Migrant workers can face challenges like dangerous working conditions, exploitative employers, assault, and coerced or slave labor. The United Nations among other organizations has taken steps to define and defend the rights of migrant workers, including undocumented immigrants who do not have the same legal status as workers who are in a country with consent from the government. Such workers can be found in domestic settings, sweatshops, manufacturing facilities, and agricultural environments, performing a variety of labor. This often includes unskilled work.
One issue for some migrant workers is labor coercion. Undocumented workers may be unpaid or poorly paid, and can have identity documents confiscated by supervisors who warn them that reporting the situation to law enforcement will result in deportation. Wage theft, where employers promise to pay wages and do not make good on the agreed payments, is another issue for migrant workers. Some are also lured into a country under false pretenses; for example, a worker may be promised a job at a hospital and then sent to a private home as a cleaner.
Hazardous working conditions are also an issue, because migrant workers tend to be employed in dangerous industries and employers may not comply with health and safety laws. This can include exposure to pesticides and herbicides, improperly maintained heavy equipment, and extreme heat or cold. Normal working protections like limits on working hours and scheduled breaks may not be granted, and people may labor for 12 hours or more without a break or access to a bathroom. This can create a public health problem; field workers may relieve themselves in the field, for example, potentially passing on pathogens to consumers.
Some employers may provide housing to migrant workers, but it can be substandard in quality and may be dangerous. Exposed wiring, badly maintained pit toilets, and other health and safety issues can make housing unpleasant and unsafe for workers. Workers with an undocumented immigration status may also be imprisoned in their housing by employers and foremen, and may be intimidated into not complaining or reporting the poor working conditions.
Physical and sexual assault are also potential risks for migrant workers. Employers and supervisors may abuse workers and threaten them into silence. Child labor is another documented problem with migrant workers in many nations, and children in this situation usually lack access to education and other resources. Health care for workers of all ages may be limited, which can allow for the spread of disease in addition to severe complications from treatable conditions that were not addressed until it was too late.