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Ethnic minority business and the employment of illegal immigrants

[Trevor Jones, Monder Ram (De Montfort University)] and Paul Edwards
Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 18, 2, 133-150


Based on detailed case histories of South Asian workers and their co-ethnic employers in the West Midlands clothing and catering industries, this paper examines the use of illegal immigrant labour in small ethnic minority firms and attempts to tease out its implications for the migrants themselves, their employers and the broader national interest. To establish a proper context, we begin with a review of the recent literature on the structural changes - principally the confluence of globalization and post-industrialism - which have generated a seemingly unstoppable flow of labour migration; and the official state policies that have forced much of it underground. Our own case histories are seen as one of countless local expressions of this clash between economic and political imperatives, a clash which effectively criminalizes employers and workers for providing a positive economic and social contribution to the wider good. In the present case, it is only by employing immigrant labour that struggling entrepreneurs can survive in hyper-competitive sectors of the economy and the stark choice is between official tolerance of law-breaking or driving many of these enterprises to the wall.