Changing status, changing lives? The socio-economic impact of EU Enlargement on low wage migrant labour in the UK
This research project: Changing Status, Changing Lives? has been funded by the ESRC and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The lead researchers are Bridget Anderson, Martin Ruhs and Sarah Spencer (all at COMPAS, University of Oxford) and Ben Rogaly (Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex).
EU Enlargement enabled A8 workers to migrate and take up employment in the UK without restrictions (as long as they registered in the “Worker Registration Scheme”). It also meant that overnight A8 nationals who were already working in the UK before 1st May 2004 experienced a “change of status”, acquiring most of the rights of an EU national. This includes the right to live and work in the UK without restrictions, to remain permanently in the UK, and to be joined by dependants. For A8 nationals residing in the UK illegally, 1st May 2004 was, in effect, an amnesty. For those in the UK legally but with restrictions on the work that they were permitted to do, acquiring EU rights has given them the freedom to change their employer and sector of employment.
Changing status, changing lives? aims to study the consequences of granting most of the economic and social rights of an EU national to A8 nationals who were already working in the UK before 1st May 2004 – with “legal” or “illegal” status. Project outputs will include a series of papers all of which will be made available on the COMPAS website.
Fair enough? Central and East European migrants in low-wage employment in the UK
This paper explores the employment experiences of migrants from East and Central Europe working in low-wage occupations in selected sectors of the UK economy (agriculture, construction, hospitality and the au-pair sector); and the nature and determinants of employer demand for migrant labour in these sectors. It is particularly interested in investigating the role of immigration status – including “illegal residence” – as a potential determinant of both employer demand and the conditions of migrants' employment. In total, more than 600 migrants and over 500 employers of migrants were surveyed and interviewed before and after EU enlargement on 1st May 2004. The paper hopes to make a significant contribution to academic and policy debates on immigration in general, and in particular to debates about immigration status and employment.
Semi-compliance in the migrant labour market
Discussions of “illegality” in the employment of migrant workers are typically based on a “legal/illegal” dichotomy that conflates breaches of rights of residence and rights of employment. This paper aims to facilitate a more nuanced discussion by introducing the new concept of “compliance”. We identify and distinguish between three levels of compliance. Compliant migrants are legally resident and working in full compliance with the conditions attached to their immigration status. Non-compliant migrants are those without the rights to reside in the host country. Semi-compliance indicates a situation where a migrant is legally resident but working in violation of some or all of the conditions attached to the migrant's immigration status. Our empirical analysis shows that, although frequently ignored in academic and public debates, semi-compliance is empirically relevant i.e. it clearly features in the employment of migrant workers in practice. It is also perceived and experienced by migrants and employers as different from non-compliance. We argue that – at least to some degree – semi-compliance is simply a logical result of the tension between the needs of a flexible labour market on the one hand, and the desire to closely monitor the employment of migrants for immigration control purposes on the other hand. This raises important questions about whether and how the state can and should act on semi-compliance in the migrant labour market.
Changing status, changing lives? Methods, participants and lessons learnt
This paper describes the research methods of and participants in the Changing Status, Changing Lives? project. It first explains the choice of research methods and gives an overview of the research design and sampling strategy. This is followed by more detailed explanations of the design of research instruments, access and implementation of interviews with workers and au pairs, and with employers, host families and agencies. The basic characteristics of the migrants, employers, host families and agencies surveyed and interviewed are then presented. The paper concludes with a preliminary assessment of the methodological lessons learned.