper unpacks the contested inter-connections between neoliberal work and welfare regimes, asylum and immigration controls, and the exploitation of migrant workers. The concept of precarity is explored as a way of understanding intensifying and insecure post-Fordist work in late capitalism. Migrants are centrally implicated in highly precarious work experiences at the bottom end of labour markets in Global North countries, including becoming trapped in forced labour. Building on existing research on the working experiences of migrants in the Global North, the main part of the article considers three questions. First, what is precarity and how does the concept relate to working lives? Second, how might we understand the causes of extreme forms of migrant labour exploitation in precarious lifeworlds? Third, how can we adequately theorize these particular experiences using the conceptual tools of forced labour, slavery, unfreedom and precarity? We use the concept of ‘hyper-precarity’ alongside notions of a ‘continuum of unfreedom’ as a way of furthering human geographical inquiry into the intersections between various terrains of social action and conceptual debate concerning migrants’ precarious working experiences.

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