Temporary Guestworker Programs and the Displacement of Undocumented Migrant Workers in Spanish Agriculture

Jennifer Blakeslee, Australian National University

Following its transition from a labor-exporting to a labor-importing country, Spain has enacted bi-national agreements with a number of countries in an effort to secure labor for key industries. In addition to meeting labor market needs, these programs have been part of the ongoing effort to control undocumented migration into the region. Advocates assert that guestworkers are simple substitutes for undocumented workers; however, the case of Spain’s fruit, vegetable, and horticultural (FVH) sector shows that the answer is not so simple. Demographic analysis evidences that in developing these programs Spanish growers have preferenced Eastern European women over the North African men who have characterized the undocumented and regularized agricultural workers upon which the industry has depended. Although guestworker programs have helped stabilize the FVH sector and reduce Spain’s significant underground economy, undocumented workers are not necessarily deterred by guestworkers but often displaced by them—creating new problems while solving old ones.

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Presented in Session 22: Undocumented Migrants