Since the global economic downturn

The report, entitled ‘Sinking Underground: The Growing Informal Economy in California Construction’ was produced by the Economic Roundtable research company and underwritten by The United Brotherhood of Carpenters. Economic Roundtable used federal and state labour force statistics from between 1972 and 2012.

It found that the number of construction workers in what is known as the “underground economy”, in which employees are unprotected socially or legally in their jobs, has risen 400 percent since 1972. Immigrants, who comprised 43 percent of the Californian construction workforce in 2012, were deemed particularly vulnerable to this exploitation.

It is a problem that has increased substantially since the global economic downturn, and Yvonne Yen Liu, Co-Author of the report, attributed the circumstances in part to the tough economic conditions that continue even after the economy and construction industry have begun picking up.

She said: "There is an informal economy that isn't being regulated. It's tough to survive out there as a contractor and some are deciding to cheat to stay alive.

Unfortunately, this bending of the rules has cost the federal government $301 million in lost or unpaid taxes, and workers are suffering from a lack of protection in an industry that they hoped would provide a successful career.

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