Saturday, March 12, 2016

Stakeholder (settled population) views on citizenship, identity and migration

“I mean they did actually advertise for local people and what they told us was that there was about thirty people applied for jobs and only about twelve bothered to turn up for the interview, and then only about four actually wanted the job when they’d got it.”

This anecdote is told by a participant in Tonkiss (2013)’s study. She notes that it was related to her regularly. It suggests that a number of local people applied for jobs, (seasonal agricultural jobs, so potato picking, for example). Less than half of applicants attended for interview; (were all 30 applicants invited?) Of those 12 interviewed, only a third agreed to accept the jobs, (were all 12 suitable enough to be offered jobs?) 

I have heard anecdotes similar to this many times, it could be suggested that in one form or another it has become part of British culture. There's a picture of British workers half-heartedly filling in a job application, perhaps badgered into it by the Job Centre or a family member, but then mostly ignoring the invitation to an interview. Most of those who do bother to attend for the interview apparently get through the whole process, to say, “No thanks, it’s not for me.” Why? Perhaps they find the conditions and remuneration unreasonable.  What does agricultural labour pay for temporary seasonal workers? Does it involve living in remote farm-based accommodation?

The point is, it’s always the local worker who comes out of the story badly, portrayed as feckless, idle and/or greedy. The employer is exasperated by his or her compatriots, obliged to go to an agency who will fill their fields and caravans with diligent, uncomplaining, "hard-working" people from Romania or Bulgaria. Other possible factors, that agricultural work often takes place in locations that cannot be commuted to by local workers, for low wages, are elided from the story. Relatively overall lower wage levels in A2 countries, and the chance for young workers to spend a few months having an adventure abroad, sleeping in a caravan, would explain the differences in willingness between the British and Eastern Europeans.

Tonkiss finds a difference in attitude between individual interviewees and the local authority, (p147). The former are happy to tolerate seasonal workers, acknowledging their contributions to the local and national economy. The local authority official, on the other hand, looks at the matter in terms of identification with the county.

“It’s about trying to get Herefordshire as the identity, as the single identity and actually it doesn’t matter where you came from, whether you’re Polish, Russian, Lithuanian, English, Scottish, Welsh … you know, you’ve chosen to live in Herefordshire so it’s about that sort of like cohesion and community feeling of belonging to Herefordshire.”

But these aren’t really conflicting views. The individual is saying, live and let live so long as we all pay our taxes; the council official is taking the bigger view, thinking of the county. Can we translate these views into national terms?  Read "Scotland" for "Herefordshire"?

[NB on Monday:     1.
                            2.  social attitude data, (for stakeholder aspect of Lit Rev)
                            3.  Go back to Tonkiss]


Tonkiss, K. (2013). Migration and identity in a post-national world. Basingstoke. Palgrave Macmillan.