1 AUTHOR: Cristina Patriarca This brief has been developed with the aim of providing an overview of the problem of wage theft and highlight the urgent need to address it, putting an end to its perpetration and stopping condoning the impunity of those who exercise it. Among others, the document raises the attention to the need of creating an international justice mechanism that enables the rapid processing of migrant workers’ wage theft claims and ensures they are returned the money they are owed as soon as possible. Whilst the problem of wage theft is a long-standing global issue, this document has been developed bearing in mind the experiences of low-wage1 migrant workers, documented and undocumented, and the need to address the cases of wage theft for returned migrant workers in particular: on the one hand returned migrant workers have suffered both the loss of employment and the non-payment of their salaries and dues; on the other, they are especially exposed to the projected economic instability and low prospects or re-employment resulting from the ongoing pandemic. This brief opens with a definition of wage theft, followed by its contextualisation in relation to the human rights framework and key international conventions and an overview of the link between wage theft and global development. In the subsequent pages the discussion is centred on the recent exacerbation of the problem due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of ensuring justice for migrant workers. Before discussing actions needed, and presenting a set of recommendations, the relation between wage theft, remittances as well as the impact of the shrinking of the global economy on migrant workers is touched upon. This brief is based on the thought-provoking panel discussion Transitional Justice: Towards “Building Back Better”, and the insights of the panellists as well as the contributions of the attendees. It also draws from the ongoing campaign calling for the creation of an international justice mechanism to address wage theft of repatriated migrant workers. 1 In this paper, the term low-wage is preferred to low-skilled, an important distinction as the two are not synonymous. Lowwage occupations, which include jobs in the agriculture, health, hospitality and construction sectors may in fact require a high degree of skills to handle complex situations and specialist tasks. Besides, the use of the term low-skilled may confer a negative connotation to the abilities of migrant workers, despite the fact that many of the so defined low-skilled jobs have increasingly been recognised as key roles for the functioning of society, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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