Infrastructures of migrant precarity: unpacking precarity through the lived experiences of migrant workers in Malaysia

Ramesh Sunam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Migrant labour has increasingly become key to the functioning of many economies including in Asia. While existing studies have generated rich understandings of precarity, there remains a paucity of studies that shed new light on how migration infrastructures shape the production of multidimensional forms of precarity in the global South. Drawing on a case study of Nepali migrant workers engaged in the manufacturing and service sectors in Malaysia, this article examines migrant workers’ precarious experiences and the role of regulatory, commercial, workplace and socio-economic infrastructures in shaping migrant experiences. It unpacks multidimensional categories of migrant precarity transcending oft-discussed economic forms of precarity, which provide a heuristic tool for researchers to reveal the underlying precarity-generating specific political, social, and economic processes. The article argues that migrant precarity results from the complex interplay between workplace and regulatory infrastructures in receiving country, which is worsened by the workings of commercial and socio-economic infrastructures in sending country. The article has demonstrated how migration infrastructures established by the regulatory and commercial actors purportedly for facilitating migration and benefiting migrant workers have instead produced and exacerbated migrant precarity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)636-654
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Brokerage
  • labour migration
  • labour regime
  • migration infrastructure
  • precarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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