‘so Close and Yet so Far Away': Migrants and Nationals in Greek Agriculture before and after the Economic Crisis

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Charalambos KASIMIS , Agricultural University of Athens, Athens, Greece
Apostolos G. PAPADOPOULOS , Department of Geography, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece
In Greece the structure of rural society has changed profoundly since the 1960s.Rural exodus and consequent demographic ageing, restructuring towards more intensive seasonal farming and social rejection of wage labour in agriculture and living in rural areas created labour deficits.

The arrival of international migrants following the collapse of the neighbouring socialist regimes in Albania, Bulgaria and Romania meant new opportunities for the struggling Greek agriculture. The mass availability of flexible, cheap wage labour gave agriculture and rural areas an impetus of development and demographic regeneration.

The employment of these migrants was rather complementary than antagonistic to family labour often freeing family members to undertake other jobs outside agriculture and rural areas. The segmentation of labour markets between the informal and formal implied their smooth operation for the ‘benefit’ of both populations.

However, the economic crisis variously affected the situation and the convergence of the labour markets. The crisis was now expected to bring closer the informal and the formal labour markets leading to a stronger competition for the same jobs the two populations.

Drawing from research material collected in a rural area where the intensive cultivation of strawberries was concentrated, the paper analyses labour relations and living conditions developed between oldcomer and newcomer migrant workers in the region of Elia in western Peloponnese.

The cultivation of strawberries is a typical example of an export driven industrial product while the eemployment of international migrant labour reflects the externalisation of reproduction costs and the demand led character of the labour market. It becomes evident therefore that control over labour costs and labour relations is a critical issue for the competitiveness of the product.Thus, ethnicity, exploitation, racist production relations, irregularity of residence status and arduous working and living conditions are examined in the paper as part of this production model.