Migratory Work/Family-Practices On a Precarious Labor Market

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: 415
Oral Presentation
Niels Jul NIELSEN , European Ethnology, Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
This presentation discusses the complexity of migrant lives with regard to the way they travel and make use of border-crossing activities, the diverse conditions they face on the working sites, and the way they structure their family relations and (endeavor to) achieve accountability and stability within their long-term life planning. This session’s three thematic lines hence are in very fine accordance with the way I approach my investigation.

My current research concerns mainly Polish construction workers who are commuting between Poland and Denmark in order to improve their life conditions. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union many Eastern Europeans during the 1990s began to work (illegally) in Western Europe utilizing the tremendous gap in wages between the two former totally divided economies. Following the 2004 EU enlargement workers from the former Eastern bloc obtained legal access to the entire EU labour market. In Denmark some 50,000 mainly Polish workers are working primarily in construction, farming, cleaning and other low-wage sectors. I follow groups of construction workers at work sites and in their families (in Denmark as well as Poland), in order to understand the complex relationships between migrant work and family life. Since I regard it paramount to understand this bottom-up outlook also in a more overall perspective, my material concurrently consists of interviews with representatives from organizations in Denmark as well as Poland and moreover with politicians on both national and EU level.

In other words – relating to the two poles of scholarly stand mentioned in the session abstract – I am interested in strategies and mechanisms of migratory knowledge (and everyday life as a whole), but regard it equally essential to understand how this is reproducible and must be understood as an element in maintaining societal cohesion.