Understanding (and Regulating) the Role of Labor Intermediaries in Migrant Welfare: Evidence from Two Natural Experiments in Sri Lanka

Grants to Support Faculty Fellows' Research
Grant Year

This proposal seeks funding for research assistance to support a series of projects that examine how regulatory policy can improve the welfare of Sri Lankan labor migrants in the Middle East. In particular, we focus on the role of recruitment agencies that match migrants to construction and domestic work jobs and play a key role in determining the working conditions and choices available to these migrants. Using a unique administrative dataset on 1.8 million Sri Lankan migrants in the last decade, our focus is foremost on understanding how policies can reduce the incidence of employer malpractice and abuse that typically characterize these jobs. Upon completion of ongoing data collection on recruitment agencies and migrants, we will analyze this data and use these insights to complete two working papers: one that analyzes a government policy that introduced reputational incentives for recruitment agencies, and another that examines a policy that affected the structure of recruitment networks in Sri Lanka. These papers will provide some of the first empirical estimates of how domestic regulatory policy influences the quality of migrant placements abroad. The findings will lay the groundwork for further collaboration with governments to use field experiments to study similar policies and develop a body of evidence-based migration policy.

Partners: Verité Research, Ministry of Foreign Employment of Sri Lanka, and the Sri Lanka Bureau for Foreign Employment