In this paper we explore the impact of the current economic downturn on Polish migrants in the Irish labour market. Ireland appears to be well suited to study the impact of the recession on intra-European migration. The country has not only experienced large-scale inward migration from the new EU Member states (NMS) in recent years, but has also been severely hit by a recession. At times of an economic crisis, questions have begun to be asked about the future intentions of migrants. By drawing on an ongoing Qualitative Panel Study on the experience of Polish migrants in the Irish labour market, we argue that simplistic assumptions about migrants leaving the country ‘when times are getting tough’ are misplaced. No doubt some NMS migrants will leave because of the worsening economic situation and new opportunities elsewhere. As East-West migration has adopted a more temporary and circular character facilitated by a free movement regime, NMS migrants have the opportunity to move on elsewhere at times of a downturn. At the same time, many Polish migrants are ‘here to stay’, for the moment at least. This is for at least three reasons. A clear majority of NMS migrants remains in employment, in spite of the downturn. Furthermore, even if migrants should lose their jobs, welfare state arrangements in the host country offer some protection against destitution. Moreover, the decision to migrate, and consequently to stay or move on, is not just reached on the basis of economic considerations alone. Particularly social networks are of importance in sustaining the migration process relatively independent from short-term economic change, including an economic downturn.
Sociological Research Online – SAGE
Published: Mar 1, 2009
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