What are the mechanisms of differential inclusion and segregation of migrant workers in the agro-industrial labour markets?


Project Summary

This project engages in a comparative enquiry into the triple dynamics of race, space and “illegality” in the reproduction of migrant precarious labour conditions in European agro-industrial labour markets. The complex question how and why “illegality” and “race” may become productive in the segmentation of precarious migrant workers across Europe is currently widely discussed. The project will address this question in a systematic way through five original case studies that are currently almost uncovered by research on migrant labour in Italian, Swiss and Belgian horticulture (specifically the research focuses on Emilia-Romagna, Basilicata; Swiss Midlands and Lake Geneva Region; and Limburg).

This comparative ethnographic analysis of migrant employment regimes is meant to contribute to a better understanding of mechanisms of differential inclusion and segregation of migrant workers in competitive agri-food chains. The projects aims at developing a framework for more socially sustainable production regimes in the studied contexts and at exploring approaches that might improve difficult working conditions of migrants in agriculture.
 

Academic Output

Executive Summary

This project focuses on labour market mediation in the domain of expanding agrobusiness in Europe. Starting from the observation that a large section of agricultural labour today is performed by transnational migrants from both within and outside the European Union, we analyze how these workers are typically caught in a web of multiscalar institutional assemblages that channel, filter and differentiate their permissions, rights and claims in the context of Europe’s rapidly transforming border and migration regimes. At the same time, we analyze how migrant labour becomes actively integrated into intensified retail-driven and flexible commodity networks. New Plantations highlights this new labour paradigm while also pushing for a conceptual innovation to better grasp the multiscalar and multidimensional framing of migrant subject positions in this context.
 

Working Paper

New Plantations: Arbitrating ‘Seasonal Migrant Labour’ in Europe
The present working paper summarizes the results of a project titled New plantations Migrant mobility, ‘illegality’ and racialization in European agricultural labour. Our work in this project focuses on labour market mediation in the domain of expanding agro-business in Europe. We start from the consideration that a large section of agricultural labour today is performed by transnational migrants coming from both within and outside the European Union (see e.g. Forum civique européen 2002, Potot 2010, Morice and Michalon 2009, Gertel/Sippel 2014, Duflot 2011, Corrado/de Castro/Perrotta 2017). While practicing different strategies of mobility, such migrant workers are typically caught in a web of multiscalar border assemblages, which channel, filter and differentiate their permissions, rights and claims. At the same time, their presence is also partly a reaction to the generated need for cheap and flexible labour in what have become increasingly globalized food production chains on the continent. One of the major factors behind the rapid expansion of precarious migrant labour in the European agri-food sector, for example, has been the intensification of flexible, retail-driven – or monopsonic – agricultural production in the context of international trade liberalization. Such transformations often fall back on, and keep on propelling the demand for malleable, low-paid work these migrant workers are increasingly asked to fulfill. New Plantations highlights this new labour paradigm while also pushing for a conceptual innovation to better grasp the multiscalar and multidimensional dimensions of migrant labour in this context.

Project Team
Karel Arnaut
Timothy Raeymaekers
Sarah Schilliger
Dina Bolokan
Ilaria Ippolito
Domenico Perrotta 

Host University 
University of Zurich

Project Funding
SNIS Kooperationsprojekt

Project Period
01/2016 – 05/2018