Migrant Workers in International Human Rights Law: Their Protection in Countries of Employment

By Ryszard Cholewinski | Go to book overview

8 Economic, Social, Cultural, Political, and Residence Rights

A. ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS

The degree to which the economic and social rights of migrant workers and their families are protected in European states of employment very much depends on whether EC freedom of movement applies. This freedom is accompanied by a series of wide-ranging economic and social entitlements. COE instruments, however, are less effective in safeguarding the economic and social rights of migrants. In particular, rights which affect state sovereign controls regarding the domestic labour market and immigration, such as access to employment and family reunion, and which are commonly subject to significant restrictions by countries of employment, are also the focus of numerous qualifications under COE instruments.


8.1 EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS

Equal work and employment conditions

(a) Background

Immigrant labourers came to Western Europe not only to fill labour shortages, but also to complement the national working class by performing the low-status, manual jobs which the latter had come to spurn.1 The post-war economic recovery in this region was followed by rapid economic growth, which was sustained by the importation of additional labour.2 The expanding economy also created employment opportunities further up the occupational ladder which were taken on by better educated national workers, who had previously been in blue-collar positions, leaving incoming migrants to carry out the least desirable, low-paid, and hardest jobs.3 This phenomenon was succinctly described by an ILO Report in 1973:

____________________
1
R. Stavenhagen, "'New Expressions of Racism in Europe'" ( 1989) 51; S. Castles and G. Kosack, Immigrant Workers and Class Structure in Western Europe ( 1985) 489.
2
T. Hammar, "'Economy and Ideology'" in T. Hammar, (ed.), European Immigration Policy: A Comparative Study ( 1985) 239, 242-3; R. E. Krane, "'Introduction and Overview'" in R. E. Krane, (ed.), International Labor Migration in Europe ( New York: Praeger, 1979) 1, 3.
3
Hammar, n. 2 above, 244; P. L. Martin and M. J. Miller, "'Guestworkers: Lessons from Western Europe'" ( 1980) 33 Industr. & Lab. Rel. Rev.315, 319.

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