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Who Needs Migrant Workers?Labour shortages, immigration, and public policy$
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Martin Ruhs and Bridget Anderson

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199580590

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580590.001.0001

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UK Food Businesses' Reliance on Low‐Wage Migrant Labour: A Case of Choice or Constraint?

UK Food Businesses' Reliance on Low‐Wage Migrant Labour: A Case of Choice or Constraint?

Chapter:
(p.193) 7 UK Food Businesses' Reliance on Low‐Wage Migrant Labour: A Case of Choice or Constraint?
Source:
Who Needs Migrant Workers?
Author(s):

Andrew Geddes

Sam Scott

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580590.003.0007

This chapter critically examines migrant labour demand at the producer‐end of the UK food industry. This industry has experienced considerable intensification over recent decades, associated with the concentration of power amongst a relatively small number of transnational food producers and retailers. For labour‐intensive employers, this process has manifested itself in an increasing dependence upon low‐wage migrant workers (principally from Poland, Lithuania, and Portugal). We map this dependence and assess the extent to which it is inevitable. Our argument is simple: the use of low‐wage, and mainly temporary, migrant labour functions as a hidden ‘subsidy’ to hard‐pressed employers. There are other options available to farmers and food processors in the UK, but the easiest response to falling profit margins is to cut labour costs and raise productivity by importing workers eager for employment (however intense this employment may have become).

Keywords:   migration, low‐status, gangmasters, intermediaries, labour markets, food, farming, intensification

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