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The Complex Employment Experiences of Polish Migrants in the UK Labour Market

by Julie Knight
Towson University

Sociological Research Online, 19 (4), 8
DOI: 10.5153/sro.3520

Received: 14 May 2013 | Accepted: 25 Sep 2014 | Published: 30 Nov 2014


Ten years after the most significant enlargement of the European Union (EU), academics and policymakers are still trying to understand the complexities and the experiences of the largest migrant group, the Poles. The main destination for the Polish migrants in the post-2004 period was the United Kingdom (UK). Significant attention has been paid to the economic and political implications of introducing a young, economically motivated migrant group to the UK, particularly during the recession. In regards to their work experience, the majority of the existing literature focuses on Polish migrants who take low-skilled positions when initially entering the UK and, as a result, contribute to the migrant paradox with high-skilled migrants taking low-skilled positions. This article will contribute to the other literature, which focuses on the Polish migrants' ascent up the division of labour in the non-ethnic economy of the destination country. Using data gathered through semi-structured interviews with post-enlargement Polish migrants in 2008 and 2011 in Cardiff, this ascent, and the migrants' work experience, is charted through migrant trajectories that were constructed from similarities identified in the sample. The findings highlight that not all of the Polish migrants in the UK may be contributing to the migrant paradox with several low-skilled migrants advancing up the division of labour. These findings have implications for migration policy at both the EU and the national level, particularly with the continued enlargement of the EU.

Keywords: EU Migration, Division of Labour, Human Capital Development, Trajectories


1.1 In 2004, ten new countries, or new member states, joined the existing fifteen countries, or old member states, of the European Union (EU) (European Commission 2013). These new member states included: Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta and Cyprus. The addition of these countries to the EU was significant due to their geography and size; the political unification of former Communist countries with developed Western countries; and the economic differences between the national economies of the old member states and the new member states (Garapich 2008). As a result of these multi-faceted issues, the majority of the existing EU member states implemented transitional arrangements limiting the potential inflow of migration from eight of the ten new member states (Guardia & Pichelmann 2006). The eight new member states (excluding Malta and Cyprus) that were impacted by the transitional arrangements became known as the Accession 8 or the 'A8' (European Commission 2013). However, three existing member states allowed 'open door policies', with few limitations for the new migrants to enter their borders. The existing member states with open door policies, starting on the date of enlargement 1 May 2004, included the UK, Ireland and Sweden. The decision to have an open door policy was due to the low number of migrants expected to enter these countries because of the distance, language differences and lack of social networks (Dobson et al. 2009; Dustmann et al. 2003).

1.2 In the post-enlargement period, the UK has received the largest inflow of A8 migrants, the Polish migrants, with estimates ranging from approximately 250,000 migrants (Booth et al. 2012) to one million migrants arriving in the UK between 2004-2011 (UKBA 2012). While there are problems associated with counting this migrant group (Gillingham 2012), the impact of this group on the economic and political landscape of the UK has been extensive during a relatively short period (Watts 2006; BBC 2012). The mass migration of Poles to the UK during this time has been attributed to the high unemployment and low wages in Poland circa 2004 in comparison to the potential earnings in the UK due to the strength of the economy at that time (Drinkwater et al. 2006). To put this into perspective, in 2004 Poland had the 3rd lowest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of all of the EU member states (25) and the highest unemployment rate of the A8 countries with 18% unemployment (Drinkwater et al. 2006; Eade et al. 2006).[1]

1.3 The original profile (referred to as 'classic') of the Polish migrants' entering the UK in the post-2004 period was that they were young, highly mobile, well-educated, economically-motivated migrants taking low-skilled positions in the destination country (Home Office 2008; Pollard et al. 2008; Anderson et al. 2006). The main reason for the paradoxical nature of the high-skilled migrant taking low-skilled, sometimes 3D - dangerous, dirty and dull - employment, is, most notably, that they are an economically-driven group and the currency in the destination country allows them to take low-skilled positions while still earning more than in the country of origin (Favell 2008). This argument is supported by the devaluation of the migrants' education from the country of origin (Parrenas 2001), the potential low language skills of the migrant and the short-term nature of the migration. The motivation for the migrant taking this low-skilled employment is also supported as a method to acquire remittance funds (Fihel et al. 2006), gather finance to start a business (Helinska Hughes et al. 2009), or as a means to acquire funds while searching for another position (Parutis 2011). What this approach to a large-scale migration fails to take into account is the experience of migrants who do not fit into this profile.

1.4 Over the ten years since enlargement, the literature has noted that many of the Polish migrants possessed other, non-economic characteristics that can be used to amend the original profile (Burrell 2010; Burrell 2009). This variation is particularly obvious regarding the economic rationality of the migrants and their short-term migration plans. Regardless of these characteristics, the development of human capital - education and language skills - by the migrant, whether intentional through schooling while in the destination country or through total immersion in the destination country, is cited as a significant factor in both the migrants' ability to enter the labour market in the UK as well as in their decision to stay in the UK for the longer term (Nowicka 2012).

1.5 This article aims to contribute to the literature on post-2004 Polish migrants living in the UK, who do not possess the classic profile and have still excelled in the UK labour market. Using trajectories that were constructed from semi-structured interviews in Cardiff in 2008 and 2011, this article will focus on the economic motivations of the migrants involved in the non-ethnic economy of the wider Cardiff area. While the ethnic economy is considered 'an ethnic group's self-employed, employers and co-ethnic employees' in an undefined area (Bonacich & Model 1980: 124), the non-ethnic economy is inclusive of all economic activity outside of the ethnic economy (Portes & Bach 1985). To understand the respondents' unorthodox rise in the division of labour, trajectories are created which highlight the migrants' actions and motivations throughout their migration period. Trajectories were created instead of typologies as the former allows us to understand the transitions the migrants make over time and, by doing so, demonstrate the dynamism of this emerging population (Nowicka 2013).

1.6 The article will continue as follows. The next section will be a review of the existing literature on the migrant work experience in the labour market of the destination country. Where possible, the literature will focus on the post-2004 Polish migrants in the UK. The following section will provide an explanation of the methodology that was used to conduct the research in Cardiff. The next section will be an overview of the findings focusing on two main trajectories, 'the linguists' and 'the careerists'. This section will highlight the aforementioned varied characteristics of the migrants who managed to ascend the division of labour in the UK labour market. The following section will provide a brief discussion relating the findings to the existing literature. The article will close with the concluding remarks.

Literature Review

2.1 The economic motivations of the Polish migrants entering the UK in the post-2004 period are well documented either as the migrants' sole motivation or as part of a complex migration strategy (Burrell 2010; Thompson 2009; Thompson et al. 2010). This economic emphasis could be linked to a number of issues during the migration period including the push and pull of the economic conditions in the country of origin and the destination country (Drinkwater & Clark 2000), the employment opportunities in the destination country (Anderson et al. 2007), or the potential development of human capital in the destination country (Gungor & Tansel 2008).These economic motivations can lead migrants to take low skilled positions when initially entering the country of origin to start accruing capital, both finance and human, while deciding their next steps. The 'next steps' in this timeline are a turning point for the migrants' in regards to their work experience in the labour market of the destination country in the long-term.

2.2 Historically, Piore's dual labour market theory focuses on the regional labour market conditions in the destination country and the social status of workers in the hierarchy (Piore 1979). The dual labour market is comprised of two types of workers: the high-skilled workers and the low-skilled workers. During a period of prosperity, the native workforce moves up the division of labour leaving a shortage of labour in the bottom of the labour market. Accordingly, the demand for migrants in the destination country is based on labour shortages and specifically a shortage of labour at the bottom of the labour market (Piore 1979). When supply exceeds demand the migrants do not have upward mobility in the divided labour market, competition for employment ensues and the migrants' wages decrease due to the increase in supply (Piore as cited in Jennissen 2006). The low-skilled workers can never become the high-skilled workers as the groups are completely separate (Piore as cited in Jennissen 2006). On one hand, through keeping the workers separate this theory negates the neo-classical theory with its cyclical nature and wages as a migrant motivation. On the other hand, while a job is important to an economic migrant, Piore's theory (1979) fails to explain migrants who migrate in a time of recession as well as those who rely on the ethnic economy due to a lack of other options.

2.3 Parutis (2011) focuses less on the labour market demand of the destination country and more on the entry point of migrants at the bottom of the labour market. According to Parutis (2011), the acceptance of low-wage, low-skilled jobs by migrants can be attributed to the migrant's necessity to earn. In her study of Polish and Lithuanian migrants in the UK, Parutis describes them using the term 'middling transnationalism', which alludes to the paradoxical nature of the migrants as high-skilled individuals taking low-skilled jobs (Anderson et al. 2006; Anderson et al. 2007; Conradson & Latham 2005; Parutis 2011). In terms of migrant motivations this 'middling transnational' will seek any position when reaching the destination country to earn enough to live (Parutis 2011). Once savings are accrued, the migrant can then move on to a better job.

2.4 Although extending the applicability of Piore's theory in focusing on labour shortage and demand, Parutis' (2011) theory does little to address migrant motivations beyond their desire to earn money once they are in the destination country. The theory describes the migrant's ascent in the division of labour, which is in sharp contrast to Piore's (1979) assertion that the migrants will remain at the bottom of the division of labour for the duration of the migration period. Through the migrant starting at the bottom of the labour market in the destination country when initially migrating and then moving up the division of labour, Parutis' theory is based on Chiswick et al.'s (2005) U-shaped pattern of immigrant progression in the division of labour of the destination country.

2.5 Chiswick et al. (2005) conceptualises the immigrant work experience in the destination country, in contrast to their experience in the home country, with a 'U-shaped' pattern. This pattern is meant to depict the high level of occupational achievement the migrant had in their home country, the low level position they took when initially migrating to the destination country and the migrants' ascent up the division of labour in the destination country. To achieve this occupational attainment in the destination country, the migrants will have a high-level occupation prior to migrating, have developed their human capital prior to migrating, and will acquire additional 'location specific' human capital in the destination country (Chiswick et al. 2005). The more non-transferable the skills of the migrant are between the country of origin and the destination country, the more likely the migrant is to immediately have low employment options but will, over time, have significant upward occupational mobility in the destination country because location-specific human capital is acquired (Barrett & Duffy 2008). In contrast, Parutis (2011) discusses the migrant's ascent up the division of labour from when the migrant enters the country and only mentions the migrant's high-skilled nature prior to migrating through the migrant paradox. There is no mention of previous high-skilled employment in the country of origin.

2.6 With the characteristics outlined in the introduction and the expected upward ascent in the division of labour outlined in this section, the Polish migrants should be transitioning from economically-rational, short-term workers to high-skilled, economically-productive workers contributing to the knowledge economy in the UK. However, what if not all of the Polish migrants in the UK are high-skilled, as was the case with Parutis' sample (2011), but are still moving up the division of labour? This would be a migrant sub-group that is interested in moving up the division of labour in the non-ethnic economy without the necessary qualifications and skills to do so. Traditionally, many of these migrants opt for the ethnic economy in an effort to transition beyond low-skilled unemployment (Acs et al. 2005) but could this transition be replicated in the non-ethnic economy? These are questions to be further explored in the remainder of this article.


3.1 The qualitative data presented in this article was collected as part of a larger study of Polish migrant motivations and trajectories in Cardiff, Wales. As the capital city of Wales, Cardiff is a diverse city with an established history of migration due to the once prominent docklands area (Hooper & Punter 2006). In regards to migration from Poland, according to the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS), from May 1, 2004- April 30, 2011, over 2,500 Poles migrated to Cardiff (Radcliffe 2013). This is the second highest intake of Polish migrants in Wales (Radcliffe 2013). Similar to the wider UK, Poles migrated to Cardiff post-WW2 (Garapich 2008); however, the sample of post-2004 Polish migrants used in this study knew of the post-WW2 Poles in the area but had no interaction with them. This interaction was not a focus of this study.

3.2 The sample of Polish migrants used for this article was collected through snowball sampling aided by two gatekeepers in the Polish non-ethnic economy of Cardiff. The original gatekeeper was Gabriela who was interested in being interviewed to further develop her English language skills with a native English speaker. As the gatekeeper, she set up interviews with her friends within the Polish community in Cardiff. A second gatekeeper, Igor, was also used in 2011. He originally volunteered for the interview, as he was interested in the research that I was conducting. As he did not know Gabriela or any of her friends, he was able to organise interviews with a completely different group of Poles residing in Cardiff. My lack of Polish language skills greatly influenced who Gabriela, Igor and other participants could refer me to for interviews within the community. Through these encounters with the gatekeepers, their referrals and other referrals, 18 semi-structured interviews were completed within the non-ethnic economy in Cardiff.

3.3 In 2008, nine interviews were completed with Polish migrants and in 2011 nine interviews were completed with Polish migrants. The sample was composed of various actors within the non-ethnic economy including managers, researchers and NGO representatives. The data used in this article was taken from interviews will all three sub-groups within the sample. With the exception of one additional question regarding the impact of the recession added to the 2011 interviews, the interview questions asked in 2008 and in 2011 were the same. The interviews were carried out in English. Due to the potential language barrier, an interpreter was provided but was never requested by the participants. The characteristics of the migrants that contributed to the sample are outlined in Table 1.

Table 1. Characteristics of Polish Migrant Sample
Table 1

3.4 The age of the migrants and their varying levels of English language skills support the characteristics of the wider Polish migrant group in the UK. The gender distribution of the sample could be attributed to the snowball sampling as many of the gatekeepers' referrals were females and their referrals were from their social network, which could be constructed on gender lines. The education level of the migrants in the sample is a variation to the larger UK sample of Polish migrants and is a major focal point within this article, which will be discussed further in the proceeding sections. The length of stay of the migrants is also a variation to the UK sample that was originally conceived but is similar to more recent studies of Poles who extended their time in the UK, sometimes indefinitely (Knight & Thompson 2014; Thompson 2009; Thompson et al. 2010; Burrell 2010).

3.5 Using Grounded Theory as the basis for analysis, the qualitative data was thematically coded based on categories that were derived from the text. The interview text was coded using NVIVO 2.0. The nodes used to code the interview transcripts were generated from the data. This analysis was completed in three stages, which provided precise data focused on the migrants' changing motivations during their migration period. Through this extensive review of the data, I was able to retain the context of the original quotes while focusing solely on the specific issues the migrants were discussing. It should be noted that the migrants were not randomly assigned to the categories - linguist or careerist- used in this article. Rather, through reviewing the participants' responses, which provided in-depth information that would not have been captured through a survey, a pattern was identified. This pattern is the basis for the trajectories used in this article. Through the larger study, other patterns were also observed in the participants' responses for those respondents involved in the ethnic economy in Cardiff (Porter 2014). All ethical guidelines set forth by the British Sociological Association were followed. The names of the participants have been changed.


4.1 Due to the emphasis on the work experience of the migrants', a brief review of the pre-employment aspects of migration that are depicted in the individual trajectories will be discussed leading to a more in-depth discussion of the work-related experiences. Prior to their work experience, the migrants in both the careerist and the linguist trajectories had very similar experiences, migrating due to the economic pull factors in the UK, intra-UK migrating to Cardiff and relying on their social networks to find accommodation when initially migrating. Beyond this point in the migrants' trajectory, similarities arise including: the migrants' ascent up the division of labour and their disinterest in returning to Poland. These similarities are interesting given the migrants' varying characteristics and their varying work experiences. The careerists, named so due to their ability to make a career out of what was initially 3D employment, had low English language skills when initially migrating, low education levels, and one employer during their time in the destination country. In contrast, the linguists, named so due to their ability to capitalise on their language prowess for economic gain, had high English language skills prior to migration, high levels of education, and several 3D employers during their migration period.

The Linguist Trajectory

4.2 As depicted in Figure 1, the linguists exhibit the more classic migrant characteristics and migration pattern for the Polish migrants living in the UK in the post-2004 period. The defining characteristic of the migrants' that inform this trajectory is their utilisation of the English-language skills possessed prior to migration in seeking employment.

Figure 1. The Linguist Trajectory
Figure 1

4.3 Despite the high level of English language skills prior to migration, all of the linguists had several 3D jobs when initially entering the UK.

'The first job I had was in a coffee shop in London I stayed for five-six months then I moved to an office job working for an insurance company for eighteen months.' (Zuzanna 2011)
'. . . I first worked at a diner in Cardiff Bay and I got really bored so I started looking for another job there and temping and then in the bank.' (Donata 2011)

4.4 Although these respondents were employed in 3D jobs - dishwashers and cleaners - immediately after migrating to the UK, the interesting issue is that after their initial job, they moved up the division of labour to a non-3D job. This upward progression supports the linguist trajectory and could also be indicative of their advanced language skills where they could be candidates for the position unlike Poles with no prior language skills. Relevant to this trajectory, these jobs are a step up from the coffee shop and the diner yet the migrants that inform the linguist trajectory were still not fully utilising their English language skills. The next phase of the migrant's path involves the advanced use of their language skills.

'Then I moved to an office job working for an insurance company for 18 months and in that time I started volunteering my interpretation service. After 18 months I found the diversity officer job in Cardiff. During that time my contract changed a lot and three years ago because of the contracts, I started my business so now work part-time as diversity officer and I'm self-employed as a translator/interpreter...main catalyst for change was confidence, I knew book English but not confident in the language. Step by step I got better with my English and I thought that translating is what I really want to do.' (Zuzanna 2011)
'That [working in the diner/bank] was my first year of staying here and then I decided I would stay here longer than planned . . . because I decided to stay I looked for a better job . . . so after working in the bank I got really bored there I started to look for other jobs, registered my CV for an accounting agency because I was desperate. It turns out that an accounting firm was looking for someone with language skills and people to work for them so they wanted me for my Polish — English translation skills so then it was better than the bank job and then I found this job [diversity officer] because I signed up for a translation course to get training and I saw a sign for the job next door and here I am.' (Donata 2011)

4.5 These are two very different paths with very similar endings. Zuzanna capitalised on her language proficiency by setting up her own business after living in the UK for approximately two years. This decision was largely based on her growing confidence in her skills, what she noticed as a gap in the market as well as a way to ensure her continued employment given the contract-status of her job. In addition, Zuzanna also utilised her English language skills in becoming a diversity officer who caters to the diverse population of Cardiff. This path would only be possible with advanced English skills. Similarly, Donata decided to utilise her skills when applying for a new job as a translator for a financial firm. She also noted that the catalyst for getting a better job was the realisation that she would be staying in the UK for longer than originally expected. Nonetheless, the translation job was a stepping stone to the more high-skilled job of a diversity officer at the same organisation where Zuzanna is employed.

4.6 Interestingly, all of the linguists at some point in their migration period apply and start University on a postgraduate course in the UK. For Gabriela, this was her first Master's degree in translation, for Zuzanna it was her second Master's degree in translation and for Donata it was her second Master's degree in Sociology. All prior qualifications were attained in Poland and none of the migrants migrated specifically to go to University in the UK. In considering the migrants' trajectory, there are three reasons these migrants may have sought to acquire additional qualifications despite their progression within the labour market without it. First, the additional qualifications could be due to the noticeable devaluation of their Polish qualifications in the UK. If the linguists ever wanted to change jobs, the experience without the qualifications could be problematic. Second, in certain professions, such as freelance translation (Gabriela & Zuzanna), a qualification is key to demonstrate a higher level of English language expertise.

'Since living here I am more confident in my language skills and I started an MA in translation earlier this year to get qualified in it.' (Gabriela 2011)

4.7 Third, the migrants took advantage of the opportunity to up-skill in the UK perceiving a British qualification as highly valued upon return to Poland or migration to another country. Taking the devaluation of the Polish qualifications in the UK alongside the difficulties in finding employment in Poland and the high regard for British qualifications in Poland, the linguists' responses reflect a general devaluation of the Polish qualifications both inside and outside of Poland.

The Careerist Trajectory

4.8 The careerists, largely due to their lack of language skills and lower educational attainment prior to migration, also start employment in what would be considered a 3D job — working on an as-needed basis as cleaners in a hotel. However, due to their lacking skills, they do not contribute to the migrant paradox. Instead, the migrants that inform this trajectory ascend the division of labour whilst in the UK, through one employer, in spite of their lower skill level, which is their defining characteristic. See Figure 2.

Figure 2. The Careerist Trajectory
Figure 2

4.9 This trajectory drastically differs from the linguists for two reasons. First, the careerist migrants are those migrants who have progressed within their organisation and have used this as a reason to stay in the UK longer than expected. This reality is based on working at a hotel and moving up the chain of command within the hotel. In all of these cases, the migrant was progressing from a low-skilled 'migrant' job to a management role. It should be noted that all of the migrants in the sample that contributed to the careerist trajectory were working for a hotel; however, it would be possible to recreate a careerist-like ascent in any organisation that provided a similar hierarchical infrastructure. Second, the careerist migrant is an abnormality in terms of the number of employers they have as most migrants had several low-skilled jobs before finding something better. The careerist migrants only had one employer since migrating to the UK.

4.10 The ability of the migrants to progress within their job, in spite of prior qualifications or experience in the position, was a major anchor for this migrant group. Their career progression kept them in the destination country for longer than what they initially intended to stay. They viewed this progression as a UK-based opportunity not because the job was based in the UK but because they would be unable to have similar career progression in Poland (Jan & Zofia). This job progression is noticeable when comparing the first jobs migrants had when migrating with the job that the migrant currently (2011) retains.

'I'm a front of house manager at a hotel now. I started working in the hotel at the low level . . . I did that for 6 months and then I was transferred to reception where I worked there and moved up to my current job.' (Wiktoria 2011)
'I'm a marketing and events manager now at a hotel. I started out as a cleaner in the hotel I still work at. My cousin got me the job . . . I started as cleaner for 8 months then promoted to room service attendant after a year of being there I joined housekeeping as a supervisor for a year then worked in restaurant as assistant manager for a year then came back to room service manager then the marketing manager asked me to join his team and now he's gone I have his job. They're a good company to work for because they give people a chance. I saw myself progressing that's why I stayed there . . . I'm happy because I see myself advancing more and more and I would not probably be able to even get the entry-level job at home let along move up.' (Jan 2011)
'I've been working at hotel for four years [starting as a room attendant] because and now I'm a housekeeping manager. I'm a person who doesn't like change and I like that I moved up.' (Kamilla 2011)

4.11 The potential for progression was not known at the time of applying for the job as it was not openly marketed by the employer. After realising the potential for progression the careerists stayed in the job. The potential for progression in this job was a major motivation to stay in what was initially a 3D job (Favell 2008).

4.12 Another point to clarify is the qualifications of the careerist migrant at the time of migration and at the current time. For example, Kamilla was encouraged by the hotel managers to develop her human capital by taking an English-language course and was given flexible working hours to accomplish this.

'They've really encouraged me and give me time off to go to language school to work on my English.' (Kamilla 2011).

4.13 The emphasis on language acquisition for upward progression is evident through this example but also indicative of the larger needs of the service sector this trajectory is rooted in. It is in the employer's best interest to have their managers speak a high-level of English to communicate with guests and other staff more effectively.

4.14 Beyond the ability to progress and the opportunity to reach a higher employment status in the UK, in comparison to what is available in Poland, is the route the migrants took to get to their managerial position. Unlike the remaining participants in the sample, this group had one employer despite their time in the UK and despite starting in a 3D job. Due to the nature of their work from the initial employment to the current time, the migrant's job and status within the organisation changed completely; however, the employer remained the same. This case supports the idea that if there was room to progress in the other 3D jobs, the migrants may not change their positions so frequently in search for a better job. Alternatively, the motivation for staying in the job may not have been based on the surrounding labour market in the destination country but rather, as Jan mentioned, the lack of commensurate opportunities in the country of origin.


5.1 The findings from the Chiswick et al. (2005) study are interesting in comparison to the findings from this research due to the similar rise in the division of labour. It should be highlighted that these two studies have vastly different samples of long-term immigrants to Australia and (initially) short-term Polish migrants to the UK. The differences between these two samples are political, economic and geographic. Nonetheless, through studying these samples over time, both sets of research can create migrant trajectories that follow one migrant, or a migrant sub-group such as the linguists and the careerists, over time to understand their actions and motivations in relation to their work experience. However, the Chiswick et al. (2005) findings regarding the migrants' work experience are more in-depth, taking the pre-migration employment characteristics of the sample as the beginning of the U-shaped pattern and charting the descent and ascent of the migrants over time when entering the destination country. A pre-migration review of the sample for this study cannot be completed due to the lack of data available.

5.2 It could be argued that the migrants in this sample, regardless of the trajectory they are currently contributing to, had low employment prospects in the country of origin, even with a higher skill or education level, because of the underperforming national economy at the time of migration (between 2004-2006). Alternatively, for those educated migrants unable to find work in the country of origin during this period and thereafter, the issue could be related to increased job competition due to a saturation of graduates in the labor market, ie. brain overflow (Baldwin 1969). Moving forward in the U-shaped pattern, when initially entering employment in the UK, the migrants in the sample that informed both the careerist and the linguist trajectories started at the bottom of the division of labour and ascended. For the linguists, this rise can be attributed to the acquisition of what Chiswick et al. (2005) identified as 'location specific' human capital. In the case of the linguists, this type of human capital was additional English language skills and, later, additional qualifications at a UK university due to the devaluation of their Polish University degrees. For the careerists, a similar rise within the division of labour, albeit while only having one employer, is also exhibited. This is a significant finding due to the low education level of this migrant group in comparison to both the careerists and the well-educated immigrants in Chiswick et al.'s (2005) study. The location specific human capital was only helpful if the migrant had significant non-transferable skills ie. some skills and education were needed.

5.3 Transitioning to the work done by Parutis, which used a more closely related sample to the one used in this study, it describes the Poles in the UK using the term middling transnationalism which alludes to the paradoxical nature of the migrants as high-skilled individuals taking low-skilled jobs (Anderson et al. 2006; Anderson et al. 2007; Conradson & Latham 2005; Parutis 2011). A characteristic of this type of migrant is that they will take 'any job' when initially migrating and work their way up to a 'better job' and then a 'dream job'. The linguists, through being high-skilled individuals who took several low skilled jobs while progressively moving up the division of labour, support Parutis' (2011) concept of middling transnationals with some caveats. The linguists have a high-skill level prior to migrating and then proceed as outlined above with several jobs ending with a better job. However, having several employers also simultaneously increases their skill level through acquiring advanced qualifications in the destination country. This additional qualification attainment can be attributed to the devaluation of the migrant's qualification from their country of origin. In addition, the linguists' lack of use of their social network in seeking employment, as well as their relative ease in getting several different jobs within the destination country, may be indicative of their advanced English-language skills.

5.4Through the linguists' higher degrees and their advanced language skills the transition up the division of labour is substantially easier than for a low- educated, or low- skilled migrants in the careerist trajectory. The careerist trajectory is a variation to the middling transnational theory in three ways. First, the findings from the careerist trajectory, where the migrant stays with the same employer for the duration of the migration, alters the work of Parutis' as long as the change of jobs from 'any job to dream job' equates to a change in employer. By staying with one employer the careerists essentially demonstrate that even when starting in a 3D job within an organisation, if the migrant has the opportunity to advance within the organisation they will stay with the same employer. It is unknown if there was a pay increase associated with the career progression for the careerists; however, the progression was substantial with the migrant starting in a 3D job and working up to the managerial level. Based on this, the amendment to Parutis' work would then be that migrants do not necessarily have to change employers to move up the division of labour to their dream job.

5.5 The second amendment to the middling transnational concept focuses on Parutis' (2011) reliance on the migrant paradox, which considers that the majority of Polish migrants are high-skilled individuals forced to work in low-skilled employment when initially migrating. According to these findings, this migrant paradox is an inaccurate depiction of all Polish migrants who migrated to the UK in the post-2004 period in the following three ways. First, the careerists were largely low-skilled when starting this employment. By emphasising high-skilled individuals initially taking low-skilled jobs upon arrival in the destination country, this paradox overlooks low-skilled individuals who end up in similar professions as those high-skilled individuals such as the careerists. Second, if migrants' characteristics are contributing to the 'migrant paradox', as seen with the linguist trajectory, these high-skilled migrants are actually being treated in the same way as the larger graduate labour market in the UK as it is reported that high-skilled workers in low-skilled jobs are becoming increasingly commonplace (Brown et al. 2008; Green & Zhu 2010). Taking this into account, the migrants might not be discriminated against in the labour market; rather, they are acting in the same manner as graduate labour in general. Third, the term 'dream job' can vary substantially from trajectory- to- trajectory or even migrant-to-migrant. For example, the careerists were content working in a hotel as long as they had the ability to move up and progress within their organization. However, the linguists were clearly more interested in having a job commensurate with the language skills needed to be competitive in the labour market of the destination country. Based on these findings, there should be a refinement of the middling transnational definition to make it narrower while increasing heterogeneity in characterising a diverse migrant group.


6.1 This article has made three contributions to the wider literature. First, as other research has recently done (Burrell 2010), it supports the idea that the Polish migrants entering the UK in the post-2004 period are a more diverse group than originally conceived. As a result, academics and policymakers need to rethink the conceptualisation of this group to better address their future needs. This is particularly pertinent as many of these migrants originally only planned to migrate for 3-6 months and have been living in the UK for years. I am reluctant to categorise these long-term migrants as 'settlers' as they have not, and many still do not, think they are settling in the UK. Rather, they are 'intentionally unpredictable' (Eade et al. 2006) or 'drifters' (Knight and Thompson 2014) with a flexible plan for the future that can evolve in the same way that their migration plan has evolved to the current time.

6.2Second, through identifying migrants in the sample that do not possess these classic characteristics, this article considers the possibility of migrants moving up the non-ethnic division of labour despite their low education level and skill level. This is important as prior work often focused on this particular group of migrants' inability to make this move outside of the ethnic economy. Third, the findings from this article challenge the more traditional conventions that migrants will have several 3D jobs prior to moving up the division of labour. The careerists were more than satisfied with their 3D-based employment due to the potential upward mobility provided by the organisation's infrastructure.

6.3 Of course, there is the issue of generalising these findings to the wider low-skilled group of Polish and Central and Eastern European migrants in the UK or entering the UK in the near future. On one hand, I am reluctant to generalise the case due to the number of migrants entering the hospitality sector that do not have this potential for career progression. On the other hand, the hospitality sector, more so than many other high and low skilled sectors, provides the infrastructure, training and support for this type of progression, migrant or otherwise. This is particularly the case if the employer is part of a larger chain. As a result, these findings could be generalised to the wider low-skilled migrant group with caveats focusing on their age and their ability to acquire the necessary language skills that would make them similarly competitive with a low-educated, young, non-migrant worker seeking similar employment.

6.4 Finally, the aforementioned contributions to the literature will have a significant impact on policy at the UK level. This is particularly relevant given the ever-expanding EU. The transition arrangements for Bulgarian and Romanian citizens entering the UK ended in January 2014 (EU Commission 2013). The transitional arrangements for Croatian citizens to enter the UK will end in 2020 (EU Commission 2013). Due to the complex motivations of the Polish migrants in this sample and their ability to thrive in the destination country in the longer term despite initial setbacks such as devaluation of the degrees from their country of origin and the lack of language skills, policy should turn its attention to cultural integration measures. This is an area for further research, which has been started by major think tanks such as Migration Policy Institute-Brussels (Collett 2013).


1Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 and Croatia joined the EU in 2013 taking the total number of EU member states to 28; however, this article will focus mainly on the countries that joined the EU in 2004.


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