Heading North: Unraveling Subjective Strategies of Young Migrants to Face Precarity

Sunday, 10 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 50 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Stefania ANIMENTO, University of Milan Bicocca, Italy
In this paper I investigate practices of spatial mobility developed by young people in the Global North as a response to growing precarity and uncertainty about their future. Work precarity has further expanded into their lives since the recent increase of youth unemployment across several countries. Many young people living in the European South paralysed by the crisis have moved to the North, where unemployment rates are lower and hopes for an adequate job can be rekindled. Such mobility is more fluid and flexible than traditional forms of work-driven migration. However, even when taking place within a favourable legal framework such as the inner-European one, spatial mobility does not necessarily result in lower precarity. Many young South Europeans end up working precariously in low-wage segments of hosting labour markets. While research shows that the paths of incorporation of intra-European migrants diverge depending on the resources to which they have access, there is a lack of knowledge about what resources are more relevant to young migrants and why it is as such. Today´s European mobile youth are mainly middle class and well-educated. What elements mostly affect their ability to anticipate future paths and thus face precarity? I tackle this question by analysing the case of young Italians who have moved to Berlin since 2008. Based on a set of 40 interviews, an online survey and a discourse analysis of data taken from online forums, my research sheds light on strategies of mobility under conditions of work precarity. Building on empirical evidence, the analysis challenges conventional understandings of class, gender and ethnicity. I claim that we need to seriously consider the restructuring of labour markets that is currently taking place in the Global North and I finally propose new ways to conceptualize the relationship between work and mobility.