This project investigated the role of immigrant work strategies and their networks in the process of integration into the UK, and specifically in London. There is a perception in Britain today that asylum seekers and irregular migrants are driving the growth of a hitherto non-existent informal economy. Deregulated labour markets lead to flexible and casualized labour and this in turn can lead to high and low wage sectors, unregulated work and an informal sector. The public perception is that immigrants and other ethnic minorities are the direct cause of these effects.
By charting the work strategies (including formal and informal work) of several groups of recently arrived migrants, this research sought to explore how these strategies are shaped or mediated by their social networks. It focused on four immigrant groups – Ghanaians, Portuguese, Romanians and Turkish – and one sample of British-born people. It aimed to provide in-depth knowledge about immigrant work strategies and trajectories in a globalized and segmented labour market; to illustrate the importance of immigrant social networks, both transnational and local, in the process of settlement and immigrant accommodation into a culturally diverse society; and to highlight the importance of processes of immigrant participation and inclusion in a culturally diverse society.
Economic and Social Research Council (COMPAS Core Funding)
The research involved 155 survey questionnaires, covering demographic questions and other specific information with immigrants, of whom there were approximately 30 from each of the selected groups. Follow-up in-depth interviews where then conducted with the most ‘informative’ subjects, along with semi-structured interviews with ‘experts’ and ‘gate-keepers’. An approximate equal number of women and men were included in order to cover gender differences. The interviews were taped wherever possible, although given the delicate nature of the topic being addressed (involving informality and illegality), some preferred not to be recorded. A snow-ball technique was adopted in the selection of samples and multiple access points sought, in order to minimize sample bias. SPSS was used to analyses the quantitative data, while NVivo was used to order qualitative data.