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

Andrew Geddes and Sam Scott

in Who Needs Migrant Workers?

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199580590
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595257 | DOI:
UK Food Businesses' Reliance on Low‐Wage Migrant Labour: A Case of Choice or Constraint?

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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

Chapter.  11738 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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