Unlawful workers: Exploitation and regulation

This project examines the experiences of migrant workers, employers, NGOs and other key stakeholders in regional Australia with a specific focus on the impact of migration and labour regulation enforcement.


The interim report – Exploited and Illegal: Unlawful migrant workers in Australia  – seeks to draw attention primarily to the issue of unlawful migrant work in Australia; to debunk some key myths around this population; and to raise a challenge to policy makers and legislators to look towards a future that will enable impact labour reform to be achieved – reform that will reduce the levels of exploitation and modern slavery occurring within Australia.

You can download the interim report here.

See also Assoc. Prof. Marie Segrave’s piece in The Conversation, July 2017

This is an emerging area of research in Australia and will be part of the focus of Marie Segrave’s forthcoming book, Trafficking, Migration and Labour Exploitation (Routledge).

Marie Segrave’s current ARC DECRA research is investigating experiences, knowledge and understandings of labour exploitation of unlawful migrant workers in Australia.

Unlawful migrant labour has been identified as a significant issue for Australia, with estimates that between 50-100,000 non citizens are working illegally in Australia (Howell 2011). While increasingly immigration and labour regulatory responses are merging to respond to this issue, the impact of these practices upon the level and nature of victimisation and conditions of exploitation requires investigation.

Through examining experiences across the agricultural, construction and hospitality industries this research will identify whether and how regulatory systems impact on exploitative conditions experienced by unlawful migration labourers. The proposed program of research will investigate, map and analyse exploitation and regulation as experienced by unlawful migrant labourers.

The three applied aims of the research are:

(1) Map the regulatory framework and identify regulatory practice;

(2) Identify unlawful migrant labour experiences, including experiences of exploitation and awareness of regulatory practices, and;

(3) Analyse the connection between regulatory practices and exploitative experiences.

How to be involved in this research

The only way for migrant workers to be better protected in Australia is to understand your experience.

Would you like to tell your story in confidence? See survey and more information here.

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