Digital Debt Labour: Migration, Deportation and Offshoring in Mexico

  • Enda Brophy Simon Fraser University, School of Communication
  • Rodrigo Finkelstein School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Keywords: debt, financialization, financialisation, migration, virtual migration, deportation, digital labour, call centres


This article explores the convergence of debt, deportation, and digital labour in Mexico by describing the making of a labour force working on the frontlines of transnational debt collection, performing what we call digital debt labour. Drawing on dozens of interviews in Tijuana and Mexico City conducted between 2016 and 2019, we relate the growth of a debt collection labour force in Mexico. To theorise the intersection between debt, migration, and digital labour, this article explores three overlapping, converging, and expanding forms of migration: debt migration, or the circulation of consumer credit through markets for, or processes of, debt collection; virtual migration or the outsourcing of call centre work to offshore locations and the return migration of call centre workers in the labour process; and forced migration, or the deportation of undocumented migrants. Our core argument is that this case study demonstrates the manner in which a highly financialised and digital variant of capitalism is evolving to develop a multi-faceted and opportunistic relationship with the growing trends of migration and deportation.

Author Biographies

Enda Brophy, Simon Fraser University, School of Communication

Enda Brophy teaches in the School of Communication and is an Associate in Labour Studies at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Language Put to Work: The Making of the Global Call Centre Workforce, which won book of the year awards from the Canadian Association of Work and Labour Studies and the Canadian Communication Association in 2018. He has translated numerous works by Italian scholars, including Gigi Roggero’s The Production of Living Knowledge: Crisis of the University and Transformation of Labor in Europe and North America and Giovanna Franca Dalla Costa’s The Work of Love: Unpaid Housework, Poverty and Sexual Violence at the Dawn of the 21st Century.

Rodrigo Finkelstein, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University

Rodrigo Finkelstein is a PhD candidate in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. He is the author of Riesgos laborales: Una visión cultural [Labour risks: A cultural view] (2018). His research interests include Marxian political economy, the political economy of communication, and health information at work.