Working Paper

"London the Leveller": Ghanaian Work Strategies and Community Solidarity

Published 1 January 2007 / By Ellie Vasta, Leander Kandilige

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In Britain, there is much concern, both in policy and public discourses, about immigrant integration and social cohesion. But how do immigrants themselves perceive the process of settlement in the UK? This question is examined through an exploration of the work strategies developed by Ghanaian immigrants in London , in their quest to live a decent life. In this paper, we explore three questions. The first is concerned with how Ghanaians negotiate relations of power in the process of developing viable work strategies in London. Secondly, how are their work strategies shaped or mediated by family and community ties and social networks, and in what ways do they provide the basis of 'integration' into their ethnic communities and into the broader 'imagined community'? Thirdly, how do Ghanaians themselves define and live 'integration' and cohesion? Our results indicate that Ghanaians experience a 'levelling' process in their work lives in London where they continually juggle between various levels of job exploitation, racism and adequate pay. In addition, Ghanaians maintain strong family and community ties, a tradition carried over from Ghana. In distinction to Granovetter's idea that weak ties outside of one's community are likely to provide the more relevant and adequate information and resources, we found that weak ties within the community provide the same function. Finally, immigrants tend to define 'integration' differently from 'sense of belonging'.


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