This book chapter examines the transnational migration brokerage market in China and its role in the migration mechanism between China and Europe. From the perspective of sending regions, it analyses the main actors, compares transnational brokerage fees, explains how and why potential migrants pay these fees and compares the resulting implications on migrants’ lives overseas.
The author conducted the interviews involved in the research, and the chapter draws on original research conducted over a period of 10 years. No further information about the research method is provided.
The chapter concludes that transnational labour brokerage in China has evolved from a service among friends and family into a repayment system. Using a complex migration loan and credit system embedded in a system of duties and mutual trust and benefit, prospective migrants are willing to pay extremely high fees to migration brokers who resort to official and unofficial approaches. Transnational brokerage fees vary from region to region in China and appear to fluctuate with the wage level in the destination market. The author argues that participants consider illegal transnational practices acceptable for average people, due to contradictions between official migration policies and the labour demand of sending and receiving countries. China combats migrant smuggling on the one hand but welcomes successful migrant returnees on the other. At the same time, although receiving countries in Europe have strengthened official controls on migrants, irregular migrant workers in low-paying jobs are tolerated and encouraged by amnesty regulations.
The chapter does not directly contribute knowledge about the mechanics of migrant smuggling. Nonetheless, it provides insight into migrants’ perceptions of smuggling as a respectable, rational process. The study focuses on the legal and illegal aspects of the transnational brokerage market in China, gives good background information on the issue and compares transnational brokerage fees for different regions and destination countries.