Broker versus Social Networks in Adverse Working Conditions: Cross-Sectional Evidence from Cambodian Migrants in Thailand

Discussion Papers


by Yutaka Arimoto, Tomohiro Machikita, and Kenmei Tsubota

January 2018


Using unique survey data from Cambodians who worked in Thailand, we investigate the wage and non-wage job values for workers across job search methods, focusing on the dif- ference between social networks and brokers. This paper examines whether cross-border migration through brokers brings more adverse workplace conditions than other job search methods by looking at subjective measures of non-wage job values in the destination coun- try. Compared with migrants who obtained job information by themselves or from friends and family, migrants who got job information through brokers are more likely to receive higher expected wage gains from migration, but they are not likely to receive a higher wage in Thailand. Furthermore, they are more likely to experience adverse non-wage job values (i.e., adverse workplace conditions), even though migrants have similar individual characteristics, migration experiences, and original locations. The migrants who got a job through brokers are also more likely to be categorized a victim of human trafficking by of- ficials in the border area of Poipet, Cambodia. The evidence suggests that brokers are less likely to connect the Cambodian migrants with high wage jobs or better workplaces, and the results are more consistent with the explanation that exploiting strong individual ties (family/friends) are a safer route to obtaining better non-wage job values than brokers. The overall findings of this paper show the importance of a deeper understanding of employer behavior that leads to utilizing brokers to find migrant workers for poor jobs in destination marketplaces.

Keywords: Workplaces conditions, Brokers, Cross-border migration, Cambodia, Thailand
JEL classification: D83; J01; M50; O15

Please note that discussion papers are works in various stages of progress and most have not been edited and proofread and may contain errors of fact or judgment. Revised versions of these papers may subsequently appear in more formal publication series. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). The IDE does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included and accepts no responsibility for any consequences arising from its use.