Semiskilled or unskilled workers who move from one region to another, offering their services on a temporary, usually seasonal, basis. In North America, migrant labour is generally employed in agriculture and moves seasonally from south to north following the harvest. In Europe and the Middle East, migrant labour usually involves urban rather than agricultural employment and calls for longer periods of residence. The migrant labour market is often disorganized and exploitative. Many workers are supervised by middlemen such as labour contractors and crew leaders, who recruit and transport them and dispense their pay. Labourers commonly endure long hours, low wages, poor working conditions, and substandard housing. In some countries, child labour is widespread among migrant labourers, and even in the U.S. those children who do not work often do not go to school, since schools are usually open only to local residents. Workers willing to accept employment on these terms are usually driven by even worse conditions in their home countries. Labour organizing is made difficult by mobility and by low rates of literacy and political participation, though some migrant labourers in the U.S. have been unionized. Seealso Cesar Chavez.
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