This project aimed to provide background information and provisional analysis for understanding the impact of the global recession of 2009 on vulnerable or precarious workers, including migrants. It looked specifically at the dynamics and inter-relations of global, national and local labour markets through a migration “lens”; the nature of the social, political and economic restructuring processes; and the changes in dynamics of discrimination, citizenship and migration in the context of economic downturn. It reviewed academic, official and press sources not with the intention of being definitive, but in order to generate research priorities and contribute to ongoing debates and campaigns around the issues of low-wage labour and migrant exploitation in the UK.
Economic and Social Research Council
Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)
Initial research involved the drafting of a discussion document summarising the state of knowledge of the recession and its impact on vulnerable workers, particularly migrants. This included a review of published material and an outline survey of what’s going on at a local level. Researchers also produced a briefing on legislative changes to welfare benefits, immigration and citizenship.
These documents helped inform a round table discussion hosted by COMPAS and the Public and Commercial Services Union in March 2009. This brought together practitioners, policy makers and academics active and knowledgeable about issues affecting low waged workers and those marginalized from labour markets, in particular migrants, and unemployed and inactive people. The final report was finalized in the light of the workshop discussions.
The principal findings of the research were as follows:
The research arrived at the possibly unexpected conclusion that there is no such thing as ‘the impact of the recession on migrants’, or rather that it does not constitute the most appropriate or valid object of inquiry. Putting low-wage migrant workers, or precarious and vulnerable workers in general, at the centre of analysis reveals a different picture. Work, benefits and citizenship intersect in a threatening and unpredictable trinity. Looking at the recession from the field, the meatpacking plant, the care home or the construction site does not afford the same view as from the commercial bank, auto assembly plant or even the university.