The Employer Perspective

UndocNet Overview
Leena Kumarappan
London Metropolitan University
Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities,
traps or class-based constructs.
Aims and objectives
 To build on macro and micro developments in the
area of global migration within the current context
 To explore the labour market experiences and
aspirations of undocumented migrants within these
increasingly constrained environments
 To examine decisions to use or not use co-ethnic
networks in the search for work, and for workers.
 To contribute to, and develop, the theoretical
debates in the area of social capital.
 The complexity of employment relationships and
decision-making explored from the perspectives of
undocumented migrant workers and migrant enclave
 Three country-of-origin groups: Bangladeshi, Chinese
and from Turkey and Northern Cyprus including Kurds
 In-depth interviews with 55 undocumented workers and
24 ethnic enclave employers
 An asynchronous internet focus group with invited
employers to discuss views and experiences
 Undocumented worker
interviews were conducted
by trained community
interviewers in the workers’
first languages
 Participants accessed
through multiple starting
points: community
organisations, personal
contacts, leafleting and cold
calling, and through
 Employer interviews were
conducted by the project
researchers in English;
employers accessed through
multiple starting points
 Participants accessed
through multiple starting
points: community
organisations and
individuals, business
associations, cold calling
shops and businesses
Sample overview
Profile of Sample, Base number =
Profile of Sample, Base number =
The Worker Perspective
Sonia McKay
London Metropolitan University
Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities,
traps or class-based constructs.
 Undocumented migrants – numbers
unknown but potentially more than
half million
 Routes of entry for legal migration
 Exclusion of labour law rights
Key consequences of
undocumented status
 Fear, anxiety and isolation;
 Inability to travel, including returning home;
 Inability to access public services;
 Limitations on access to jobs;
 Exploitative treatment at the workplace;
 Problems regarding trust and disclosure in work; and
 Hostile attitudes from co-workers with status.
 But – not without regulation and agency
Poor treatment and harsh
37 year old Bangladeshi restaurant
worker in the UK 14 years
‘Employers tend to treat us bad,
hassle us, mentality disturb
us…and the people who are
legally here, they treat us badly.
This is how my time is being spent
here, I am mentally suffering. I am
37 years of age…I love working
but in Indian restaurants, people
get no respect. People don’t get
paid properly if they are illegal.’
Ex-cockle picker
‘Very hard conditions; we lived in
Liverpool. We had to take a coach to
travel more than two hours to the
seaside to work every day. Between
April and May, the weather there is
very cold. Even if you wear
Wellington boots, you still get wet.
And if you don't wear any boots, the
water is just freezing. It was very
hard work. You had to concentrate
and move fast to pick up the cockles.
If you stopped or you were too slow,
you wouldn't get many cockles and
you wouldn't be able to earn money.’
Exclusion from statutory rights
Undocumented worker in
HSE study
 Lack of dismissal protection
 ‘I don't have [any documents],
because I work illegally, that's
why maybe tomorrow they tell
me sorry we don't need you
anymore, in spite of being
working there for over six
months, if I had they can't sack
me so easy.’
33 year old Bangladeshi
male in UK 12 years
 Non-payment of wages
‘I worked in a couple of places
where they didn’t pay me for three
to four weeks. I couldn’t protest as
I had no papers. There was a
factory in [East London] and they
didn’t pay me for three months.
When I protested there, they told
me I had no papers so couldn’t
prove anything.’ (Anik)
Chinese student overstayer in UK four years
Chinese restaurant worker
in UK 12 years
‘They knew that you couldn’t do
anything about it; they knew that
you couldn’t find another job so
easily; they might know that since
I had become used to with
working as a waitress, I might not
even want to leave it for some
other job. Yes…, that was part of
the reason, I think.’ (Chow)
‘Because the boss was rather loud
mouthed. New recruits couldn’t
stand the way s/he shouted at
people… I found it hard to take it
too, but I knew I had to put up
with it, because I needed the job,
because I had no residential status.
Some new recruits were so scared
that they burst in to tears.’
Alternative forms of regulation
 A system with clearly defined rules
 A hierarchy of jobs and routes to progression
 Established and understood rates of pay
 Methods of job progression
 Systems of training
 A London penalty
Mohit:, 32 yr old male, 6
yrs in UK
Jain, 32 yr old male, 9 yrs in
Rodja, 53 yr old female, 25 yrs in
UK )
 In the host country:
 The first two year I worked in restaurants as I didn’t know much or many people. I was in a
position that I couldn’t do anything else. Also, restaurants had free board and lodging. (Sanjay, 38
yr old Bangladeshi male, 5 yrs in UK)
In the job:
 Because after six years working there, I had learnt all the skills needed; by the time I left the place
I was already a chef… Six years of working had enabled me to learn the skills to be a chef. (Jian,
32 yr old, Chinese male, 9 yrs in UK)
Training and learning
Pay rates and agency
Skill shortages
The Employer Perspective
Alice Bloch
University of Manchester
Undocumented Migrants, Ethnic Enclaves and Networks: Opportunities,
traps or class-based constructs.
Key characteristics of Employer Sample
 24 in-depth interviews - diverse routes of access
 5 female, 19 male
 Areas covered:
Migration histories
Routes into business
First business – types, recruitment, financing
Additional/subsequent businesses
Workplace relations
Preferred characteristics of workers
Employing undocumented migrants: past present
Knowledge and impact of policies and sanctions
Figure 1: Current business by country of origin group
Base number: 24 employers and 28 different business
Take away
Retail and services
Hair and beauty
Preferred worker characteristics
 Needs of business: skills (e.g. chefs)
 I can’t have an Englishman as a creative chef (B2RM)
 Different roles in the business
In the restaurant [you] cannot employ any other people…Its ok for waiter,
waitress, not in the kitchen. They got to know how to cook the Chinese food
 Language – colleagues and customer base
…ninety-five percent of the customer from the Sylhet (B6SM)
Preferred worker characteristics
 Bangladeshi people are very hard working, physically hard
working (B2TM).
 …there’s only so many jobs that you can give to nonChinese-speaking people… and experience has shown that
they tend not to be as reliable. I’m not being racist here I’m
just telling you my experience…they just don’t turn up…so
we don’t actually employ a lot of non-Chinese, not because
we don’t want to but because in reality once you start
employing them they don’t achieve the same performance
as a Chinese person and it certainly would create a bit of,
erm, difficulty in communication in the workplace (C3RM).
Business: Families and trust
‘…ethnic economy’, at closer scrutiny, seems to be an
‘economy of trust’’ (Wahlbeck, 2007: 552).
 My husband’s cousin [is] our manager; he’s like part of our family
 Even when we’re doing the tile business, he was working for us he is like
our brother, we are always together. We leave him everything to him at
nights and go home and sleep (T6SM).
 Well my dad and myself are the directors, my sister is also in the office,
my uncle also works in the office, erm, Hamed is my cousin, he works in
the office, Yusef is like a member of the family, we’ve known him
through family connections (B5SF).
Recruitment of workers: Social networks
…the Bangladeshi community… go back, er, fifteen years/twenty years you had
ninety-five percent of the resident came from that district of Sylhet…So they
knew each other from school and college...So when a friend opened a
restaurant, you know, it would be ‘oh, I’m opening a restaurant’ and the other
friend would go and help…if somebody wanted a job they phoned...and
somebody would come up and say ‘hey, so and so’s looking for a waiter, so and
so’s looking for a...’. Or, the same token if you were looking for a staff for your
restaurant you’d ring somebody up: ‘oh, do you of anybody free’... (B1RM).
So we mostly rely on, erm, personal references. You know, got a friend or some
relatives (C3RM).
Employing undocumented migrants
 ‘you’ve got to be careful these days’ (C2RM).
 C3RM..‘you don’t want to take any chances’.
 B1RM says, he doesn’t employed undocumented
migrants, ’because I can’t afford to pay that fine’.
Figure 2: Employment of undocumented migrants in the past
and currently
Base number: 24
Yes in the past
Yes currently
Employing undocumented migrants
 Short term fill-in – mutually beneficial
 I have taken somebody on for a couple of weeks where...a kitchen porter’s
left...‘oh I’ve got a cousin of mine but he hasn’t got any card or nothing’. ‘Well
look, just send him down and while I’m sort of searching for somebody at least
he get two weeks work, a bit of pocket money’….I’ve had loads (B2TM).
 While visas are getting sorted
 Disagree with policy
 Empathy/often personal experience (Kurds from Turkey)
 Some people come, I mean they haven’t got papers but they are good people,
they need money. They need it, if you don’t give them job what are they going
to do (T9RF)?
‘ wife won’t allow me to employ them with no documents’
‘I don’t mind sometimes because my location is changing all the
time so I’m taking a risk, of course. Between you and me we
employ some without documents’.
‘I dare not to employ them because you’ve got to understand the
five thousand pounds per person. And also you are involved with
the court case and trials’.
...some of the Chinese people from mainland, they are really rely
on job to support the family, otherwise they won’t come all the way
from China, six thousand mile, and that’s the problem. Because of
the immigration law and they’re a bit scared but they’re still taking
a risk, same me and same them, we both (C7SM).
 Importance of co-ethnic networks - informality is dominant
mode of recruitment
 Preferred workers based on ethnicity, gender and trust ‘like
 Obligations of kinship and community solidarity
 Employers awareness of who they employ – in relation to
status - and their reasons are clear
 No one analysis – practices influenced a number of factors
including: kinship, community ethnic and political solidarity,
immigration status, availability of workers, linguistic, cultural
and gender preferences, perceptions of good workers,
government policy and economic considerations.

similar documents