2019-Constantine Manolchev

Investigating Job Quality and Everyday Working Lives of Highly-Skilled and Low-Skilled Migrant Workers in the UK

Principal Investigator: Dr Constantine Manolchev, University of Exeter

Co-Investigator: Dr Toma Pustelnikovaite, Abertay University

Project summary

The working experiences of migrants are a topic of continued media and academic interest, not least in light of the UK’svote to leave the European Union. A common theme is the plight of migrants in low-skilled jobs, such as those inagriculture and food-processing. Although easily accessible to migrants, these jobs have very few ‘decent work’characteristics such as social, employment, or health and safety protections. Exploitative working conditions, however,are not limited to migrants in low-skilled work. Contractual insecurity and exposure to heavy workloads are alsoincreasingly observed in primary labour market occupations such as academia. Yet, there is limited research thatcompares migrants’ employment in primary and secondary labour market segments.


Manolchev, C. (2022). ‘Dances with Daffodils’: Life as a Flower-picker in Southwest England. Work, Employment and Society36(2), 372–380. This is an open access paper: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/09500170211042998

Events and dissemination

MIND the GAP - Roadblocks and opportunities on the way to diversity in Cornwall

Tuesday 22 March 2022 Time: 17:30-20:30 Location: Hybrid Event In Person: Seminar M, Daphne Du Maurier Building Penryn University 

A key feature of the UK labour market is that of inequality. This is also the case for business in Cornwall, who face a range of issues in recruiting skilled candidates and developing diverse workforces. At the same time, unlocking talent and improving job access for minority and marginalised groups can offer the Cornish economy a significant boost. In recognition of this, we invite you to an event seeking to explore some of those issues and create an opportunity for collaborative interventions.

Future research

The point of departure of our project is that the number of migrant workers in both upper and lower labour market segments in the UK continues to grow regardless of the exploitative working conditions reported in existing research. Consequently, we seek to understand how migrant workers (objectively and subjectively) perceive their job quality, as well as what attracts and retains migrant workers in organisations. We propose to conduct two ‘polar type’ case studies and compare the working lives of migrants in sectors that heavily rely on migrant labour, namely the food industry andacademia. In doing so, we will critically investigate the social responsibility and sustainability of migrant-employingsectors in the top and bottom segments of the labour market, and offer a better understanding of the everyday workinglives of migrant workers in the UK.