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Migrant Workers as a Vulnerable Population
According to the US Department of Labor (2013), a migrant farm worker is defined as a seasonal worker who must travel for farm work and who is unable to return to their permanent home within the same day. A seasonal farmworker or MSFW does, however, return to his permanent resident, which is usually some sort of multifamily residence provided by the farmer. The MSFW works in agriculture for at least 25 days or parts of days of the year, meaning they do not work year-round. They can work multiple farms a year. These workers only work in agriculture growing seasons. The migrant farm worker and their families are a vulnerable population on many levels. Depending on where in the world you are analyzing migrant work and workers you will have varying degrees and issues and vulnerability. For example, many issues will overlap but specific regions of the world hold certain cultural practice is higher or lower regard, such as women’s rights, workers’ rights, health care, suicide or value of life, family life and concept of time relating to paying employees. According to a study in China, Wang, Zhou, and Hesketh (2017), children are actually left behind, mainly girls if there is a choice to be made, to fend for themselves because the living conditions are so difficult. In migrant living quarters, communicable disease is also prevalent. In particular, lack of condom use in the US related to Mexican migrant farmworkers leading to HIV (Stanhope, 2016). In China Tuberculosis (Bele, Jiang, lu, You, & Fan, 2014) and air quality is large issues. In Lebanon, which is an outlier in terms of worker protection and rights, The Human Rights Watch (2018) found, “credible reports of abuses against migrant domestic workers, including non-payment of wages, forced confinement, refusal to provide time off, and verbal and physical abuse” (HRW.org, 2018).
In America, access to health care is an issue for migrants, much like the rest of the world. Socially this population has been marginalized and outcasted which means in terms of health care, access very limited or nonexistent. In the US, even though we have created and signed into place, the Migrant Health Act in 1962 not much been put in place for them. Oddly, much of our lives depends heavily on these workers to bring low-cost fruit and vegetables to our grocery stores and thus our tables and health. Social acceptance, the treatment and living conditions for the workers, whom we depend on to carry out the task for the food we eat, are not treated with respect, acceptance or even paid a realistic wage for compensation. According to the article written by Costa and Rosenbaum (2017), the average pay ranges from $17,500 -$19,999 per year. Exact statistics are difficult to pin down since some workers are not registered but some figures to consider are, 52% of migrant workers actually have legal authorization in the united states (Costa & Rosenbaum, 2017). Guest workers are an estimate of 1-1.8 million migrant workers in America (Stanhope & Lancaster, 2016).
Due to overcrowding and unsanitary living conditions this population is at risk for, chronic disease, poor dental health, mental health problems, tuberculosis, diabetes, hypertension, high levels of work injuries and chemical exposures (cancer is not well documented but prevalent) leukemia’s, lymphomas and detrimental physical and social environment for children also including three quarters of the families having no access to health care (Villarejo, 2017).
Working with this population could be challenging considering the majority of MSFW do not speak English, are anxious about their status or of their family’s status in America and will likely not seek out help to a healthcare professional initially. However, burdens of health can take a huge toll on the family’s income and ability to care for one another. Nurses can be a resource and light for this vulnerable population.
The reform worth mentioning that has been created in the US is 156 migrant health centers in 42 states which as of 2019 and have served 903, 089 hard-to-reach migrant induvial and their families (Health Resources and Services Administration, 2019). Nurses have a tremendous opportunity to intervene and help advocate for this vulnerable population using preventative, secondary and tertiary care for these workers and families.
- Bele, S., Jiang, W., Lu, H., You, H., & Fan, H. (2014). Population aging and migrant workers: bottlenecks in tuberculosis control in rural China. PLoS ONE. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0088290
- Costa, D., & Rosenbaum, J. (2017). Temporary foreign workers by the numbers. Retrieved from www.epi.org/publication/temporary-foreign-workers-by-the-numbers-new-estimates-by-visa-classification/
- U.S. Department of Labor. (2014). Migrant & seasonal farmworkers. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/training/migrantfarmworkers
- Health Resources and Services Administration.gov (2019). National center for farmworker health. Retrieved from https://www.hrsa.gov/library/national-center-farmworker-health
- HumanRightsWatch.org (2018). Migrant workers abuse account. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/04/06/lebanon-migrant-workers-abuse-account#
- Stanhope, M., & Lancaster, J. (2016). Public Health Nursing Population Centered Health Care in the Community (9th ed.). St. Louis, MI: Elsevier.
- Villareo, D. (2017). The challenge of assessing occupational health status. Retrieved from www.cirsinc.org/rural-california-report/entry/agricultural-workers-the-challenge-of-assessing-occupational-health-status-1990-2017
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