David McCollum of University of St Andrews reviews Merchants of Labor: Recruiters and International Labor Migration by Philip Martin. Philip Martin presents merchants of labor as the intermediary recruiters between workers in one country and employers in another. They have a checkered history, often associated with trickery or coercion to fill undesirable jobs, from finding soldiers in ancient Rome and sailors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to moving low-skilled workers over borders today. Moving workers over borders is a big business, generating at least $10 billion a year from 10 million workers each paying $1,000 to work abroad. UN agencies such as the International Labor Organization want employers to pay all of the costs of the workers they recruit, and the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 call on governments to cooperate to reduce worker-paid migration costs. Governments try to reduce worker-paid migration costs by setting maximum fees that recruiters can charge and punishing violators. However, there are not enough complaints and inspectors to detect overcharging, which can be a victimless crime if workers get what they want, a job abroad that pays higher wages. Merchants of Labor explores the potential of government incentives to encourage recruiters to better protect migrant workers during their recruitment and deployment. Faster processing, exemptions from taxes and subsidies, and awards could be carrots to reduce worker-paid costs rather than rely exclusively on the stick of enforcement.
Read the book review at https://doi.org/10.1177/0197918318818468.