The perforated borders of labour migration and the formal state : meta-state and para-state regulation

Virginio, Francis Vinicius Portes and Garvey, Brian and Stewart, Paul (2017) The perforated borders of labour migration and the formal state : meta-state and para-state regulation. Employee Relations, 39 (3). pp. 391-407. ISSN 0142-5455 (

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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore the variation in migrant labour market regimes and what these reveal about variant patterns of state and extra state regulation in two contemporary political economies. Design/methodology/approach Research based upon a participatory action research agenda in Mexico and the north of Ireland. Migrant workers and their families where involved in the project and its development. This included participation in the research design, its focus and purpose. Findings Migrant workers experiences of labour market subordination are part of wider processes of subordination and exclusion involving both the state, but also wider, often meta- and para-state, agents. In different locations, states and contexts, the precarity experienced by migrant workers and their families highlights the porosity of the formal rational legal state and moreover, in the current economic context, the compatibility of illegality and state sponsored neoliberal economic policies. Research limitations/implications It is important to extend this study to other geographic and political economy spaces. Practical implications The study challenges the limits of state agency suggesting the need for extra state, i.e. civil society, participation to support and defend migrant workers. Originality/value Notwithstanding the two very different socio-economic contexts, the paper reveals that the interaction, dependence and restructuring of migrant labour markets can be understood within the context of meta- and para-state activities that link neoliberal employment insecurities. Migrants' experiences illustrate the extent to which even formal legal employment relations can also be sustained by para- and meta- (illegal and alegal) actions and institutions.