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Migration, Labor and the Gospel

Guy Standing’s controversial work on emerging labour relations describes the increasing stratification of society into those with wealth-based income, those with skill based income, and a growing population whose life and work is described as insecure, or precarious.

These are the day-labourers in the ‘gig economy’ without contracts or social security, whose flexibility is exploited by those with wealth and power. These are the precariat, ‘denizens’ whose status often falls below that of more privileged citizens.

Migrants form a large part of this group: where climate change and collapsing markets have made traditional agriculture unsustainable, and where the local job market is weak, many move further and further away from home to seek the means to support themselves and their families.

Frequently, migrants end up in the jobs that ordinary ‘citizens’ would rather not do: low paid, long hours, no rights, no complaints. Migration itself is a hazardous journey, with informal brokers and people traffickers sharing the same shape in the shadows. Even where the work is reasonable, the impact on family life is significant: the concept of the ‘extended family’ has now been re-drawn; now ‘transnational families’ are increasingly the norm, a paradoxical state given that migration is often undertaken to secure the future of the family and the household.

Changes in labour patterns due to increased automation are likely to exert downward pressure on migration: a recent International Labor Organization report projecting the potential impact of artificial intelligence on manufacturing classified over 80% of textile and footwear jobs in Cambodia and Vietnam as high risk of being lost. This, and changes in other areas, could have a major impact on household economy and migration, in particular reducing the already weak bargaining power of migrants for decent working conditions.

Migrants are often more open to the gospel, responding to outreach which includes them in a loving and supportive community. There is much to praise God for in terms of lively and growing churches in migrant areas. At the same time, we pray also for cross-cultural workers and local believers who are working to engage with the issues of labour injustice amongst migrants.

Will you pray for community ministries?  

  • Pray for Christians working to address the particular needs of their communities.
  • Pray for those using research to advocate for better working conditions and rights, as well as greater awareness of the dangers of trafficking.
  • Pray too for those working with businesses to help shape better employment practice, from households domestics to factory workers.
  • Pray too for those advising governments on longer-term strategies, that they would be guided towards effective solutions to enabling fair economic growth which would enable those at all levels of society to enjoy reasonable income security and to build a future for their family.

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