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Unit information: Migration and Labour Exploitation in the Global Economy in 2020/21

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Unit name Migration and Labour Exploitation in the Global Economy
Unit code LAWDM0160
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Dias-Abey
Open unit status Not open




School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


Migrants are often subject to various forms of exploitation when they participate in labour markets. This unit is designed to offer students with an understanding of how migrant vulnerability is generated through legal and economic structures. We begin the unit by exploring the relationship between migration and economic globalisation. We then introduce students to a range of internationally recognised labour standards, which will function throughout the unit as a normative yardstick to measure the labour market experiences of migrants. We then consider how trade in goods/services and capital mobility act as major drivers of migration, and also study some recent efforts to use mechanisms in trade agreements to protect labour rights. The next two topics explores two forms of migration present in the current global economy—those migrants who are trafficked across borders and those who participate in guestworker programmes. The next four topics allow students to delve more deeply into the experiences of particular categories of workers—domestic workers, asylum seekers, agricultural workers, and sex workers—as a way to explore the broader themes of the unit.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. actively demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the multilevel legal frameworks and how these regulate the experience and treatment of migrants within the labour market
  2. demonstrate a critical understanding of how legal and economic structures generate vulnerability,
  3. appreciate and evaluate how legal structures may also protect the interests of migrants,
  4. to critically read primary legal sources and be able to contextualise the legal issues arising from the experiences of migrants within the labour market
  5. refer to and analyse theoretical studies and secondary materials,
  6. investigate these issues through an interdisciplinary lens, and
  7. gain and practice the skills needed to research independently in this topic.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a variety of asynchronous and synchronous activities.

Assessment Details

2 x summative assessments: 1x coursework and 1 x Timed Open Book Assessment with a specified word count

The assessment will assess all of the intended learning outcomes for this unit.

Formative assessment opportunities will be provided during the year.

Reading and References

  • Blackett and Trebilcock (eds) Research Handbook on Transnational Labour Law (Edward Elgar, 2015) This text is available online at:
  • Marshall and Fenwick (eds), Labour Regulation and Development (Edward Elgar, 2016) This text is available online at:
  • Atleson et al., International Labor Law: Cases and Materials on Workers’ Rights in the Global Economy (Thompson West, 2008).
  • Katie Bales, ‘Immigration raids, employer collusion and the Immigration Act 2016’. Industrial Law Journal, (2017) vol 46(2): 279-288.
  • Fudge, ‘Illegal Working, Migrants and Labour Exploitation in the UK’ (2018) 38 Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 557 available at:
  • Banaji, J. (2003). The fictions of free labour: Contract, coercion, and so-called unfree labour. Historical Materialism, 11(3), 69-95.