The right of a sovereign country to determine who enters its borders is beyond question. It is, however, customary for countries in the developed world to attract large numbers of migrant labourers to their shores.
Within developing societies, there is also the trend for workers to move wherever greener pastures present themselves. The movement of labour has been a norm and is very unlikely that it can be dispensed with at any time.
The fact remains that governments through policy and regulatory procedures, can control the movement of labour but such decisions ought to be clearly thought out, prior to their implementation.
Immigrant labour has built many of the major industrial societies around the world. It is common knowledge, for example, that both Great Britain and the United States of America have benefitted tremendously from the sweat of immigrant labour.
It can be said that these two nations have exploited cheap labour from across borders to build the empires they have today. The United States has and continues to benefit from cheap labour from its Latin American neighbours.
The large immigrant community which has contributed significantly to the growth of the United States of America has long been encouraged to its shores through the promotion of the USA as the land of opportunities. Many of those who have sought better fortunes are still living in the hope of realizing their dreams.
Millions continue to live in poverty while they yet boast of experiencing a better standard of living, when compared to what they enjoyed in their homeland. Needless to say, a large percentage of these persons has been exploited for cheap labour.
It is understandable that all over the world, the contraction of job opportunities due to the global economic recession, and the impact of technological changes have caused governments to rethink their immigration policies.
Whilst it is for governments to create or facilitate new job opportunities for their citizens, they also have a responsibility to protect the jobs that are available for locals. Is it the intention of Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, to place the brakes on immigrant labour?
If this is so, it certainly would have far reaching implications if it were to become law. It certainly will impact heavily on many countries around the world that export labour to the USA.
Small developing societies of the Caribbean and elsewhere, which now have saturated labour markets, are finding it increasing difficult to find jobs for the many young persons who are graduating from universities, colleges, secondary or high schools.
With the doors closing in the USA, it means that there is potential for an accelerated unemployment problem across the region. With this being the case, governments and better yet the social partners, inclusive of government, labour and capital, need to reassess the current state of the economies and devise a plan of action that can stimulate the creation of employment opportunities.
They cannot fail to come to grips with the fact that there are several implications which come with the change of policy on immigrant labour as is being promoted by President Trump of the USA and those leaders within the European Union.
Business leaders such as Sir Digby Jones, Director General of the CBI Employers body in England, have promulgated the view that a cap on immigrant workers would tie the hands of employers, reducing the “flexibility which is the hallmark of the British labour market.”
It should not escape leaders like President Trump that to embark on a policy to shut out immigrant workers, can fuel the illegal trafficking of persons, encourage the development of sweat shops, contribute to rising crime, and significantly reduce income tax and national insurance payments.
What also comes out of this latest development of an imposed restraint on immigrant labour is the tendency to promote discrimination. This can hardly be ignored. Whilst this has been and will remain a concern for trade unionists, there are other concerns that loom largely with respect to the employment of migrant labour.
The possibility exists that workers can find themselves working for pay far below the minimum wage, while others can be forced to accept temporary contracts of employment. For trade unionists, this change of immigrant policy has the potential to turn back the hands of the clock, as it can lead to further exploitation and marginalization of workers, and varied negative changes to their conditions of employment.
(Dennis DePeiza is a labour management consultant with Regional Management Services Inc. Send your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)