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Racialised “price-tag”: Commodification of migrant workers on transnational employment agencies’ websites

Racialised “price-tag”: Commodification of migrant workers on transnational employment agencies’ websites

Samaluk, Barbara (2014) Racialised “price-tag”: Commodification of migrant workers on transnational employment agencies’ websites. In: Pajnik, Mojca and Anthias, Floya, (eds.) Work and the challenges of belonging: Migrants in globalizing economies. Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, pp. 155-178. ISBN 9781443858113

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The following chapter explores the commodification of migrant workers from post-socialist EU Accession 8 countries on transnational employment agencies’ websites. Research shows that on the UK labour market these workers are most commonly referred to as “Eastern Europeans” and constructed through the narratives of a high work ethic and their willingness to take up hard-to-fill jobs (Anderson et al. 2006; MacKenzie and Forde 2009; Wills et al. 2010). This suggests that discourse can play an important role in producing commodified groups of workers also by “prescribing” a certain identity that can have various negative effects on migrant workers (Dyer et al. 2008; McDowell et al. 2007; Thompson et al. 2001). Research identifies that EU Accession 8 workers face de-skilling, devaluation, racism and a glass ceiling, which can furthermore have gender-specific dimensions (Anderson 2000; Currie 2007; Stevenson 2007; Wills et al. 2010). Moreover research evidence shows that this group of migrant workers increasingly make use of transnational employment agencies to access jobs in the UK and that a number of Poles have been recruited already at home, sometimes on the basis of exaggerated promises (Currie 2008; Ryan et al. 2007; White and Ryan 2008; Wills et al. 2010). Agency work may also be the most accessible form of work for those who lack sufficient English language skills (McCollum et al. 2012). This indicates that employment agencies act as important intermediaries within the transnationalised labour markets. As such they can also play an important role in assigning migrant workers a specific value and position.
Research evidence suggests that employment agencies determine EU Accession 8 workers for certain sectors or occupations, and it also tells us of various abuses of migrant workers in the hands of agencies (Currie 2007; MacKenzie and Forde 2009; McKay 2009; Trade Union Congress 2007; Wills et al. 2010). It is thus crucial to turn the spotlight also onto the practices of transnational employment agencies that actively market and supply this group of workers to the UK and as such participate in assigning them specific value. This is addressed in this chapter by exploring the following question: how have EU Accession 8 workers been discursively commodified on transnational employment agencies’ websites? Based on qualitative discourse analysis of 39 transnational employment agencies’ websites, this chapter exposes the role of these agencies in contemporary colonial projects within post-socialist central and Eastern Europe. The chapter commences by exploring the theoretical approach adopted upon Bourdieuian sociology and critical discourse analysis. It then continues by presenting the method and sample used. It goes on to present the research’s findings and, finally, discusses its contributions and implications.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Commodification, Migrant workers, Transnational employment agencies, Racism
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU)
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:37

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