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Migration Management?

Sandra Paola Alvarez Tinajero

Chapter 2. Labor migration management: neoliberal calculations, human implementation

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1In a context of neoliberal capitalism, and growing interdependencies and interconnections, the role of the states in migration governance is increasingly scrutinized. Some scholars argue that states are being overshadowed by transnationalism (Levitt and De la Dehesa 2003, Levitt and Glick Schiller 2004, Vertovec 2004), globalization processes (Sassen 1996), de-territorialized social networks, the activities of non-state actors (private corporations, financial entities, NGOs, etc.), as well as by supra-national political processes (e.g. regional integration, international cooperation) which pervade some spheres of states’ sovereignty. Political scientists, whose primary unit of analysis is the state (Brettell and Hollifield 2008), stress instead its central role in shaping migration (Geddes 2008, Hollifield 2004 and 2008, Schain 2009). However, it is recognized that policy choices arise from compromises among various interest groups (Lahav and Guiraudon 2007: 4; see also Freeman 2004), and that policy-making depends upon a wide range of factors (Castles 2004).

2One issue at stake is the extent to which states are able to organize, control or ‘manage’ labor migration. Receiving states do regulate the admission, residence, and labor market participation of foreigners, and their access to social, political and civil rights through migration policy, and influence the magnitude, composition and direction of migration flows (Weiner 1985). Labor migration management involves a complex articulation of international and internal compromises (for example, with non-state actors such as employers, or human rights advocates), including the introduction of market considerations to respond to market-driven constraints (e.g. competitiveness).

3Despite the “‘fortress Europe’ rhetoric” (Lahav and Guiraudon 2007) and a strong commitment of EU member states to regulating migration, there is a tacit acceptance of undocumented migration in countries dependent on foreign labor in specific sectors. There are also openings to new migration to overcome labor force imbalances (Geddes 2008: 29). In this context, labor migration management has become an important dimension of migration policy in Italy.

4Inconsistencies or ‘gaps’ between stated policy goals, their outcomes and the realities they attempt to tackle are frequent. The implementation of migration policy depends, ultimately, on a wide range of actors (public and private; e.g. local authorities, security and travel agencies, transport companies, airlines, civil actors), operating at different levels (international, national, local), which have been delegated migration control functions (Lahav 2006, Lahav and Guiraudon 2007). Employers and workers themselves can be considered agents or (official or unofficial) enforcers of migration policy, rather than only the objects of such policy. The reasons underlying this partial devolution of implementation functions to private or civil actors are consistent with the migration management approach.

5In what follows, the interpretation and implementation of labor migration policy is examined through the concrete practices of employers and migrant workers in Ragusa. First, I assimilate labor migration management to a neoliberal technology of governing. On this basis, I review Italy’s labor migration and employment policy tools regarding farm and care workers and discuss some gaps and how they relate to concrete implementation practices of employers and migrant workers.

Neoliberalism as a technology of governing and labor migration management

  • 1 Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, notes that “[m]igration fo (...)
  • 2 Bimal Gosh elaborated the concept in 1993, at the request of the UN Commission on Global Governance (...)
  • 3 These go from counter-trafficking efforts; to ‘capacity building’ of civil servants in transit and (...)

6Labor migration has become as an issue of ‘high politics’1. There is also a renewed interest among policymakers in national governments, intergovernmental organizations and beyond in ‘managing migration’. The notion of migration management emerged in the post-Cold War era2, in a context of increased concerns (namely of Western states) about migration’s perceived potential to generate crises, and the desire to make it a more predictable and (economically) beneficial phenomenon. This would be achieved, inclusively, through a “‘regulated openness’ toward economically needed and beneficial flows” and continued restrictions concerning “unwanted migration”, as some authors put it (Geiger and Pécoud 2010: 3). Also, as noted by Gieger and Pécoud (2010), migration management entails a notion mobilized by different actors to justify their interventions in this area, a set of practices, often performed by the institutions that mobilize the notion3, and a set of discourses about what migration is and how it should be ‘managed’.

7In the field of labor migration, indeed, an optimistic discourse has pervaded labor migration policy-making for quite some time already, promising win-win-win scenarios for receiving and sending states and for migrants themselves, as a result of managed migrations (see Papademetriou and Meissner 2006). This discourse is based on the assumption that countries of origin and destination have shared migration-related concerns, interests and responsibilities; this eclipses conflict, divergent interests and power imbalances. Migration policies are further aligned with a market ideology, based on the assumption that governments and migrants have similar maximization interests of the (mostly economic) returns of migration: for example, depicting labor migration of as a ‘solution’ to receiving states’ economic (e.g. labor imbalances) or demographic (e.g. aging populations) ‘problems’, to sending states’ unemployment and macroeconomic instability or lack of creditworthiness (e.g. by securing workers’ remittances), and to migrant workers’ desire of capital accumulation. As some authors aptly argue, “the issue, then, is not whether migration should be authorized or not, but rather how it is to be ‘managed’ in order to maximize (or ‘optimize’) its impact” (Geiger and Pécoud 2010: 9). For these authors the discourse is also performative, to the extent that is seeks to influence how the actors managing it perceive migration.

  • 4 Indeed, Geiger and Pécoud (2010: 11) argue that the depoliticization of migration is reflected, for (...)

8Along these lines, labor migration management could be conceived of as a neoliberal technology of governing migration, aligned with market principles. The use of the term “management” reveals a conviction that migration can be influenced by migration policy. In addition, the introduction of market calculations helps de-politicizing labor migration, and dealing with it as a technical issue that requires technical solutions4. The attractiveness of the notion of management relies perhaps on a commercial conceptualization of the migrant worker that dissociates the human being from the labor it embodies. Labor can thus be depicted as a factor of production, tradable in an international labor market, without the uncertainties (e.g. claims for rights) inherent in hiring human beings.

9The term neoliberalism usually evokes an economic doctrine promoting market ideology through financial deregulation, privatization, liberalization, and the erosion of social protection and welfare systems. In this context, it is often assumed that states are shrinking, subjected to the interests of capital.

  • 5 Ong builds on Foucault’s concept of “governmentality” (“the practices that constitute, define, orga (...)

10Ong (2006) suggests, however, that while neoliberalism is often seen as an economic doctrine that seeks to limit the scope of governing, it could also be conceptualized as a flexible tool of governance. As such, neoliberalism (with a small n) could be conceived “as a new mode of political optimization”: “… neoliberalism can also be conceptualized as a new relationship between government and knowledge through which governing activities are recast as nonpolitical and nonideological problems that need technical solutions” (2006: 3). Neoliberalism as a technology of governing “is a profoundly active way of rationalizing governing and self-governing in order to ‘optimize’” (2006: 3, emphasis added). It introduces market-driven calculations in the management of individuals and populations, as well as in the administration of specific spaces5.

  • 6 For instance, through renewed temporary, seasonal and circular migration programmes to address the (...)

11I build on Ong’s insights to assimilate contemporary labor migration management discourse and practices to a neoliberal technology of governing migration; a mode of governing migration aligned with market principles focused on optimization. First, because migrant workers embody labor, and thus represent a necessary factor of production and reproduction, they may be regarded as living resources that labor migration management technology seeks to harness and optimize. Second, labor migration management can be considered an intervention of optimization, to the extent that it aims at providing technical ‘solutions’ to technical issues such as labor imbalances (e.g. finding the optimal match between labor demand and supply).6 Moreover, as some scholars have argued, European states tend to deal with foreign labor recruitment as an economic issue in order to alleviate internal anxiety or to avoid certain debates (see Menz and Caviedes 2010: 6). Others claim that the “shift in the terms of debate away from ‘immigration control’ and towards ‘managed migration’” (Geddes 2008: 39) is linked to an increased interest in attracting the highly skilled, as well as concerns regarding the aging of the population and its effects on the European labor markets. Again, this is an issue of optimization.

12As a neoliberal technology of governing migration, labor migration management comprises a number of practices or techniques of optimization, such as the assessment of the demand for foreign labor, the formulation of ad hoc admission and recruitment policies, the establishment of mechanisms for the protection and even the integration of migrant workers, the regulation of private recruitment actors, the provision of pre-departure and post-arrival orientation and assistance in countries of origin, the development of labor market strategies to deploy nationals in foreign labor markets, and even the design of interventions to harness or optimize the resources generated or enhanced through migration ‘for’ development (see IOM/OSCE 2010, ILO 2006). Such techniques have been widely disseminated through the production of knowledge that legitimizes these practices, the provision of expertise and technical assistance to national governments by intergovernmental organizations, through international dialogue mechanisms and other fora. Labor migration management can thus be seen as a neoliberal technology of governing migration aimed at optimizing or making migrant labor economically beneficial for states, employers, and migrants.

13Ong further notes that “[n]eoliberal reasoning is based on both economic (efficiency) and ethical (self-responsibility) claims” (Ong 2006: 11). Therefore, it relies on market calculations to control and create neoliberal subjects, namely through two kinds of optimizing technologies: technologies of subjectivity that induce self-animation and self-government in order to optimize one’s choices, efficiency and competitiveness; and technologies of subjection or political strategies that regulate populations for optimal productivity (Ong 2006: 6). In the migration management context, the latter technologies may include admission, residence and employment legislative frameworks, sanction mechanisms, labor inspections, etc. Technologies of subjectivity are discussed in Chapter 5. Suffice it to note that migrant workers, as self-enterprising subjects, may be compelled to demonstrate, for example, their worthiness both as laborers and as consumers in reception contexts, but also in the areas of origin.

14From the perspective of receiving states, two important aspects of labor migration management refer to the admission and employment of foreign workers. Aiming at the optimization migrant workers as living resources, admission regimes favor those workers who are perceived as ‘useful’. The market-oriented approach to migration management further de-personalizes the contractual relationship between workers and employers. However, migrant workers and their employers are agents that self-manage, interpret and implement migration policy and often re-personalize what are conceived of as purely commercial employment relationships. In the following section, Italy’s current labor migration regime concerning agricultural and care workers is briefly described. Then labor migration policy implementation is analyzed at the micro-level, namely through the interpretation and implementation strategies of ‘self-governing’ actors: employers and migrant workers. The main argument revolves around the articulation of migration management and the human aspects of the employment relationship, which result in implementation gaps.

Labor migration: A patchwork of policies and practices

15Labor migration policies in Europe are increasingly driven by sector-specific considerations; influenced by globalization and regional integration; characterized by a growing privatization and externalization of migration control, by the persistence of undocumented migration, and by a powerful informal economy (Menz and Caviedes 2010). Italy’s migration policy illustrates such dynamics.

  • 7 Law 943/1986 was the first comprehensive attempt to regulate migration flows in Italy. It guarantee (...)

16The Italian state was not actively involved in the organization and regulation of labor migration until the mid-1980s when it adopted the first legislation to regulate migration. Since then, a patchwork of decrees and laws has been passed to reformulate the conditions of admission, residence and deportation of migrants.7 Law 40/1998 exemplifies Italy’s acknowledgement of the need for foreign labor through the adoption of the quota system, the current labor migration management primary tool. Once workers are legally admitted to work in Italy, their working conditions are regulated by specific occupational national standards.

17The implementation of such policies has been increasingly entrusted to local authorities and, in official and unofficial forms, to private and civil actors. In what follows, I discuss the application of norms on migration and employment of farm and care workers by employers and employees interviewed in Ragusa.

Farm workers: irregular stay and ex post facto regularization

18In Ragusa, most third country farm workers are Tunisian and Indian nationals. Access of third country nationals to the Italian labor market as subordinate workers occurs either on Italian territory through the direct recruitment of foreign lawful residents in Italy, or through the system of quotas that applies to the recruitment of workers residing abroad. The Law on Security (Law 94/2009) considers irregular entry and stay in Italy a crime. The recruitment of unauthorized (or “illegal”) migrants is penalized. The admission of non-European workers is currently regulated by the Immigration Act (1998), amended by Law 189/2002 (known as Bossi-Fini Law).

  • 8 Law 943/1986 established a sponsor system (foreign workers are nominated by the employer) along wit (...)
  • 9 The size and distribution of quotas is negotiated among the Ministry of Labor, employer association (...)

19The number of third country nationals admitted every year in Italy for the purpose of employment depends on a contingent, based on estimated annual labor requirements8. The annual entry quota is published by official decree (Decreto flussi) by the Prime Minister, which establishes a maximum threshold, often adjusted through complementary decrees. The national quota is distributed according to territorial and occupational criteria, type of employment (subordinate, autonomous, seasonal), and preferential country-based quotas (i.e. for countries with which Italy has signed bilateral cooperation agreements, namely in the fight against undocumented migration9).

  • 10 For a discussion on this matter see Sciortino 2009. The annual quota for subordinate seasonal work (...)
  • 11 Until 1986 Italy did not have a legislative framework to regulate migration flows, except for domes (...)

20Economic and political factors influence the annual contingent (e.g. governments’ political leanings; gendered welfare regimes; participation in the Schengen zone; the enlargement of the European Union; social perceptions etc.).10 For example, there is a clear preference for seasonal workers and domestic workers, who are perceived as less likely to settle, or second less troublesome, respectively (Sciortino 2009: 8 and 10). Domestic workers have traditionally been granted preferential treatment;11 since 2005, a proportion of migration quotas have been reserved for domestic workers.

21The quota system has been increasingly questioned, as jobs become scarce even in seasonal sectors (quotas for seasonal workers in agriculture and hospitality were foreseen to be reduced from 65,000 to 35,000 in 2012). Moreover quotas are not perceived as selective; the system works on a first-come, first-served basis on the ‘click day’, when thousands of electronic requests are submitted.

22Once the quota is set, employers declare their intention to hire a specific worker living abroad, provided they assert their credibility as potential employers. The prospective employer submits a nominative request to the local Single Desk for Immigration. Employers can nominate the worker directly, or make a collective request and rely on skills-matching schemes set up through Italian embassies and consulates. Employers commit themselves to hire the nominated worker upon arrival in Italy, to offer at least the minimum wage for the relevant sector of employment, to demonstrate the availability of adequate housing, and to pay for the return trip of the foreign worker to the country of origin.

  • 12 The authorization of entry is given by the local office of the Ministry of Labor after the job offe (...)
  • 13 The renewal procedure must start 90 days before the permit expires in case of indefinite contracts; (...)

23If the employer’s request falls within the limit of the local quota, the relevant embassies issue an entry visas to the prospective worker(s).12 Within the eight days that follow the arrival of the foreign worker in Italy, the work contract must be signed and a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) for employment purposes must be requested. Workers have the right to change employers, but the original employer must communicate any changes to the local immigration office. Residence permits are issued for a maximum duration of nine months for seasonal work, one year for fixed-term (definite) contracts and two years for indefinite contracts.13 Foreigners unable to satisfy the conditions for legitimate stay in Italy (e.g. regular employment) are subject to deportation. In case of resignation or dismissal, unemployed workers are allowed to stay for six additional months to find employment; this period could be extended to twelve months according to current discussions (Polchi 2012).

24The most common difficulties reported by my interlocutors regarding the quota system include the length (ranging from one to four years), the cost, and the depersonalized character of the process. Because the residence permit is issued with the date of request, by the time it is released in most cases its actual validity is quite short; workers are compelled to engage in recurring renewal processes, which often results in frustrating experiences, as illustrated below:

I applied for the residence permit… but they still have to take my fingerprints. […] I checked on Internet the status of my application and I was called to the police headquarters at 8:50 to take my fingerprints. When I arrived people were already queuing and they had written their names on a list… at 8:50 it’s my turn; the police officer opens the door, takes inside only ten people… Outside the police headquarters we are 50 people queuing on the street, there are no chairs, nothing… the police officer comes back at 11:00, and then at 12:00 and he says that’s it for the day… those who remained outside, basta, ciao ‘he can’t do anything’ … what does that mean? ‘Excuse me’ I was there from 7:50 am to 12:00pm, without eating… he told me to come back the next day, but then he didn’t have my code to take my fingerprints, so he couldn’t take them… why is it like that? […] The system should change... they always tell you some document is missing, and it’s really slow, it takes one year... by the time I will receive the permit it may be valid only for fifteen days… but the law requires to start the renewal procedure thirty days before the permit expires… you’re always queuing at the police headquarters, always taking your fingerprints; now, tell me, if they’ve already taken your fingerprints, do they change the year after? [Ironic laugh] (Interview I.12.5.09)

25The electronic request procedure for work permits, and the submission of residence permit requests at postal offices, effectively de-personalize bureaucracy, making it more difficult or even impossible for workers to establish any contact with immigration officials to obtain information or to complain.

  • 14 For instance, regions can initiate specific labor migration schemes at local level, or undertake in (...)

26As stated above, the implementation of labor migration management has been delegated to local bureaucracies14 and to civil actors (employers and foreign workers). Compliance with admission procedures on the part of workers is affected by a number of factors including the importance of the informal economy, perceptions regarding the lax implementation of migration control, complicity and the instrumentalization of trust bonds built with employers.

27Among interviewees, there is a widespread idea that police controls are especially lax in the south of Italy. Many workers try their chance to get a permit in southern cities, hoping to be able to move north once they have a work permit. Ragusa appears to grant them the possibility to achieve these mobility projects. Comments like the following were not uncommon among workers: “First I did not have a permit, which is why I have stayed here for four years... In the north, there is law, and there are also lots of police officers, it’s difficult…”; or “I have no problems here, even without documents, I go out with Mrs. [employer], I walk on the streets freely in the evenings, even if there are policemen; I don’t avoid them…”. The feasibility of obtaining a work permit is increased by the likelihood of employers embarking in the regularization of undocumented workers, despite being aware that most abandon their post almost immediately after receiving the work permit, normally in search for better opportunities in northern cities.

28Proximity between employers and workers is perhaps the characteristic that best describes farm and care live-in jobs in Ragusa. Propinquity implies frequent interaction, which helps fostering trust and personalized and intimate labor relationships (see Chapter 4 and 5). Decisions to adhere to, to enforce, or otherwise to circumvent norms may stem from both self-disciplining attitudes (fear to sanctions) of employers and workers, as well as from a sense of mutual dependency, trust, solidarity, or complicity.

29For example, many Tunisian interviewees acquired a regular migratory status thanks to previous amnesties. As self-enterprising subjects, many workers were willing to reimburse part of the contributions to their long date employers (and even to fictive employers) to regularize their status (see also CeSPI 2000). Some migrant workers also instrumentalize the trust built with employers over time. A Tunisian worker, who has been working for same employer for 22 years, asked the employer to issue a work contract to two of his daughters, who were aged over 25 and could not benefit from the family reunification scheme. The employer acceded to his request, given that “he knows” the worker quite well, as he argued. Longstanding social ties with employers may allow migrants to be granted favors, simultaneously putting them in a disadvantaged position, as employer-worker relationships are inherently asymmetrical and workers may incur in “moral” or other debts toward their employers.

30On the part of self-disciplining employers, compliance with labor migration norms oscillates between moral concerns and self-interest (risk-avoiding attitudes). One employer, for example, believes that although the quota system is difficult to navigate, it is a tool capable of guaranteeing a “humanitarian behavior” and fair treatment on the part of employers, as well as greater control over migration inflows (Interview F.26.8.11).

31Compliance is also motivated by the fear of facing sanctions for hiring undocumented workers, notwithstanding the fact that labor inspections are seemingly infrequent in cattle farms. My interview data suggest that labor inspections are triggered by specific events such as work accidents, or by the noticeable presence of foreign workers in specific industries, such as horticulture.

32Employer sanctions are not systematically implemented, because of administrative (i.e. lack of appropriate infrastructure; Sciortino 2009: 14), or political reasons (i.e. avoiding upsetting the electorate; Avola 2009). For example, I did not find any indications of sanctions being enforced against employers who fail to respect their commitment to hire a nominated foreign worker upon his or her arrival in Italy (an example is provided below). In fact, non-compliance with the commitment to hire nominated workers upon arrival seems to be a common practice. Interview data with trade union representatives reported cases in which prospective employers provide incorrect or nonexistent addresses, making it impossible for newly arrived foreign workers to find their prospective employers and sign a contract, a situation that eventually turns them into ‘irregular’ migrants. Profit calculations on the part of employers explain some of these situations. The owner of a farm reported that some employers make profit out of the ‘regularization’ process by requesting money from prospective workers in exchange for initiating the (sometimes fake) application for a work authorization under the quota system (Interview R.23.8.11)

33Employers’ self-disciplining calculations (e.g. avoiding potential sanctions for hiring undocumented workers) are not necessarily incompatible with moral considerations. Reducing the labor transaction to pure market calculations would deny the intrinsic human dimension of employer-worker relationships. Many farm workers have benefited from some kind of ex post facto regularization after a period of irregular stay in Italy. The majority holds valid annual, renewable residence permits for employment purposes provided they have a work contract. In some cases employers have renewed work contracts for up to twenty years. This is common among Tunisian migrants, but there are indications that Indian interviewees have been in Ragusa for up to six years, in some cases working uninterruptedly with the same employer.

34In fact, while the quota system is based on the assumption that the encounter between labor demand and supply occurs outside the Italian territory (Sciortino 2009: 4), the selection of prospective workers is often made beforehand, as most nominated foreign workers are already active in the Ragusan labor market. Needless to say, migrants already informally employed in Ragusa have more opportunities to gather information and engage with a prospective employer, than those outside of Italy (Sciortino 2009: 12).

35Many workers enter Italy with a short-term visa issued at the Italian consulate in their respective country of origin, including for work purposes. Work contracts are often ensured through relatives who are already settled in Italy. There are also organized recruitment systems, such as the “caporalato” (see Chapter 3), which facilitate the entry, employment and mobility of migrant workers all over the country.

36Workers, who lose their regular status because of visa overstaying or failure to sign the work contract within eight days upon arrival, have few opportunities for future lawful employment. Nevertheless, many employers regularize undocumented workers. Ex post facto regularization efforts seem more noteworthy when personal ties have been established with the candidate; complicity, compassion, or moral concerns, may encourage employers to embark in a regularization process, depending on the relationship with the worker in question:

Employer: ...he was clandestine; we waited for the first occasion [to submit a request] after he arrived in 2005… we made the request under the quotas of 2007… the authorization (nulla osta) arrived in 2008, and in 2009 he received the permit. When we received the authorization he returned to India, we pretended he was in India, so that he had a passport with the stamp that supported our request… because we believed this person was trustworthy, we wanted to regularize him … (Interview S.27.12.10)

37Interview data suggest that employers request (undocumented) workers with whom they already have established a work relationship over a relatively long period of time (from three to six years of uninterrupted employment), and who have already demonstrated their abilities and trustworthiness. Workers employed in Ragusa may return temporarily to the country of origin in order to prove that they reside abroad when the authorization is released; meanwhile, members of the same migrant network replace them in Ragusan farms. This creates a rotation system linked specifically to ex post facto regularization strategies.

38These examples illustrate the gaps between the stated policy goals to manage migration flows, and implementation as delegated to self-disciplining employers and foreign workers. Instead of effectively managing labor migration flows, quotas have become a regularization tool (see also Cuttitta 2008). Whether this is a policy success or a failure “depends on the eye of the beholder”, as Castles (2004) argues, as only few policies fail completely. Lahav further observes that policies’ success should also be measured against their effectiveness in containing political debates and enhancing the state’s efficacy and legitimacy (2006: 309), which is something that the quota system effectively achieves in Italy. Nevertheless, the system’s unintended outcomes relate to the opening up of unofficial avenues to formalize existing (irregular) employment relationships.

Care workers: regular stay, undeclared employment

  • 15 EU8 countries include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and (...)
  • 16 In July 2006, the centre-left government of Italy ended the transitory measures. Italy introduced l (...)

39Most interviewees employed in eldercare in Ragusa are European citizens (from Poland and Romania) for whom the enlargement of the European Union worked as de facto regularization. Currie notes that, after the fall of the socialist regimes most East-West migrations took place informally, as the negotiation of the accession of EU8 and EU2 countries to the European Union did not immediately extend rights of residence or labor market access to CEE nationals (2009: 108).15 Italy initially introduced transitional restrictions on the movement of workers from Bulgaria and Romania.16 Most of my interlocutors were already living and working in Ragusa before the accession of their countries to the European Union and the removal of transitional restrictions.

  • 17 For more information visit: Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale,

40Polish and Romanian workers employed in Ragusa can circulate freely throughout Europe with an identity card. As Recchi and Triandafyllidou observe, under the EU enlargement, “’[m]obility’ means first class migration, without the fatigue of controls, visas, permits of stay, and the overall risk that marks traditional migrants’ typical travel and settlement experiences” (2010: 127). European citizens willing to reside in Italy for more than three months must announce themselves to the municipal registry office, and provide proof of employment when residence is for work purposes. EU citizens are exempt from employment restrictions in domestic service (Polish and Romanian workers are exempt from work permits). Nevertheless, Law 296/2006 requires employers to declare the recruitment of any worker (including care workers, regardless of citizenship), at least one day before engaging in an employment relationship.17 Although all interviewees are regular sojourners in Italy, their formal residence often overlaps with undeclared employment.

41Most care workers keep an informal employment relationship for various reasons. First, as most interviewees argue, they ‘are Europeans’. As such, many do not see the need to declare their jobs, as they are regularly staying in Italy. They work in private houses where inspections are unlikely, and their employers do not seem to be concerned about declaring their employment either. These conscious decisions sometimes arise from a lack of information (of both employers and workers) regarding the legislative framework regulating this sector.

42Second, self-enterprising attitudes of migrant workers also affect their decision not to declare employment. Many workers are what Piore (1979) called target earners; declaring their work would jeopardize their savings projects. All interviewees expressed their desire to save as much money as possible during their short, but recurring visits to Ragusa. A circular migration pattern and rotation characterizes, indeed, the local employment dynamics in the care sector. Most workers stay in Ragusa between two weeks and six months. As live-in workers they can secure free accommodation and meals, which allows them to pursue their savings plans. Many interviewees declared being primarily motivated by economic interests; and to have no intention to settle in Ragusa. Lawful employment and fair conditions of work thus become secondary concerns:

Let’s be honest... Romanian legislation is pathetic but Italian is no better… The fact is that families do not care [about declaring employment] I don’t want to settle here, I want nothing! I want to work for one year, or two or three and leave… that’s all I can tell you [laughs] the contract… I don’t care; if they are fair or not fair I don’t care either, I don’t want to stay here; so I don’t need a contract. […] I have no problem with the permit, we’re [from the] European Union. (Interview R1.3.1.11)

Employee: All of us work illegally… I have worked in Poland; I am retired, I don’t need a work contract […] we don’t need any documents, we’re now European... (Interview R.21.12.10)

43Third, as one of my interlocutors argues, the priorities, self-enterprising attitudes, and accumulation goals may change with age (the share of domestic workers aged 50 and over passed from 14.8 percent in 2002 to 23.8 percent in 2006; CENSIS 2009: 3). According to a 59-year-old care worker, there is a fundamental difference between younger workers who tend to plan their future in Ragusa (e.g. having a family there), and thus actively seek for lawful employment that would guarantee their access to social benefits; and older workers (the majority) who receive a pension in their country of origin. Declaring their employment in Italy would subject them to taxation, potentially compromising their actual or perceived temporary stay, their entitlement to retirement benefits in the country of origin, and their savings projects. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that older eldercare workers plan a long-term sojourn in Ragusa:

Employee: When people are young they think about retirement and getting a pension, so they’re interested in [lawful employment]… Because I’m retired I don’t care about the permit.

Employer: In fact, when she came she told me ‘I am retired, I don’t need a permit’.

Employee: People want the work permit and appropriate documentation because of the insurance, because if they fall ill they’re in trouble. I don’t have any problem with that because I’m retired and I have a medical insurance… (Interview R.21.12.10)

44The importance of the age factor is confirmed by several other interviews, and by the fact that many care workers refused to be interviewed because of fear to disclose information that could put them at risk of losing their pensions.

45However, circumventing the labor regulations would not be possible without the complicity of employers. Some authors have emphasized the convenience for employers of maintaining informal employment relationships to subject undocumented workers to poor working conditions (see Currie 2009). I partly agree with this analysis. As noted above, proximity with employers may also foster trust bonds between employers and workers and moral obligations on both sides. For instance, an employer ceded to the employee’s pleads to keep an informal employment relationship, because otherwise she would lose her pension in the country of origin, and she could not afford that because her son is ill. While the employer is aware of the risks this entails, honoring the trust relationship she established with the worker seemed more acceptable (the morally ‘right thing to do’) than complying with a more abstract legal framework:

Question: How does the fact of declaring or not this person affects you, for example, does it have anything to do with taxation?

Employer: [...] it’s not a matter of money… we would have had preferred to… [declare her] … for her it was a sine qua non condition; otherwise she would not have accepted the job… I heard it’s quite difficult to be entitled to a state pension in Romania and, even if it’s little money, is better than nothing, especially in her situation…


We haven’t signed any contract... we wanted to establish a formal relationship. But it was impossible; she asked me not to do so, otherwise she would lose her pension in Romania; … she said ‘it’s not for me is for my son; if I work here I lose my pension in Romania’. First we were not happy with this situation… but because we trust her we decided to go ahead… (Interview N.26.8.11)

46In sum, compliant and deviant behavior regarding the recruitment of foreign care workers is never a case of black or white. Even in the case of Europeans sojourning legally in Italy, the implementation of labor migration norms is permeated by the human aspects of the employment relationship, as well as by employers’ and migrants’ agency. Unless workers have specific needs or consider a long-term sojourn, lawful employment is often disregarded. Adriana, who is in her mid-twenties and lives in the countryside declared her residence in Ragusa only in order to get a driver’s license to be able to drive her child to school. Tatiana and her husband declared their employment to demonstrate that they were able to provide for their three children, only once they decided that their children should join them in Ragusa. Justyna did not plan to stay in Ragusa but after realizing through brief stay in her country that the conditions that made her seek for employment abroad had not improved, she declared her employment to apply for long-term residence.

47The situation of most care workers in Ragusa is characterized by their regular stay or residence and irregular or undeclared employment. This points to the difficulties to establish clear boundaries between formality and informality. In the case of eldercare workers, European citizenship, self-enterprising behavior, temporary stay, age and proximity with employers shape labor migration management implementation with a wide range of outcomes. In the case of farm workers, most of which are third country nationals, there is not a straightforward division between ’regular’ or ‘irregular’ migratory status and employment either. They may enter the Italian territory through regular channels, and be authorized to work, but may lose this regular status (e.g. by overstaying their visas or failing to sign a contract), until employers deploy ex post facto regularization strategies.

48Labor migration management ultimately depends upon the interpretations, priorities and concrete relationships of employers and migrant workers. While it appears as if some implementation spaces had been left unregulated, it could also be argued that the devolution of implementation responsibility to private actors, inherent to contemporary migration management as a neoliberal technology of governing migration, is affected by the human dimension of employment relationships that counter the de-personalization of what are often perceived as purely commercial labor relations.

49Complicity, trust, and morally acceptable behavior, as conceived within employer-worker relations, partly explain the different degrees of compliance with administrative norms. The articulation of market calculations and the human dimension of the employment relationship results in inconsistencies in the implementation of labor migration management schemes. The same applies to the regulation of working conditions, as discussed below.

Contracts and pay: personalizing formality and informality

50Regardless of the specific characteristics that differentiate farm and care jobs, and of the degree of formalization of the work relationship, regulations concerning contracts and pay are often implemented randomly. These two elements of employment are important because contracts formalize the labor transaction, and wages, besides their economic function, play a social function as they relate to notions of status and prestige.

  • 18 In Italy, employment in agriculture can be full-time, seasonal or on a daily-basis. Most farm worke (...)

51In the agricultural sector, wages and conditions of work are regulated by agreements set at national, regional and provincial level. The main trade unions (FLAI-CGIL, FAI-CISL, UILA-UIL) and employers’ associations negotiate those agreements jointly. Minimum standards are outlined in the national labor collective agreement (Contratto Collettivo Nazionale di Lavoro, CCNL). National agreements apply even in non-unionized sectors, and the constitutional guarantee of “reasonable compensation” is often based on what is stipulated in those contracts (Calavita 1994: 309). The wage scale and the sectoral hierarchy depend upon employees’ level of qualification and the specific tasks performed. The national agreement establishes a basic three-tiered hierarchy of agricultural workers. The latter is further detailed in the provincial agreement, which identifies seven sub-levels of specialization.18 Most of my interlocutors perform tasks that fall within various sub-levels of that hierarchy, including tasks that are deemed to require a specific know-how (driving a tractor), semi-complex chores (e.g. milking cows), and generic tasks such as cleaning out the cattle sheds. Remuneration can comprise cash and in-kind (room and board) compensation. The official monthly salary of agricultural workers with indefinite contracts goes from 993.99 (unskilled workers) to 1,231.76 euros (skilled workers). However, the salaries of the farm workers I interviewed range from 700 to 1000 euros. As most workers are live-in, their remuneration may be adjusted and include in-kind payments, as one employer noted:

… he’s got everything here. We have an agreement on this. I pay for the documents, social insurance, everything… you see what I mean? So, all the money he makes he can send back home... That’s why they don’t take the risk of seeking for other posts where they may make 100 euros more, but end up spending 200 in groceries… (Interview S.27.12.10)

52Social mechanisms also influence the establishment of parallel wage scales. Some interviewees reported that Italian workers are paid more than foreign workers. Citizens of certain countries (Romania) are particularly disadvantaged, and arguably accept salaries as low as 400 euros. In addition, the modalities of pay seem to be directly influenced by the state of affairs of the farms. In some cases, workers are paid on a three-to-four-month basis, owing to the fact that employers themselves are paid within 90 to 120 days following the delivery of their products (milk) to their clients. Employers and workers are often able to negotiate parallel modalities of pay thanks to the mutual dependency and trust bonds built within their employment relationships. Some employers facing difficulties may withhold the workers’ salaries, with the workers’ consent, and make random instead of monthly payments at the workers’ request:

Payment is monthly... but if I need more money I can be paid more. Sometimes… when I told the boss that I need 1000 euros, he’s been good, he paid; because I’ve been here for four years, he knows me. Sometimes, when I haven’t had any need, I let three or four months accumulate and then I ask him for 3000 euros. He gives me 3000 and I’m fine. (Interview I.12.5.09)

53In addition to pay, labor regulations stipulate work security measures, health standards, and limits on working hours. The working week in the agricultural sector is 39 hours long (6.5 hours a day; maximum 44 hours a week), but these limits may be negotiated at local level. Overtime and work on Sundays, public holidays and night work should be compensated. My interlocutors reported to work from eight to sixteen hours a day; most work ten or eleven hours a day, even if their contracts specify a different schedule. Workers are entitled to one day of rest a week. However, animal husbandry requires a 365-day working calendar.

  • 19 For example, the provincial agreement specifies that the daily remuneration of workers who hold fix (...)

54Regarding social benefits, employees and employers jointly contribute to pension funds. Migrant workers who hold a 50-day contract for two years of uninterrupted employment are entitled to unemployment benefits, as long as employers pay the corresponding contributions to the national social security scheme. Employers also cover health, accident, and unemployment indemnities. However, the most common problems faced by migrant agricultural workers, as reported by two trade union officials, comprise withholding of payment, low-pay,19 irregular hours of work, unpaid overtime, and tax evasion on the part of employers. Some employers refuse to either declare or pay in full the taxes corresponding to the actual number of days worked, jeopardizing migrant workers’ entitlements to unemployment indemnities (Interviews I.17.8.11, A.17.8.11). However, many employers and workers underreport the number of days worked on purpose, out of mutual convenience: employers avoid paying taxes and workers maximize their social benefits by underreporting the actual number of working days and receiving unemployment indemnities on top of their salary.

  • 20 Level A includes unskilled “generic family collaborators” with less than twelve months of professio (...)

55In the care sector, conditions of work and minimum standards are also specified in a national collective agreement (CCNL of 13 February 2007) negotiated by the employers’ association and trade unions (FILCAMS-CGIL, FISASCAT-CISL, UILTuCS-UIL and FEDERCOLF). The employment relationship must be formalized through a contract (lettera di asunzione), unless it is considered occasional (not exceeding twelve days a year). Employers must declare workers and cover the relevant social insurance contributions. Working hours are limited to ten hours a day (maximum 54 hours a week), and workers are entitled to 36 hours of rest (24 hours of these on Sundays). Domestic workers’ remuneration should be monthly and can include cash and in-kind compensations (room and board), seniority allocations, and cash equivalents when room and board are not provided by the employer (art. 6,L. n. 339/1958). The national agreement establishes a four-tiered wage scale, according to the tasks performed (e.g. from mere company to specialized assistance) and workers’ qualifications. However, these categories are rarely observable in practice. Minimum monthly salaries of live-in workers currently range from 676.84 to 1,093.36 euros.20 As argued above, most workers chose not to declare their jobs. In addition, some employers seem reluctant to file income tax, in part or in full (Interview I.17.8.11).

56Informality, however, does not always act in the disadvantage of care workers. The informal wage scale (ranging from 650 to 900 euros a month) reported by interviewees is somewhat consistent with the official scale (although Romanian workers arguably accept lower salaries). Parallel wage scales are negotiated between employers and workers on the basis of several criteria, which may include the number of persons assisted, the health condition of these persons, the extent to which they are deemed able to carry out basic tasks independently, the perceived or actual wealth of employers, and the working environment:

When I meet my employers for the first time I pay attention to the type of house, the number of persons to be assisted, and the kind of help they require. We know what the minimum salary is. In Ragusa, if you care for one person the minimum is 800; if you look after more than one person and you have to get up at night then it’s 1000 or 1100. In Modica if you care for a sick person it’s 1000. But if you do not speak Italian fluently and your employer is poor you may get 700 or 650. When you know the language you can negotiate for better pay… I know a lot of Polish workers… when I hear that they get 1000, 900 or 950, 800, 850 for looking after one person I also ask for that amount… (Interview R.21.12.10)

If the persons are autonomous you ask for less money, if it’s just one person and she’s autonomous is 650-700, for one person in bed it’s 700-800, if there are two people and one is fine but the other is in bed it’s 1000-1200, maximum 1200. (Interview I.22.8.11)

57Perceptions about the working environment further influence the establishment of wages. A care worker explained that when she met her prospective employers, she perceived that establishing a good relationship with the female employer would be difficult. After confirming with the male employer that his spouse had a ‘special’ character and yelled at people, the worker raised her fee to 1000 euros instead of the usual 800 euros she bargained for.

58In addition, some eldercare workers negotiate salaries and working conditions according to their personal concerns regarding leisure time, independence, or a desire to keep a good relationship with employers; these concerns sometimes override economic incentives. One of my interlocutors reported to prefer keeping a good relationship with the employer over an increase in pay, as a good relationship is more likely to increase her bargaining power, for example, to ask for time off (Interview R.21.12.10).

59Overall, parallel wage scales in both farm and care jobs, are established and institutionalized through the flow of information that circulates via migrants’ and employers’ networks. Employers and workers are well aware of informal standards; and are rarely able to contravene those tacit rules.

60Moral and ethical concerns contribute to the definition of parallel wage scales too. Many employers admitted that they would not run the risk of losing a good worker by denying the person an increase of pay, or that “even when one is free to decide how much to pay, the pay should be fair” (Interview C.11.5.09). Concerning workers’ perceptions about pay, about half of all workers interviewed claimed to be satisfied with it, which may be partly explained by an internalization of a marginal occupational status and by moral considerations towards employers. Some workers, for instance, justified their pay in terms of the low-status of their jobs, arguing that they do not have a lot of responsibilities. In some cases, the perceived or actual wealth of employers, and thus their ability to pay, generates expectations or, alternatively, resignation and moral concerns. A farm worker mentioned that workers in the area have a similar income, except for those who work for a ‘richer’ employer (Interview I.12.5.09). A care worker observed: “if the lady is poor, how is she supposed to pay?” (Interview R.21.12.10); another interviewee noted: “when the person is good, calm, it doesn’t matter if she’s poor. If she treats you well, if she respects you, […] you have no right to complain if your pay is low” (Interview B.6.1.11). Farm workers also expressed consideration towards their employers regarding their ability to pay or the adjustment of their wages according to the state of affairs:

…I can’t ask for more, even if I asked for more, you know about the situation in agriculture, the price of milk is constantly falling, fodder is expensive… there are also problems here [in Italy] […] Before I went to India I was paid 750, but when I came back this year the boss said he made small profits so he paid 500, I said, ‘it’s OK’. (Interview I.12.5.09)

61Those who were not satisfied with their pay did not describe their discontent in ‘professional’ terms (e.g. referring to de-skilling), but referred to the risks run in their jobs, or to personal disappointment, as they felt that their work was not sufficiently ‘appreciated’, or ‘recognized’.

62In sum, tacit rules established through social mechanisms and interpersonal relations influence the application of employment regulations in the agricultural and care sector, from the definition of wage scales and the modalities of pay (i.e. institutionalizing parallel wage scales), to conditions of work and access to social benefits, to migrant worker’s bargaining power (e.g. owing to moral considerations of employers towards workers and vice versa). The practices of employers and workers reveal how spheres of formality and informality overlap, with unpredictable consequences for farm and care workers. Legal migratory status and formal employment do not necessarily guarantee fair conditions of work, as demonstrated by the experiences of some farm workers. Third country farm workers with formal work contracts appear to be more dependent on their employers to maintain legal status in Italy, and to have less bargaining power (e.g. concerning their salaries) than European eldercare workers who are not subjected to formalized employment relationships.

Chapter conclusion: Labor migration management vs unintended outcomes

63After discussing the conceptual tools to understand labor migration management as a neoliberal technology of governing I might say that market calculations introduced in contemporary migration policy allow dealing with labor migration in technical terms, conveniently concealing its political, ideological and human aspects. Market-based assumptions underlying migration management discourse, policy and practices promise triple-win scenarios by simultaneously addressing the optimization goals of receiving and sending states and of self-enterprising migrants. By dealing with labor migration as a technical issue, the Italian state has managed to maintain a steady supply of foreign labor, easing internal and external pressures, such as the criticism over repeated regularization campaigns run in the past decades, which are perceived as the antithesis of effective migration management (ISMU 2005, online). At the same time, annual quotas effectively function as a regularization tool.

64A key aspect of contemporary migration management discourse and practice is the (partial) delegation of migration policy enforcement functions to private actors (see Menz and Caviedes 2010: 184). As such, private actors do not substitute, but complement the state. Neoliberalism as a technology of governing migration, as reflected in the migration management approach, does not coerce enforcers (i.e. employers and migrant workers). Rather, these presumed self-enterprising subjects are granted relative autonomy to display the expected self-disciplining behavior. In some cases, self-interest and accumulation goals encourage compliance with migration and employment regulations. Self-disciplining employers may fear facing sanctions for hiring undocumented migrants. Likewise, self-enterprising migrant workers may seek to regularize their status as a means to achieve other goals (e.g. moving north to find a better job, initiating family reunification). Employers and third parties (e.g. illegal recruiters) may also participate in regularization endeavors for profit.

65Nevertheless, it may be more appropriate to consider selective compliance as dependent upon interpersonal relations. Evidence from Ragusa shows that interpersonal relations at the local level directly impact the implementation of migration policy. Proximity, trust, complicity, mutual dependence and moral considerations influence the way in which employers and foreign workers interpret administrative norms and deploy joint strategies to comply with or circumvent those norms. The former may result in a number of implementation gaps, such as ex post facto regularization, undeclared employment, and random observance of work standards and official wage scales. The relative autonomy of these agents; the distance that separates them from central authorities (e.g. labor inspections); and the intimacy that characterizes the interpersonal relations of farm and care workers in Ragusa further facilitates the subjection of policy implementation to the human dimension of employment relations.

66In sum, questions of migratory status and conditions of work are resolved in a discretionary manner, at the intersection of market calculations, self-interest, and the human aspects of interpersonal relations maintained by allegedly self-disciplining agents. The divergent levels of compliance and the permeability of the boundaries of the spheres of formality and informality have different implications for migrant workers. Some authors emphasize the negative aspects of informal employment in terms poor working conditions (Mingione and Quassoli 2000). While I do not deny these realities, evidence from Ragusa suggests that migrant workers do not passively conform to employers’ decisions or to institutional norms that attempt to control their lives in the receiving society. Contrary to the assumption that the interests of self-enterprising migrants are in perfect correspondence with states’ optimization goals, empirical evidence shows that migrants’ and employers’ choices and practices not always fully match stated policy goals. Employers and migrant workers participate actively in the selective application of norms, and sometimes even succeed in making such norms work their way.

67Optimization calculations that deal with labor migration as a purely technical issue, fail to recognize the importance of the human dimension of employment relations. Such a technical conceptualization of labor migration impedes a comprehensive understanding of the local social mechanisms that shape policy implementation. For instance, the boundaries between legality, illegality, formality and informality become problematic to identify foreign workers’ shifting status, and the advantages and disadvantages they may garner from their shifting positions along such a continuum. Migration management relying on technical assumptions lacks the suppleness necessary to identify and influence the processes that create implementation gaps, and react in such flexible ways as migrant workers and employers are able to.


1 Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, notes that “[m]igration for employment and its linkages with development has now emerged as a global issue which affects most nations in the world. It is high on international, regional and policy agendas” (ILO 2006, Preface: v).

2 Bimal Gosh elaborated the concept in 1993, at the request of the UN Commission on Global Governance and the Government of Sweden (Geiger and Pécoud 2010: 2).

3 These go from counter-trafficking efforts; to ‘capacity building’ of civil servants in transit and sending countries; to the provision of technical assistance for the formulation of migration policy; to ‘development’ projects or programs aimed at maximizing the economic returns of migration through workers’ remittances, or diaspora’s contributions to the counties or regions of origin (Geiger and Pécoud 2010: 6).

4 Indeed, Geiger and Pécoud (2010: 11) argue that the depoliticization of migration is reflected, for instance in “the ‘triple-win’ objective, which negates the existence of divergent interests, of asymmetries of power and of conflicts (both between and within countries)”.

5 Ong builds on Foucault’s concept of “governmentality” (“the practices that constitute, define, organize and instrumentalize the strategies that individuals in their freedom can use in dealing with each other”; 2006: 4) to conceptualize neoliberalism as a technology of governing. She applies this concept to examine specific alignments of market rationality, citizenship and sovereignty. She argues that neoliberal governmentality results from the “infiltration” of market truths and calculations in politics (2006: 4). A neoliberal rationality informs the government of free individuals, who are encouraged to self-manage according to market principles (2006: 4). Neoliberalism, according to Ong, is a form of biopolitical mode of governing that seeks to harness the capacity and potential of individuals and the population as living resources managed by governing regimes (2006: 6). Accordingly, new modes of citizenship and sovereignty emerge as the latter articulate and disarticulate with neoliberal reason. Citizenship rights and entitlements, for example, are granted to people according to neoliberal criteria (e.g. marketable skills), rather than political membership within nation-states. Ong also uses the concept of exception to explain a departure in policy deployed either to include or to exclude. For example, neoliberalism as exception can be selectively deployed in political settings other than liberal democracies (i.e. in authoritarian, postcolonial and postsocialist regimes) where neoliberalism is not characteristic of technologies of governing. Likewise, exceptions to neoliberalism can involve positive (inclusion) or negative (exclusion) decisions, aimed at preserving welfare benefits for certain populations (e.g. citizens) and excluding others (e.g. migrants) from the benefits of capitalist development (see Chapter 5). For Ong it is important to understand the interplay between technologies of governing and of disciplining, of inclusion and exclusion and of giving or denying value to human conduct (2006: 5).

6 For instance, through renewed temporary, seasonal and circular migration programmes to address the demand for low-skilled labor force (Castles 2006, see also CEC 2007).

7 Law 943/1986 was the first comprehensive attempt to regulate migration flows in Italy. It guaranteed equal treatment for legal foreign residents, and included a regularization program (Calavita 1994). Law 39/1990 (known as Martelli law) established stricter controls of unauthorized entries and visa overstay, included provisions for the regularization of migrants (generally initiated by workers), and introduced the programming of labour migration flows. Law 40/1998 refined the conditions of legal status, and opened more regular avenues for immigration. This law was integrated in the “Consolidation Act on Immigration and the Status of Foreigners” (known as Turco-Napolitano law or Testo Unico), which established a system of annual quotas (Law 286/1998). It included the possibility of sponsoring the entry of foreign workers by direct nomination. Owing to security concerns imposed by membership in the Schengen area (1998) the Act was amended by Law 189/2002, which imposed stricter controls on new entries, and tightened the conditions to maintain legal status (linking it to a work contract) and to renew residence permits so as to discourage permanent stay (Vitiello 2008, Sciortino 2009). Between 2004 and 2006, following the enlargements of the European Union, Italy introduced a ban on the freedom of movement for new Europeans, but allocated large quotas for these workers (Sciortino 2009).

8 Law 943/1986 established a sponsor system (foreign workers are nominated by the employer) along with labor market tests; these provisions resulted inadequate in view of the actual size of inflows. Law 39/1990 introduced the programming of inflows based on inter-ministerial decrees. Restrictive quotas on new entries were established only in 1995, and redefined in the 1998 Immigration Act (Art. 3, para.4). Under the 189/2002 Law, the sponsor system was eliminated. Quotas are established according to labor market needs, family reunification and asylum permits already issued (Vitiello 2008).

9 The size and distribution of quotas is negotiated among the Ministry of Labor, employer associations, trade unions, local and regional labour offices, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign labor demand is assessed against local employment rates. The national quota is divided into sub-quotas for the 20 regions, and 104 provinces. Sub-quotas are distributed according to the type of labor (seasonal, dependent, or independent work); occupation, and specific nationalities. Preferential quotas include countries with which Italy has signed bilateral labor management and readmission agreements (Chaloff 2004, Cuttitta 2008): Albania, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Moldova, Morocco, the new EU Member States, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia (Sciortino 2009; Zunino 2012). Foreigners who have followed a training course sponsored by the Italian government in their country of origin are awarded preferential treatment. Italy has also run six regularization campaigns (1986-87; 1990; 1995-96; 1998-99; 2002; and 2009, for domestic workers) reaching about 1.7 million migrants (calculations based on data from Vitiello 2008 and Caritas 2009). As of 4 January 2012 employers can declare their intention to confirm (extend) electronically the employment relationship with workers recruited through the 2011 annual quotas, independently from the publication of the 2012 annual quota decree (Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, Newsletter February 2012).

10 For a discussion on this matter see Sciortino 2009. The annual quota for subordinate seasonal work passed from 13,000 in 2001; to 33,000 in 2002; 29,500 in 2004; 79,500 in 2005; 350,000 in 2006; 80,000 in 2007, 2008 and 2009; again 80,000 in 2010; but later increased to 98,080 (for the first time including 1,800 Indian nationals among country-based quotas); to 60,000 in 2011. (The annual decrees are available at Ministero dell’interno, online).

11 Until 1986 Italy did not have a legislative framework to regulate migration flows, except for domestic workers. Likewise, the programming of labor migration flows stipulated in the 1990 law was not fully implemented and, excluding domestic workers, few migrants could enter Italy with a work permit (Reyneri 1998: 314). Since 2005, domestic workers have been particularly favored within the occupation-based quotas. For this category the contingent passed from 15,000 slots in 2005, to 45,000 in 2006, 65,000 in 2007, and 105,400 in 2008 (in 2010 the quota decreased to 30,000 slots).

12 The authorization of entry is given by the local office of the Ministry of Labor after the job offer has been listed nationally for twenty days. The authorization is transmitted to the relevant consulate, which then issues a Schengen work visa covering the period of employment, for a maximum of two years (Chaloff 2004).

13 The renewal procedure must start 90 days before the permit expires in case of indefinite contracts; 60 days for fixed-term contracts and 30 days for all other cases.

14 For instance, regions can initiate specific labor migration schemes at local level, or undertake international cooperation initiatives (Chaloff 2004). The municipalities are responsible for implementing measures to promote the integration of regular sojourners, especially regarding housing, language training, social integration and human rights. The Territorial Councils for Immigration were established by presidential decree (18 December 1999) to monitor the presence of foreigners on the Italian territory, and the carrying capacity of the locality regarding the absorption of migration flows. They are established within the local government (Prefettura) and involve local representatives of the state, region, the chamber of commerce, local organizations providing assistance to immigrants, trade unions and employers’ associations (Ministero dell’Interno accessed 2/02/2012).

15 EU8 countries include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia, which acceded to the EU in 2004. EU2 countries, Bulgaria and Romania, acceded to the EU in 2007.

16 In July 2006, the centre-left government of Italy ended the transitory measures. Italy introduced labor market restrictions, however, for workers from Bulgaria and Romania (EU2), except in agriculture, tourism, domestic and care service, construction, engineering, managerial, seasonal and high-skilled work (see,, accessed 5/03/2012). Some authors argue that such restrictions resulted in increased irregular and precarious employment of migrants from countries who acceded to the EU in 2004 and 2007, perpetuating the pre-accession trends (Currie 2009, Rechhi and Triandafyllidou 2010). As of 1 January 2012 labor market restrictions imposed to EU2 nationals were removed in all sectors.

17 For more information visit: Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale,

18 In Italy, employment in agriculture can be full-time, seasonal or on a daily-basis. Most farm workers interviewed hold annual, fixed term contracts of 51, 101 or (a maximum of) 151 days. A contract exceeding 151 days becomes an indefinite contract. Under the national collective agreement, Category 1A involves highly skilled workers with certified professional qualifications, who are deemed able to undertake specialized/complex tasks. Category 2A involves semi-skilled workers (with practical experience or formal qualifications) who carry out non-complex tasks. Category 3A refers to unskilled workers entrusted with generic tasks that do not require professional qualification. The Ragusan provincial agreement further details the chores and level of expertise corresponding to the three basic categories outlined in the national agreement: Area I (specialization levels VI and VII) includes skilled workers who possess a drivers’ license and can operate and fix sophisticated agricultural machinery. Area II involves semi-skilled workers capable of milking mechanically various species and of operating plowing and sowing machinery (level V); as well as workers capable of milking one single species; farm personnel (level IV); and workers capable of building greenhouses, preparing the land and irrigating the plantations (level III). Area III comprises workers entrusted with the removal of animal dung, animal feeding, generic cleaning services, fruit and vegetable pickers, packers, land workers, among others (levels I and II), thus the lowest positions in the sectoral hierarchy.

19 For example, the provincial agreement specifies that the daily remuneration of workers who hold fix-term contracts ranges between 50.61 and 62.71 euros, depending on the level of qualification and the tasks performed by workers. A trade union official reports cases in which daily remuneration falls to 30-35 euros. Some employees have indeed started legal disputes against employers, with the support of the trade union.

20 Level A includes unskilled “generic family collaborators” with less than twelve months of professional experience; level B includes more experienced semi-autonomous workers; level C autonomous, experienced workers who possess basic technical/theoretical knowledge related to the tasks performed, and level D refers to workers with professional qualifications and full autonomy and responsibility in the workplace (INPS,, accessed 5/03/2012). As of 17 January 2012 the minimum compensation for live-in level C-superior care workers increased to 920.11 euros (Ministero del Lavoro e delle Politiche Sociali, Newsletter, February 2012) For more information visit: INPS


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