Polish migration to Ireland post-2004

This book examines Polish migration to Ireland in the context of ‘new mobilities in Europe’. It includes detailed accounts of the working lives of a group of mainly skilled Polish migrants in Dublin. They were interviewed at regular intervals as part of a Qualitative Panel Study. Through this novel methodology, their careers and aspirations were traced as Ireland moved from ‘boom to bust’. What the research documents is a new experience of mobility which, it is suggested, is indicative of a broader trend in Europe. As ‘free movers’, Polish migrants were more mobile across countries and within national labour markets. Ireland’s ‘goldrush’ labour market created a seemingly endless demand for new labour. To understand how Irish firms utilized the new migrant workforce, the book also draws on interviews with employers. It thus locates the actions of both sides of the employment relationship in the particular socio-economic context in Ireland post-2004.

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in New mobilities in Europe

This chapter develops the conceptual argument of the book. It argues that migration from the new EU member states is above all characterised by new mobility patterns which are indicative of a broader trend across Europe. New mobilities are facilitated by the EU free movement regime and new travel opportunities. As European migrants are no longer dependent upon a work permit, the ‘boundaryless career’ in which employment is no longer confined to a single firm, occupation or indeed nation-state becomes a distinct possibility. While work and employment remain crucial for this cross-border mobility, the move abroad is increasingly inspired by lifestyle choices as well.

in New mobilities in Europe
A Qualitative Panel Study and workplace studies

This chapter outlines the research methodology of the study. It argues that a Qualitative Panel Study represents an innovative methodological tool to study the worklife pathways of migrants in a dynamic manner. As migrants are increasingly mobile not only across countries but also within national labour markets, a repeat interview methodology enables researchers to trace the careers of migrants across organisational and national boundaries. The chapter further outlines the rationale for also interviewing employers and recruitment agencies as part of the study of migration and work. To contextualise the choices of both sides of the employment relationship in the broader socio-economic context, the research has been complemented with stakeholder interviews and an analysis of labour market data.

in New mobilities in Europe
Polish migrants in the Irish labour market

This chapter locates mass migration from Poland in the broader Irish labour market context at the beginning of the twenty-first century. It shows how an unprecedented economic boom in conjunction with an open labour market policy in 2004 triggered large-scale migration from Poland and elsewhere. Ireland’s ‘goldrush’ labour market was able to integrate large-scale migrant flows without leading to major displacement of local workers. However, in the context of ‘light’ labour market regulation, incidents of migrant worker underpayment occurred which became an issue of concern in particular for the Irish trade union movement. In 2008, the country was hit by an unprecedented economic crisis and rising unemployment. However, in spite of the dramatically changed economic circumstances, Ireland is still host to a substantial foreign population as the mass migration that ensured post-2004 is likely to leave a lasting impact on the workplace and wider society.

in New mobilities in Europe
Migrant aspirations and employer strategies

This chapter examines migrant aspirations and employer recruitment strategies in the aftermath of EU enlargement. Polish migrants were attracted to Ireland by the prospect of an endless supply of jobs and a higher income. However, non-economic motives such as the desire to travel and to learn the English language were also present. Upon arrival in Ireland, migrants found employment in both skilled and less-skilled jobs, utilising a number of formal and informal recruitment channels. On the employer side, the chapter documents how Ireland’s open labour market policy transformed the recruitment strategies of Irish firms. Whereas pre-enlargement firms were more likely to recruit migrants from outside of the European Economic Area, this changed after 2004 and the arrival of a qualified workforce. As employers were keen to fill labour shortages, Ireland’s ‘goldrush’ labour market appeared as a ‘win-win’ situation for both sides of the employment relationship.

in New mobilities in Europe

This chapter addresses the experiences of Polish migrants in the Irish workplace. It explores to what extent their experiences were shaped by sectoral and occupational differences and how migrants interacted with employers and the regulatory environment of the Irish workplace. The chapter documents the often informal and casual work environment especially in less-skilled jobs. However, work in these supposedly ‘bad jobs’ was not necessarily experienced as such, in particular when comparisons were made to Poland. This was even more visible in relation to skilled occupations where migrants reported a rather positive work culture that was seen as less hierarchical and authoritarian than in Poland. Some respondents valued their multinational workplace. Generally group relations were described as rather good. However, since the onset of the recession, some group tensions became visible especially in the construction sector that has experienced a dramatic rise in unemployment.

in New mobilities in Europe
Mobility across organisations and nations

This chapter examines the career trajectories of Polish migrants as they moved through the Dublin labour market and beyond. What became apparent was the diversity of career paths. While some migrants had trajectories that began to resemble traditional career models, others took up jobs either not related to their qualifications or for purposes other than traditional understandings of career progression. Some of these careers became ‘boundaryless’ in that employment was not confined to a single firm, occupation, sector or indeed nation-state. What emerged quite strongly from the interviews was the extent to which the work biographies of migrants involved considerably more than just the pursuit of linear career progression. Jobs were sometimes viewed as facilitating a mobile lifestyle or leading towards a ‘project of self-realisation’ (Kennedy, 2010). Ultimately, migrants pursued worklife pathways which were not just work-related but also involved lifestyle choices as part of a broader aspiration for self-development.

in New mobilities in Europe
Technologies of mobility and transnational lives

This chapter examines the mobility patterns of Polish migrants in the context of new ‘technologies of mobility’. Of particular importance was low-cost air travel which facilitated the initial migration move to Ireland and allowed for subsequent two-way traffic between the two countries. However, what was even more remarkable was the extent to which Ireland became a jumping-off point for visiting new places in Europe and beyond. Arguably, the Irish migration experience introduced many Polish migrants to a new world of mobility and travel as they began to discover new countries and destinations. In addition to physical movement, new information and communication technologies (ICTs) were of particular importance in maintaining transnational contacts. In conjunction with new travel opportunities, ICTs created a new experience of mobility beyond the ‘container’ of the nation-state, as Polish migrants increasingly lived a transnational life ‘in-between’.

in New mobilities in Europe
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Worklife pathways in a boom-to-bust economy

This chapter examines how Polish migrants assessed their time in Ireland. Whereas some thought that they advanced in the labour market, others felt they remained entrapped in some rather low-wage jobs. Nevertheless, even for the latter the move abroad was generally seen as a positive experience as they acquired new skills and developed from a personal point of view. Whereas almost all respondents had arrived in Ireland during the Celtic Tiger boom years, the economic crisis and rising unemployment in 2008 meant that they had to re-adjust their strategies to a dramatically altered economic environment. For some this was a contributory factor in returning to Poland or moving on elsewhere. For others, however, it meant staying in Ireland and trying to adapt to work and life in ‘Post-Celtic Tiger’ Ireland. Even in a recession migrants continued to pursue different worklife pathways that were not solely determined by economic circumstances.

in New mobilities in Europe