Changing status, changing lives? The socio-economic impact of EU Enlargement on low wage migrant labour in the UK

March 2004 – May 2005
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This research project was motivated by the accession of the "A8" countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) to the European Union on 1 May 2004. Among the member states of the pre-enlarged EU, only Sweden, Ireland and the UK granted A8 nationals free access to the labour market immediately upon EU enlargement. This research aimed to study the consequences of granting most of the economic and social rights of an EU national to A8 nationals who were already working, either legally or illegally, in the UK before accession.

Research focused on the employment of migrants in four sectors: agriculture, construction, hospitality and au pairs. Four A8 nationalities were selected for study on the basis of their prominence in the UK’s legal schemes for employing migrants in low-wage occupations: Czech, Slovak, Lithuanian and Polish. Ukrainian and Bulgarian migrants were selected to act as a comparison group of people whose immigrations status would not change as a result of the 2004 EU enlargement.

The research generated two reports. The first looks at the implications for the labour market and the work experiences of Central and East European migrants in the UK; the second explores the experiences of these migrants beyond the workplace. Findings make a strong case for reviewing national policy towards new migrants in the UK, taking into account the challenges they face, particularly in the immediate period after arrival, and the experiences of the organisations and the public with whom they interact.

Principal Investigator

Bridget Anderson


Martin Ruhs
Sarah Spencer
Ben Rogaly (University of Sussex)


Economic and Social Research Council
Joseph Rowntree Foundation