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The public and the private in guestworker schemes: examples from Malaysia and the U.S.

Journal article
Authors Joseph Trawicki Anderson
Anja Franck
Published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Volume 45
Issue 7
Pages 1207-1223
ISSN 1369-183X
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies
Pages 1207-1223
Language en
Keywords Guestworkers, migration control, migration industry, private authority
Subject categories International Migration and Ethnic Relations


While discussions of state involvement in migration generally focus on restriction, states are actively involved in the promotion of labour migration through guestworker programmes, among other examples. While these programmes are state-sponsored, they often rely heavily on private actors in order to function. Drawing on the examples of the H-2 visa in the United States and the recruitment of foreign workers to Malaysia, this paper examines the common elements of state direction of migration combined with a focus on temporariness and an outsourcing of recruitment and supervision that are present in both guestworker schemes. In drawing on the geographically, economically, and politically distinct contexts of the U.S. and Malaysia we look to how these schemes contain a mixture of state and private authority which permits an especially potent form of control over the lives of guestworkers that is greater than what either state or private actors could produce individually. Such control raises important questions about the nature of public/private governance within migration more broadly.

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