Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Guest Workers

A recent article in the New York Times talked about the influx of guest workers and how they are being mistreated. Recruitment agencies in countries like Thailand bring workers over by promising that they will make about $16,000 a year to work in farms all over the country. To many Americans this is not enough money for the type of work they would have to do, but to a Thai farmer who is making about $500 a year in Thailand, coming to America to work seems like a great opportunity. The fact of the matter is that when they come over here there is only about two months work for them, and they do not end up getting paid as much as they were promised. They end up making about $1,400 to $2,400 a year; however, this is still more than they would be making in Thailand.
Many people in Washington are talking about how to stop the mistreatment and abuse of guest workers. There is not a simple answer to this problem. The industry is so large that there would not be enough people to do all the inspections( if that was the answer). In the process of hiring people to do these inspections we are creating inefficiency. This abuse is not a market failure that the state needs to correct. Inspecting would be a waist of money because you would have to pay government salaries for the inspectors. Is it unfair that they are being mistreated? Without a doubt. If efficiency is our goal then we don't care about fairness.
Another problem is with the recruitment agencies. They are not in the U.S., so they are not subject to U.S. laws. Many of the companies that higher guest workers pay the recruitment agencies or contractors the wages and they in turn pay the workers.
Should we stop guest workers from coming over and working in the farms? No. Many Americans would not like to admit that they like the benefit they receive from cheep labor. It is something that we would not realize how much we benefited from it until after it was gone.

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