Labour migrants from Central and Eastern Europe in the Nordic countries

Patterns of migration, working conditions and recruitment practices

image of Labour migrants from Central and Eastern Europe in the Nordic countries

This report presents the results from a project that has aimed to generate new comparative knowledge about labour migration from Central and Eastern Europe to the Nordic countries, the factors that shape wage and working conditions for labour migrants and recruitment processes and practices. In the report we:

- Describe and compare patterns of labour migration between Central and Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries.

- Compare the working conditions of Polish labour migrants in in Oslo, Copenhagen and Reykjavik – and analyse how their labour market situation is shaped by variations in national regulations, systems of collective bargaining and local labour market structures.

- Analyse the particular role of recruitment agencies in introducing new migrants to the Nordic labour markets.

The research has been conducted by a team of researchers from Fafo (Norway), FAOS (Denmark), CIRRA/MIRRA (Iceland), CMR (Poland) and SOFI (Sweden).



Introduction and research questions

Parallel to the growth of labour migration from Central and Eastern Europe to the Nordic countries over the last eight years, there has also been a significant growth in the business of temporary staffing and recruitment in the Nordic countries. These trends are by no means unrelated. Temporary staffing agencies are heavily involved in recruiting migrant workers to the Nordic countries and many migrant workers continue to be employed through temporary staffing agencies in their receiving labour markets long after their arrival. But the link between them remains less than clear cut. Native workers still constitute the majority within the temporary staffing industry in most countries, and the majority of recent labour migrants are recruited through other channels. Furthermore, the strength of the link between the two phenomena varies between different countries, and depending on client sectors. In some sectors in some countries (such as shipyards and construction in Norway), the temporary staffing industry is now a pure “migration industry” based solely on the recruitment and employment of migrant workers. In other sectors and other countries temporary staffing does not have any particular connection with labour migration. Temporary staffing has also become the focus of significant political controversy over the last few years. Although these controversies are not solely related to migration, they often are – with concerns over “social dumping” and exploitative working conditions playing a key role. At the same time, substantial efforts to re-regulate the industry has been launched in many of the Nordic countries – at the national level, but also through the implementation of the EU Temporary and Agency Workers Directive (2008/104/EC). In this part of the project we will explore the development in the temporary staffing industry in the Nordic countries and the ways in which these developments are connected to migration. By analysing not just the market for temporary staffing of migrant workers in destination countries but also the market for recruitment of workers in Poland, we will focus on this link from both the sending and receiving end of the chain. By comparing the situation and development in the Nordic countries we will further explore how the business of temporary staffing is institutionally embedded and shaped by the general systems of labour market regulation as well as particular regulations of the temporary staffing industry in different countries.


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