How does the recruitment of labor migrants work? We know that the process of recruitment is highly consequential for aspiring labor migrants: during this process, migrants acquire and develop expectations, plans, and a range of obligations to different recruiters. Yet, the recruitment process remains largely opaque. It comprises complex, informal networks of sub-agents working at the local and regional levels on behalf of larger, national-level recruitment agencies.
To better understand the process of labor recruitment -- particularly for labor migrants working in Gulf states -- I am conducting a pilot project in Pakistan. It has two goals. First, I aim to build on recent qualitative research on the “black box” of migration brokerage and systematically disaggregate the “sending country third party recruiter” into a series of actors and relationships unfolding over space and time. This will enable an investigation into the (mis)information, expectations, and obligations aspiring migrants believe they are receiving and making at each step of the recruitment journey.
Second, I aim to make a methodological contribution to the study of labor migration processes that is scalable and transferable across sending countries. I combine in-depth interviews with aspiring migrants and their household members with the deployment of a mobile phone application to collect data at micro-spatiotemporal intervals during their recruitment journey. This mixed method data collection technology can be used to study various highly mobile populations navigating the social landscape of labor migration over time.
The pilot project is supported by funding from the Research & Empirical Analysis of Labor Migration Program.