21 February 2011


Samuel Engblom, Peo Hansen, Ditte Jørgensen, Zbigniew Lasocik, Anna Markina, Anne-Mette Odegard, Helga Ólafsdóttir, Natalie Ollus, Riku Rajamäki, Bo Rosschou, Unnur Sverrisdóttir, Minna Viuhko

The objective of the seminar:


Misuse of Migrant Labour was a contact seminar held by NSfK in Helsinki 26.9.-27.9. 2010.

The objective was to increase the knowledge of misuse of migrant labour in the Nordic countries and to strengthen the exchange of information within and between these countries.

There has been a growth in both licit and illicit labour migration to and within Europe, including the Nordic countries. While documented cases of forced labour and related trafficking remain low, there is evidence of an increase in various forms of labour exploitation or misuse of migrant workers. However, there is very little information and data on this phenomenon.

The seminar discussed the following questions:

  • What kind of situations of misuse of migrant labour exist in the Nordic countries?
  • Are there indications of forced labour situations and do these situations include elements of trafficking?
  • Which economic sectors are especially affected by misuse of migrant labour
  • What is being done to prevent and control such misuse and how can the responses be improved? 


The presentation was divided into two parts. The first discussed whether irregular migrant workers, despite their irregular status, can be covered by labour law. The second part  looked at the role of trade unions in defending the rights of irregular migrant workers, treating both political and practical difficulties.
The presentation was based on an article published in an American journal and dealt with the EU’s current attempt at generating a productive, or ‘win-win’ dynamic between security and economic growth/competitiveness. This dynamic is between a security-oriented migration policy purportedly stepping up the fight against ‘illegal migration’, on the one side, and a growth-oriented migration policy stepping up the fight against the EU’s ‘demographic deficit’ by way of enabling a large-scale circulation of ‘legal’ labour migrants to and from the EU, on the other side. In this connection some of the implications that the EU’s developing migration policy regime may have for the issues of rights and citizenship, in general, and for the prospects of migrants’ access to (social) rights in the EU, in particular.
The presentation discussed the situation of migrant labour in Estonia focusing on the data and information availability, which at the moment is insufficient for accurate situation assessment. An overview of issues and trends regarding labour migration from Estonia to EU countries were also be provided. This part of presentation is based on the data and information gathered in the so called FLEX project.
The two complimentary presentations took their point of departure in the Danish context of misuse of migrant labour mainly in the construction industry. This included the matrix between the misuse and trafficking of slave labour. Furthermore the significant role of the trade unions were be addressed both practically and politically. Subsequently the presentation brought economic analyses into the discussion, depicting the cynical profits of the misuse of labour.
The presentation was concerned with the unsecurity and social dumping for construction workers in the hiring business, ie workers that are hired out to do work in construction. The migrant workers are in this study workers from the new EU Member States. 
Unnur Sverrisdóttir: Rise and fall of foreign labour in Iceland 
In this presentation the laws, legislations and impacts relating to foreign labour in Iceland from 2004 until the present day were discussed. Power intensive projects and the expansion of the European Union called on the major changes in the legal environment in a short time, including prevention of social dumping and protection the rights of foreigners in the Icelandic labor market. The government had to act quickly as the Labor market was under great pressure and was facing a shortage of labour. The increase of temporary work agencies and posted workers caused some changes of laws and legislations.The cooperation between The Directorate of Labour and The Confederation of Labor was good and their approach to monitoring rights of foreign workers in the Icelandic labor market was crucial. It was also discussed, how Iceland faced a massive setback in autumn 2008 following the collapse of the Icelandic banking system. The labour market „collapsed“ and unemployment increased rapidly. 
The presentation drew upon a research conducted among 650 Poles about their media usage and their perception of discrimination in the media. The population of migrants in Iceland have increased rapidly for the last few years, and are now around 8% of the population. Poles are the largest immigrant group, about 45% of the migrant population. An Integration policy was approved for the first time in 2007. At that time it was estimated that about 10% of the workforce are foreign nationals. In the policy it is stressed that the knowledge of Icelandic language is the key to Icelandic society and can be a deciding factor in the successful integration of immigrants. The importance of knowing  the language and of being up-dated on national and local news as a prerequisite for being a member of the society (Ministry of Social Affairs, 2007).
The presentation consisted of presenting Basic information about Poland to show the context. Also I will comment on some general issues having impact on migration to Poland and social situation of migrants. Basic data (real figures and estimations) on migrants in Poland were also presented, as well as a description of irregular migrants. 
The presentation consist of a description about the practical observations and experiences of foreign labour inspectors in the region of Southern Finland. The presentation mainly concentrated on the situation in the field of construction where subcontracting in many levels causes inequality between foreign and Finnish workers. Posted workers from other EU countries are very often working in Finland with worse terms of employment than the Finnish workers.
The presentation discussed some preliminary findings in Finland of the ongoing EU-funded project "Trafficking for Forced Labour and Labour Exploitation (FLEX) - towards increased knowledge, cooperation and exchange of information in Estonia, Finland and Poland". The presentation first outlined data sources and the definition of trafficking for forced labour. After that  sectors of employment in Finland where exploitation of foreign workers seems particularly common were presented. Concrete indicators of trafficking and labour exploitation in Finland were also described and it was discussed whether trafficking for forced labour exists in this context.

Status:   Finished
Name:  Anne Alvesalo-Kuusi
Country:  Finland
Contact: anne.alvesalo-kuusi@utu.fi

Contact seminar reports send | link to this page |