A foreign worker or guest worker is a human who works in a country other than the one of which he or she is a citizen. Some foreign workers are using a guest worker program in a country with more preferred job prospects than their home country. Guest workers are often either sent or invited to work outside their home country, or have acquired a job before they left their home country, whereas migrant workers often leave their home country without having a specific job at hand.
Tens of millions of people around the world live their lives as foreign workers. An estimated 14 million foreign workers live in the United States, which draws most of its immigrants from Mexico, including 4 or 5 million undocumented workers. It is estimated that around 5 million foreign workers live in Northwestern Europe, half a million in Japan, and around 5 million in Saudi Arabia. A comparable number of dependents are accompanying international workers.
Foreign workers by country or wider region
Foreign nationals are accepted into Canada on a temporary basis if they have a student visa, are seeking asylum, or under special permits. The largest category however is called the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), under which workers are brought to Canada by their employers for specific jobs. In 2006, there were a total of 265,000 foreign workers in Canada. Amongst those of working age, there was a 118% increase from 1996. By 2008, the intake of non-permanent immigrants (399,523, the majority of whom are TFWs), had overtaken the intake of permanent immigrants (247,243). In order to hire foreign workers, Canadian employers must acquire a Labour Market Impact Assessment administered by Employment and Social Development Canada. .
Green card workers are individuals who have requested and received legal permanent residence in the United States from the government and who intend to work in the United States on a permanent basis. The United States’ Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) Lottery program authorizes up to 50,000 immigrant visas to be granted each year. This help facilitate foreign nationals with low rates of immigration to the United States a chance to participate in a random drawing for the possibility of obtaining an immigration visa.
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In Nazi Germany, from 1940–42, Organization Todt began its reliance on guest workers, military internees, Zivilarbeiter (civilian workers), Ostarbeiter (Eastern workers) and Hilfswillige ("volunteer") POW workers.
The great migration phase of labor migrants in the 20th century began in Germany during the 1950s, as the sovereign Germany since 1955 due to repeated pressure from NATO partners yielded to the request for closure of the so-called 'Anwerbe' Agreement (German: Anwerbeabkommen). The initial plan was a rotation principle: a temporary stay (usually two to three years), followed by a return to their homeland. The rotation principle proved inefficient for the industry, because the experienced workers were constantly replaced by inexperienced ones. The companies asked for legislation to extend the residence permits. Many of these foreign workers were followed by their families in the following period and stayed forever. Until the 1970s, more than four million migrant workers and their families came to Germany like this, mainly from the Mediterranean countries of Italy, Spain, the former Yugoslavia, Greece and Turkey. Since about 1990, came for the disintegration of the Soviet bloc and the enlargement of the European Union and guest workers from Eastern Europe to Western Europe Sometimes, a host country sets up a program in order to invite guest workers, as did the Federal Republic of Germany from 1955 until 1973, when over one million guest workers (German: Gastarbeiter) arrived, mostly from Italy, Spain and Turkey.
The underestimation of the required integration services by the state and the society of the host countries, but also by the migrants themselves. Switzerland's transformation into a country of immigration was not until after the accelerated industrialization in the second half of the 19th century. Switzerland was no longer a purely rural Alpine area but became a European vanguard in various industries at that time, first of textile, later also the mechanical and chemical industries. Since the middle of the 19th century especially German academics, self-employed and craftsmen, but also Italians, who found a job in science, industry, construction and infrastructure construction migrated to Switzerland.
In 1973, an oil boom in the Persian Gulf region (UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain, which comprise the Gulf Cooperation Council), created an unprecedented demand for labor in the oil, construction and industrial sectors. Development demanded a labor force. This demand was met by foreign workers, primarily those from the Arab states, with a later shift to those from Asia-Pacific countries. A rise in the standards of living for citizens of Middle Eastern countries also created a demand for domestic workers in the home.
Since the 1970s, foreign workers have become a large percentage of the population in most nations in the Persian Gulf region. Growing competition with nationals in the job sector, along with complaints regarding treatment of foreign workers, have led to rising tensions between the national and foreign populations in these nations.
Remittances are becoming a prominent source of external funding for countries that contribute foreign workers to the countries of the GCC. On average, the top recipients globally are India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh. In 2001, $72.3 billion was returned as remittances to the countries of origin of foreign workers, equivalent to 1.3% of the world GDP. The source of income remains beneficial as remittances are often more stable that private capital flows. Despite fluctuations in the economy of GCC countries, the amount of dollars in remittances is usually stable.
The spending of remittances is seen in two ways. Principally, remittances are sent to the families of guest workers. Though often put towards consumption, remittances are also directed to investment. Investment is seen to lead to the strengthening of infrastructure and facilitating international travel.
With this jump in earnings, one benefit that has been seen is the nutritional improvement in households of migrant workers. Other benefits are the lessening of underemployment and unemployment.
In detailed studies of Pakistani migrants to the Middle East in the early 1980s, the average foreign worker was of age 25–40 years. 70 percent were married, while only 4 percent were accompanied by families. Two thirds hailed from rural areas, and 83 percent were production workers. At the time, 40 percent of Pakistan's foreign exchange earnings came from its migrant workers.
Domestic work is the single most important category of employment among women migrants to the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, as well as to Lebanon and Jordan. The increase of Arab women in the labour force, and changing conceptions of women's responsibilities, have resulted in a shift in household responsibilities to hired domestic workers. Domestic workers perform an array of work in the home: cleaning, cooking, child care, and elder care. Common traits of the work include an average 100-hour work week and virtually non-existent overtime pay. Remuneration differs greatly according to nationality, oftentimes depending on language skills and education level. This is seen with Filipina domestic workers receiving a higher remuneration than Sri Lankan and Ethiopian nationals.
Saudi Arabia is the largest source of remittance payments in the world. Remittance payments from Saudi Arabia, similar to other GCC countries, rose during the oil boom years of the 1970s and early 1980s, but declined in the mid-1980s. As oil prices fell, budget deficits mounted, and most governments of GCC countries put limits on hiring foreign workers. Weaknesses in the financial sector and in government administration impose substantial transaction costs on migrant workers who send them. Costs, although difficult to estimate, consist of salaries and the increased spending required to expand educational and health services, housing, roads, communications, and other infrastructure to accommodate the basic needs of the newcomers. The foreign labor force is a substantial drain of the GCC states' hard currency earnings, with remittances to migrants' home countries in the early 2000s amounting to $27 billion per year, including $16 billion from Saudi Arabia alone. It has been shown that the percentage of the GDP that foreign labor generates is roughly equal to what the state has to spend on them.
The main concerns of developed countries regarding immigration centers are: (1) the local job seekers' fear of competition from migrant workers, (2) the fiscal burden that may result on native taxpayers for providing health and social services to migrants, (3) fears of erosion of cultural identity and problems of assimilation of immigrants, and (4) national security.
In immigrant-producing countries, individuals with less than a high school education continue to be a fiscal burden into the next generation. Skilled workers, however, pay more in taxes than what they receive in social spending from the state. Emigration of highly skilled workers has been linked to skill shortages, reductions in output, and tax shortfalls in many developing countries. These burdens are even more apparent in countries where educated workers emigrated in large numbers after receiving a highly subsidized technical education. "Brain Drain refers to the emigration (out-migration) of knowledgeable, well-educated and skilled professionals from their home country to another country, [usually because of] better job opportunities in the new country."
As of 2007, 10 million workers from Southeast Asia, South Asia, or Africa live and work in the countries of the Persian Gulf region. Xenophobia in receiving nations is often rampant, as menial work is often allocated only to foreign workers. Expatriate labor is treated with prejudice in host countries despite government attempts to eradicate malpractice and exploitation of workers. Emigrants are offered substandard wages and living conditions and are compelled to work overtime without extra payment. With regards to injuries and death, workers or their dependents are not paid due compensation. Citizenship is rarely offered and labor can oftentimes be acquired below the legal minimum wage. Foreign workers often lack access to local labor markets. Oftentimes these workers are legally attached to a sponsor/employer until completion of their employment contract, after which a worker must either renew a permit or leave the country.
Racism is prevalent towards migrant workers. With an increasing number of unskilled workers from Asia and Africa, the market for foreign workers became increasingly racialized, and dangerous or "dirty" jobs became associated with Asian and African workers noted by the term "Abed", meaning dark skin.
Foreign workers migrate to the Middle East as contract workers by means of the kafala, or "sponsorship" system. Migrant work is typically for a period of two years. Recruitment agencies in sending countries are the main contributors of labor to GCC countries. Through these agencies, sponsors must pay a fee to the recruiter and pay for the worker's round-trip airfare, visas, permits, and wages. Recruiters charge high fees to prospective employees to obtain employment visas, averaging between $2,000 and $2,500 in such countries as Bangladesh and India. Contract disputes are also common. In Saudi Arabia, foreign workers must have employment contracts written in Arabic and have them signed by both the sponsor and themselves in order to be issued a work permit. With other GCC countries, such as Kuwait, contracts may be written or oral.
Dependence on the sponsor (kafeel) naturally creates room for violations of the rights of foreign workers. Debt causes workers to work for a certain period of time without a salary to cover these fees. This bondage encourages the practice of international labour migration as women in situations of poverty are able to find jobs overseas and pay off their debts through work. It is common for the employer or the sponsor to retain the employee's passport and other identity papers as a form of insurance for the amount an employer has paid for the worker's work permit and airfare. Kafeels sell visas to the foreign worker with the unwritten understanding that the foreigner can work for an employer other than the sponsor.
When a two-year work period is over, or with a job loss, workers must find another employer willing to sponsor them, or return to their nation of origin within a short time. Failing to do this entails imprisonment for violation of immigration laws. Protections are nearly non-existent for migrant workers.
The population in the current GCC states has grown more than eight times during 50 years. Foreign workers have become the primary, dominant labor force in most sectors of the economy and the government bureaucracy. With rising unemployment, GCC governments embarked on the formulation of labor market strategies to improve this situation, to create sufficient employment opportunities for nationals, and to limit the dependence on expatriate labor. Restrictions have been imposed: the sponsorship system, the rotational system of expatriate labor to limit the duration of foreigners' stay, curbs on naturalization and the rights of those who have been naturalized, etc. This has also led to efforts to improve the education and training of nationals. Localization remains low among the private sector, however. This is due to the traditionally low income the sector offers. Also included are long working hours, a competitive work environment, and a need to recognize an expatriate supervisor, often difficult to accept.
In 2005, low-paid Asian workers staged protests, some of them violent, in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar for not receiving salaries on time. In March 2006, hundreds of mostly south Asian construction workers stopped work and went on a rampage in Dubai, UAE, to protest their harsh working conditions, low or delayed pay, and general lack of rights. Sexual harassment of Filipina housemaids by local employers, especially in Saudi Arabia, has become a serious matter. In recent years, this has resulted in a ban on migration of females under 21. Such nations as Indonesia have noted the maltreatment of women in the GCC states, with the government calling for an end to the sending of housemaids altogether. In GCC countries, a chief concern with foreign domestic workers is childcare without the desired emphasis on Islamic and Arabic values.
Possible developments in the future include a slowdown in the growth of foreign labor. One contributor to this is a dramatic change in demographic trends. The growing birth rate of nationals in the GCC states will lead to a more competitive workforce in the future. This could also lead to a rise in the numbers of national women in the workforce.
In 2016, around 7.14% (15.885.300 people) of total EU employment were not citizens, 3.61% (8.143.800) were from another EU Member State, 3.53% (7.741.500) were from a non-EU country. Switzerland 0.53%, France 0.65%, Spain 0.88%, Italy 1.08%, United Kingdom 1.46%, Germany 1.81% (until 1990 former territory of the FRG) were countries where more than 0.5% of employees were not citizens. United Kingdom 0.91%, Germany 0.94% (until 1990 former territory of the FRG) are countries where more than 0.9% of employees were from non-EU countries. countries with more than 0.5% employees were from another EU country were Spain 0.54%, United Kingdom 0.55%, Italy 0.72%, Germany (until 1990 former territory of the FRG) 0.87%.
- Body Shops
- Bracero program (historical American guest-worker program)
- Dirty, dangerous and demeaning
- Foreign Worker Visa
- Gastarbeiter (historical German guest-worker program)
- Guest worker program (a proposed foreign-worker program in the U.S.)
- Labor shortage
- Lavoie v. Canada (a Canadian Supreme Court case ruling on foreign worker status)
- Mercenary (military guest worker)
- Schengen Agreement (an EU agreement to open borders)
- Third Country National
- Global mobility
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Foreign workers.|
- Expatriates Magazine - Printed Publication for Foreign Workers in France
- The PBS newsmagazine NOW focuses on America's "Guest Workers" including interviews with actual guest workers who work in Montana's forests
- Migrant labor activism in New York City from Dollars & Sense magazine
- No One is Illegal
- Migrant Farmworkers and Their Children
- A gift from heaven A short film on Thai workers in Israel
- "Guest Workers" and U.S. Unemployment - essay and video by Dan Rather