The Polish worker in Norway : emerging patterns of migration, employment and incorporation after EU's eastern enlargement
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AbstractIn 2004, Poland’s accession to the EU triggered what is now considered to be the largest migration flow to Norway in history. In the next seven to eight years, well over a hundred thousand Polish workers were recruited to work in construction, manufacturing, low-skilled services and agriculture. This thesis explores the ways in which Polish migrant workers have adapted to and become incorporated into Norwegian society during these initial years of an emerging migration system. The main research questions are:
- What factors and processes lead some Polish labour migrants to settle down in Norway and others to return to Poland? In a context of free movement, how do these migrants adapt and make decisions about length of stay, settlement and return migration?
- Under what conditions and to what extent are Polish migrant workers incorporated into the regular Norwegian labour market? What opportunities do they have to improve their position over time? What kinds of barriers do they face in the Norwegian labour market?
- Are Polish migrant workers likely to remain employed or do they risk exclusion from the labour market over time? How does structural change in the labour market in the wake of migration interact with processes of labour market exclusion?
The study finds that although many migrants return home after a period of temporary work, many others go through a gradual process of settlement (often despite their original intentions) that can be conceptualized as three stages of migration. Although their freedom of movement as EU citizens provides an opportunity to extend the open-ended phase of migration for much longer than in the past, a gradual settlement process often occurs, shaped by family life and social networks and by opportunity structures in the labour market. I argue that because the migrant workers are recruited to satisfy a permanent need for labour and because family life and social obligations place considerable constraints on transnational and circular adaptations over time, a substantial share of them will most likely end up settling permanently in Norway. The analyses thus suggest that some contemporary accounts emphasizing the fluidity and transience of today’s intra-European East-West mobility may be slightly premature. In the wake of large-scale recruitment of migrant workers, migrant-intensive sectors have gone through extensive structural changes involving casualization of labour relations, ethnic segmentation and the rise of new forms of labour-market inequality between native and immigrant workers. In their efforts to access stable employment, Polish migrants face several obstacles, including cultural constructions of otherness and employers’ notions of nationally ascribed suitability for different kinds of work, typically framed in terms of different “work cultures”. Often used by the migrants themselves when competing for jobs and assignments, such stereotyped notions become self-fulfilling prophesies which shape labour demand and help migrants access peripheral parts of the labour market, while restricting their opportunities for upward mobility. The study found that atypical and precarious employment substantially increased the risk of unemployment in a period of labour-market uncertainty and lowered demand after the international financial crisis. Combined with the gradual process of settlement, the establishment of new precarious and substandard immigrant niche employment segments, and the barriers migrants face when trying to access more stable employment, the analyses suggest that Polish labour migrants may risk facing more traditional “integration problems” related to labour-market exclusion and short employment careers.
List of papers. Papers I-III are removed from the thesis due to copyright restrictions.
Paper I: Friberg, Jon Horgen and Cindy Host (forthcoming): “Respondent Driven Sampling and the structure of migrant populations”. Accepted for publication as a chapter in a book edited by Lisa Johnston and Guri Tyldum about methodological challenges to the application of Respondent Driven Sampling (RDS) in migration research.
Paper II: Friberg, Jon Horgen (2012): “The stages of migration: from going abroad to settling down. Postaccession Polish migrant workers in Norway”. Published in Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 38, Issue 10, December 2012. doi:10.1080/1369183X.2012.711055
Paper III: Friberg, Jon Horgen (2012): “Culture at work: Polish migrants in the ethnic division of labour on Norwegian construction sites”. Published in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Volume 35, Issue 11, 2012. doi:10.1080/01419870.2011.605456
Paper IV: Friberg, Jon Horgen (2012): “The guest-worker syndrome revisited? Migration and employment among Polish workers in Norway’s capital”. Published in Nordic Journal of Migration Research, Volume 2, Issue 4, 2012. doi:10.2478/v10202-012-0002-z