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Nouvelles frontières de la migration en Méditerranée

“Begin from the bottom and move up” : Social Mobility of Immigrant Labour in Rural Greece

“Partir d’en bas et gravir les échelons”: mobilité sociale du travail des immigrants dans la Grèce rurale
Apostolos Papadopoulos
p. 25-39

Abstracts

Immigrant geography is a highly significant research topic in modern Greece and Southern Europe. The emphasis is often placed on urban areas where there is a large concentration of immigrants, while less research is carried out in rural areas. The existing heterogeneity of rural areas and the diversity of host rural societies caused by immigrant populations, call for in-depth empirical research of the migratory phenomenon in rural areas. The paper is divided into four main sections. Firstly, it will argue that the future of European agriculture and the welfare of rural areas depend increasingly on the continuation of migratory flows. Secondly, there will be a brief discussion of immigration in rural Greece that provides the context for placing the analysis of empirical data. Thirdly, research findings from a number of paradigmatic regions in rural Greece will be reviewed, and finally, the paper will conclude that the immigrants’ adaptive capacity in the local labour markets and their work flexibility has increased their opportunities for integration into local host societies.

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  • 1  This is the number of third-country nationals and not the total number of migrants in Europe. The (...)

1International migration has become part of Europe’s new reality: the EU is now home to nearly one fifth of the world’s immigrants. It is estimated that of the 493 million inhabitants of the 27 member states, 18.5 million are third country nationals. This means that immigrants from countries outside the EU account for 3.8% of the EU population1. Immigration is the primary factor in EU demographic growth: there is positive net migration in most EU member states. Net migration, which in the 1990s was at levels of between 0.5 to 1 million per year, has since 2002 increased to between 1.5 and 2 million (CEC, 2007).

2Due to steadily increasing shortages in the labour market, continuation of the migratory flows towards Europe is virtually unavoidable (Katseli, 2004). There is increasing competition between the member states to attract skilled migrants (Martin et al., 2006) along with a growing sense in the EU countries, supported by the policy recommendations made by the OECD (Dayton-Johnson et al. 2007) and the European Commission (CEC, 2007), that immigration should be managed for the benefit of the host countries. Immigrants cover labour needs along the whole spectrum of skills within the labour market. Even unskilled migrants not only serve the purpose of covering the gaps in the labour market, but also create new job places in the lower social and employment categories (Katseli, 2004).

  • 2  Irregular immigration and employment are among the most important public issues relevant to Europe (...)

3The changes in the labour market and the occupational structure in Europe affect the situation and the role of immigrants from non-EU countries. By comparison with the intra-European migrations of the 1960s and 1970s, there are some new features in the present migratory waves that could justify them constituting a new immigration model. This new type of immigration is particularly characteristic of southern European countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain (King, 2000). A large number of nationalities and ethnic groups participate in the new migratory experience. One of its distinctive features of the immigrant flows towards southern Europe is the large%age of undocumented migrants and the inability (or reluctance) of governments to control the borders to prevent their entry2 This new migratory phenomenon makes for a particularly difficult integration process for third country immigrants. Migrant workers in practice tend to hold jobs in the secondary labour market, particularly in the informal sector. The advantages of informality and irregular migration are shared both by the employers who avoid tax and social costs and the migrants who have the opportunity to obtain employment and earn higher wages than they would in their countries of origins (Geddes, 2003). In economic sectors such as construction, agriculture and tourism, where small and medium-sized enterprises predominate, and in the family-centred household economy, the role of a flexible migrant labour force is vital for their profitability and/or survival.

4Southern Europe is a region both of migration pressures and of demand for migrant workers. Applying the criteria of older immigration countries, economic informality and undocumented immigration can be identified as structural characteristics of the southern European immigration model, without this necessarily being seen as synonymous for “backwardness”. Immigration policy in this region has been more a matter of domestic responses to economic informality and irregularity than it has of EU policy (GEDDES, 2003). All southern European countries have repeatedly implemented regularization programmes for undocumented, illegal immigrants, including procedures of selective legalization. In all there have been fourteen such programmes over the past two decades (Levinson, 2005; Arango and Jachimowicz, 2005).

5 The presence of immigrants in southern Europe is evident not only in urban areas but also in rural areas where labour demand is significantly expanded. Most of this demand has involved jobs largely rejected by the indigenous labour force, who seek employment in skilled, better-paid and more secure positions. In rural areas where young people increasingly avoid farming as their principal occupation and the population is ageing, there are a growing number of employment opportunities in sectors such as construction, tourism and services. Seasonal agricultural work is also an important source of employment, increasingly so in Western European countries such as the UK, Germany, France and the Scandinavian countries. This phenomenon is somehow of different dimensions and importance in southern Europe due to the particular economic and social weight of agriculture and due to the abandonment of agriculture and rural regions by the indigenous populations. These often labour-intensive regional economies have obtained considerable assistance from migrants arriving from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, to work in economically restructured rural areas and in ever-more-specialized seasonal agriculture. Despite the observed differences in both southern and northern Europe “migrant agricultural workers provide a major and indispensable service to agriculture” (ESC, 2000, p. 92).

6The next section includes a brief reference to the employment of immigrants in rural areas of southern European countries and it is argued that the future of European agriculture and the welfare of rural areas increasingly depend on the continuation of migratory flows. It is followed by a review of immigration in rural Greece, proposing a framework for analysis of the research material collected in representative rural regions of the country. The paper concludes with the finding that immigrants’ adaptive capacity in the local/rural labour markets and their work flexibility has increased their opportunities for integration into the local host societies.

1 - Immigrants in rural southern Europe

7Over the last twenty years there has been a significant increase in immigrant flows and today immigrants represent a large proportion of the population of southern Europe. According to recent data (2006), over 9 million foreign-born people live in Europe’s southern regions (whose overall population amounts to 124 million). Italy, to be specific, has the lowest proportion of foreigners (4.3%), followed by Portugal (7.2%), Greece (8.8%) and finally Spain, which has the largest share (10.9%) (Münz, 2007). But the successive waves of immigrants (documented and undocumented) have left their mark on both southern and northern Europe (Dayton-Johnson et al., 2007; CEC, 2007).

  • 3  No data were recorded for Portugal, despite the fact that a significant number of immigrant worker (...)

8In rural areas in particular immigration has had the appearance of a new phenomenon needing special attention. Recently the Group of Employers of Professional Agricultural Organizations issued a report which stated that all agricultural employers in the EU noted a shortage of seasonal labour due to the manual character of the work, the low wages and lack of welfare provision. Employment of non-EU immigrant seasonal workers has been seen as the solution to the labour shortage and by the year 2000 an estimated 475,000 immigrant seasonal workers were being employed in EU agriculture, with the actual number most likely higher because of the variety of different ways in which seasonal labour is employed (i.e. through agricultural contractors, enterprises providing temporary work, employment co-operatives, employers’ groupings, etc.) (GEOPA-COPA, 2002). It is perhaps worth noting that more than a third of the seasonal workers were employed in Greece, Italy and Spain3. Let us make a brief review of the situation of immigrant labour in other Southern European countries apart from Greece, which will be the subject of the following section.

9Spain has recently witnessed significant inflows of people born abroad. The legal foreign-born population has undergone a sixfold increase in less than a decade, rising from approximately 500,000 in 1995 to over 3 million in 2006. By December 2004, Spain had an estimated 1.2 million undocumented immigrants, a large number of whom were legalized in the regularization of 2005 (Ssie, 2006; Arango and Jachimowicz, 2005).

10The five most important nationalities are the Moroccans (543,721 persons), the Ecuadorians (376,233), the Colombians (225,504), the Romanians (211,325) and the British (175,870), accounting for 50.7% of the total number of foreigners. More than one-third of foreigners resided in Madrid or Barcelona (33.7%) and over three-quarters (77%) resided in Cataluña, Madrid, Valencia, Andalucía, Canarias and Murcia (Ssie, 2006, p. 42-43).

11The Spanish case illustrates the importance of the role of immigrants in upholding competitiveness in regions of intensive agriculture. Since the 1990s there has been a significant expansion of intensive agriculture, and the labour employed seasonally in cultivating fruit and vegetables for export to Western Europe is mainly comprised of immigrants from Morocco, Eastern Europe and Latin America (Hoggart and Mendoza, 1999; Mendoza, 2003; Arango and Martin, 2005).

12In 2006 there were 1.9 million immigrant workers in Spain, representing 10.3% of the Spanish workforce. 8.2% of immigrant workers are employed in agriculture and in fact migrants comprise 15.8% of the country’s overall number of agricultural workers (SSIE, 2006, p. 451-454). There is said to be a cyclical pattern to the employment routine of many immigrant workers in rural Spain. Following the fruit harvesting period in Cataluña, they move to work in the vineyards of Rioja, after which they perform a stint in the orchards of Valencia and then finish the year in the vegetable growing areas of Almeria and Murcia (Arango and Martin, 2005).

  • 4  This incident has been recorded in the press and led to the mobilization of civil rights organizat (...)

13Many local research projects investigated the presence and employment of immigrants in different parts of Andalucía (e.g. Huelva, Costa del Sol, El Ejido, Jaen), in Extremadura, in Murcia, in Valencia, in Cataluña and in Castilia-y-Leon (Moren-Alegret and Solana, 2004). The study of immigrant employment in areas of intensive agriculture, as in the case of El Ejido, has highlighted many of the problems linked to the exploitation of cheap immigrant labour. In February 2000 a large number of Moroccan agricultural workers went on strike to protest at the worsening working conditions, the low wages and the harsh conditions of life. The response to this protest was violence, further oppression and persecution by the locals4. A further strategy resorted to by local employers was to recruit immigrants from Romania and Lithuania instead of employing Moroccans (de Zulueta, 2003).

14In El Ejido and Huelva there was a massive influx of immigrants, with significant effects on wages, along with increasing competition and conflicts among the different nationalities. This has not discouraged continuation of the endeavour to secure further inflows of agricultural labour. In the province of Huelva, where nearly 90% of Spanish strawberries are grown, there are approximately 50,000 agricultural labourers. Over half of them are immigrant workers hired through a quota system directly in their countries of origin. The remaining 20,000 are either Spanish citizens or immigrant workers who have been legalized (Plewa, 2008). Immigrants have thus come to represent a significant feature in small towns and rural areas of Spain, leading to a greater demographic diversity (Moren-Alegret, 2008).

15Another country that has been in receipt of increasing immigrant inflows is Italy. ISTAT has estimated that the total documented foreign population – including minors – increased by more than 10% in 2006 to reach a figure of almost 3 million. The number of permit holders rose to more than 2.4 million, of whom almost 1.5 million held work permits and 764,000 held family permits (OECD, 2008). For the same year there are estimates that raise the number of documented foreigners to 3.7 million (CARITAS/Migrantes, 2007).

16Migrants are concentrated particularly in the north of Italy. The north-west of the country receives 34% of migrants, the north-east and centre share 27% each, and, finally, the south hosts 9% of migrants living in Italy, with Sicily and Sardinia hosting only 3% of the total migrant population. Foreign labour is a significant presence in industry (39.7%) and in services(60%), with smaller numbers in agriculture where they are employed on a seasonal basis. At the regional level the highest%age of migrant workers was recorded in Lombardy (25.6%), in Veneto (12.8%), in Emilia Romagna (10.8%) and in Lazio (10.6%). Puglia and Basilicata had large%ages of migrant labour in agriculture (23.4% and 33.1% respectively), as did the other southern regions that are primarily agricultural (CARITAS/ Migrantes, 2006 and 2007).

  • 5  Romanians today are the most numerous foreign nationality in Italy - surpassing the Albanians - wi (...)
  • 6  Recently a story was published in Italian press stressing the harsh living conditions and exploita (...)

17In 2001 80,000 immigrants were employed in Italian agriculture. The majority of them came from Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania5. They were primarily employed in arboriculture, fruit cultivation, horticulture and winegrowing and concentrated mostly in Trentino, Emilia Romana, Venezia and Sicily (de Zulueta, 2003). The bulk of agricultural employment in Italy is irregular, even when the immigrants themselves are legal. There is regional variation in the type of farm work and in the skills required. In Lombardy Indian immigrants work in the stables of livestock farms. In Sicily, Puglia6, Calabria and Campania it is mostly Moroccans and other North Africans who work in greenhouses and in the harvesting of watermelons, tomatoes and olives. In Umbria, Moroccans work on the tobacco farms. In Trentino eastern Europeans work in honey production (Calavita, 2006).

18Portugal has seen a significant acceleration in the number of foreigners settling in the country since the late 1990s. Between 1998 and 2005 the foreign population increased from 178,000 to 415,934. Until the mid-1990s, non‑EU immigrants formed the majority of total immigrants in Portugal but since that time a new migration wave has come from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. While the large majority is settled in Lisbon, the new immigrants are dispersed all over the country. A significant proportion is employed in agriculture, particularly in the Alentejo, Ribatejo and Oeste regions, with a large number also working in labour-intensive industrial activities in the northern and central littoral regions (Fonseca, 2008).

19The presence of immigrants has become important not only in southern European countries, but also in rural England (Rogaly, 2006), in the agricultural regions of Germany and France and in remote rural regions of Norway, Sweden and Finland. Immigrant labour is mostly seen as serving the purpose of filling the gaps in the labour market left by the exodus of the young indigenous population from agriculture and by depopulation and ageing in rural areas (Hoggart and Mendoza, 1999; Mendoza, 2003; Kasimis et al., 2003; Kasimis and Papadopoulos, 2005).

20To sum up, employment of immigrants in the agricultural sector may be explained by a number of factors including the unwillingness of the indigenous population to undertake manual employment and other types of badly-paid work. It also constitutes a strategy for keeping the prices of agricultural products down. Immigrant labour contributes to further intensification of agricultural production, but it also introduces demographic diversity into rural areas. The various regimes of agricultural production and types of employment relations prevailing in rural areas are to a large extent contingent on the continuation of immigrant flows, which for the moment appear unstoppable.

2 - Immigrants in rural Greece

21The transition in Greece to the present migration situation started slowly in the 1980s when a small number of Asian, African and Polish migrants found employment in construction, agriculture and domestic services. But the collapse of the central and eastern European regimes in 1989 transformed migration to Greece into a massive, uncontrollable phenomenon.

22Many factors explain the transformation of Greece into a recipient country. They include Greece’s geographic location as eastern gateway to the EU, with extensive coastlines and easily crossed borders. Though the situation at the country’s northern borders has greatly improved since the formation of a special border patrol unit in 1998, geographic accessibility remains a central factor in patterns of migration to Greece. Another important factor has been the rapid economic change that has narrowed Greece’s economic and social distance from the northern European countries since its accession to the EU in 1981.

23The population census of 1981 recorded 180,595 foreigners (1.9% of the total population), one third of whom were EU nationals. In 1991 the figure was 167,276 foreigners (1.6% of total population), one fifth of them being EU nationals. By 2001 there were 797,091 foreigners (7.3% of total population), with only 6% of them EU nationals. Over half of the foreign population are economic migrants; 13.1% migrated for purposes of family reunion; 6.8% are repatriates; 2.7% are students, 1.3% are asylum seekers, and 0.3% are refugees. The Albanians are the most numerous (57.5%), followed by the Bulgarians, the Georgians, the Romanians, the Russians, the Ukrainians and the Polish. Migrants are employed mainly in construction (24.5%), ‘other services’, meaning mostly domestic work (20.5%), agriculture (17.5%), and ‘commerce, hotels, and restaurants’ (15.7%). Because of their large numbers Albanians dominate in all sectors. Agriculture is the employment arena primarily for Albanians, Bulgarians, Romanians, Indians, Egyptians and Pakistanis (NSSG, 2001a).

24Data provided by the Foundation for Social Security in 2006 show that of 2.6 million insured 15.6% are immigrants, accounting for 12.5% of total working days and contributing 12.5% of total insurance dues but receiving only 9.3% of total wages. Moreover, immigrants employed in business enterprises receive only 64% of the average wages of the indigenous labour force (30 euros as against 48 euros per day). In the construction industry immigrants receive nearly 86% of the average wage for indigenous workers (49 euros as against 57 euros per day) (ΙΚΑ, 2006).

25The majority of Albanians arrived in the first wave of immigration to Greece (1990-1995), but many also came in the wake of the collapse of the enormous “pyramid schemes” in Albania’s banking sector in 1996. The second wave of immigration (1996-2001) involved much greater numbers of migrants from other Balkan states, the former Soviet Union, Pakistan and India. The recent waves (2002‑2008) consist of undocumented immigrants from Africa and Asia who are mainly employed as seasonal agricultural labour. The recent accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU led to increased inflows of migrant workers, who are employed illegally in agriculture and construction (Papadopoulos et al., 2007).

  • 7  This is based on data publicized by the Ministry of Interior for the period January-October 2008 ( (...)

26One recent estimate for Greece raises the number of migrants to 1-1.2 million (Triantafyllidou, 2008) or 10% of the country’s population. The consecutive regularization laws (1997-8, 2001 and 2005) have resulted in legalization of a significant number of immigrants. Although by the end of 2008 only 395,100 persons had valid residence permits7, a large number of foreigners are in the process of renewing their permits. This nevertheless confirms, to some extent, the fear that almost half of the foreign population remains undocumented.

27On the basis of the 2001 census, there are significant geographical differentiations among migrants. Through the majority tend to gravitate towards the large urban centres of Attica (nearly 50%) and Thessaloniki (over 14%), there is also significant dispersal into rural areas.

28 Migrants tend particularly to concentrate in rural regions where there is a demand for their labour (i.e. East Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Crete and the Islands) (map 1). Regional labour markets combining agriculture and tourist development are particularly attractive to migrants (e.g. Ionian Islands, Crete, Chalkidiki). Migrants settle in areas where they can find full-time or part-time employment, e.g. in small business enterprises, in various local-scale service activities and on family farms.

Map1 - Percentage of migrants in the labour force

Map1 - Percentage of migrants in the labour force

Source: ESYE, 2001

29The gender distribution of the migrant population is a subject of some interest. Female migrants mostly live in the cities. Over 50% of the female migrant population is concentrated, for example, in Athens, while the corresponding proportion of the male migrant population is around 35%. The proportion of females is high in tourist regions and regions with a developed service sector such as on the island of Crete and regions of the country such as Larissa, Fthiotis, Boeotia, Pella and Imathia. What explains the differences in geographical gender distribution is that finding work is easier for women in regions with developed tourism and services, whereas for men it is easier in agricultural regions and regions with high levels of construction activity.

30Map 2 gives an outline of migrants’ place of residence in rural areas within the prefectures. There is a high proportion of migrants in remote, mountainous and island areas, such as Evritania, Lakonia, Rethimno, Zakynthos, Chalkidiki, the Cyclades, Corfu, Kefallonia, etc. Migrants are more visible in rural areas on account of the small size of the overall population compared to urban areas.

Map2 - Percentage of migrants in rural aera

Map2 - Percentage of migrants in rural aera

Source: ESYE, 2001

31Migrant employment in the different economic sectors depends on the sectoral mix of each prefecture. However, at a regional level, migrant employment has been important in agriculture due to its prevalence in rural areas of Greece (map 3).

Map3 - Percentage of migrants employed in Agriculture

Map3 - Percentage of migrants employed in Agriculture

Source: ESYE, 2001

32Employment of migrants in the construction sector is a special feature of regional labour markets where there is a dynamic service or agricultural sector. In the majority of rural/regional labour markets migrants undertake the less skilled jobs but in the more developed labour markets migrants also have the opportunity to undertake semi-skilled or skilled tasks. In remote labour markets migrants take any job available but most of the jobs are unskilled.

3 - Research findings in paradigmatic regions of rural Greece

33In the 1990s research of the migratory phenomenon in rural Greece was a largely neglected domain (Lianos et al., 1996 ; Vaiou and Hadjimichalis, 1997). This was later remedied by more focused research work that began to be carried out in selected rural regions (see Kasimis et al., 2003 ; Kasimis and Papadopoulos, 2005 ; Papadopoulos, 2006).

  • 8  Due to space limitations we will provide only a synthetic account of the empirical findings.

34The following section includes empirical findings from two research programmes8, the first being a research study conducted between 2000 and 2002 (with a follow-up in 2004-2006) for the purpose of researching the socio-economic impacts of migrant employment on rural Greece ; the second being a more recent study carried out in the period 2006-2008, whose aim was to analyse the changes in immigrant flows that had taken place in some regions of the Greek periphery.

  • 9  The first region, comprising the municipalities of Konitsa and Mastorochoria (Prefecture of Ioanni (...)

35The first study was carried out in three paradigmatic regions9 of rural Greece. Its key hypothesis was that migrant workers addressed a number of structural needs in the Greek countryside : a) the longstanding shortages of labour that have resulted from the restructuring of its agricultural sector and the rural economy ; b) the demographic crisis experienced by the rural population as a result of the rural exodus that took place in the 1950-1970 period as part of the mass emigration of the time ; c) the rejection by the younger generation of rural life, rural society, and the prospect of employment in rural areas ; and d) the increased opportunities of off-farm employment for the rural population (Kasimis et al., 2003; Kasimis and Papadopoulos, 2005).

36This study includes both quantitative and qualitative research techniques. The survey research was based on a multi-stage sampling of households living permanently in the three areas. In total, 293 semi-structured questionnaires addressed to rural households were completed. Nearly two thirds of the respondents (i.e. 192 households) were farm households, and these were the focus of particular attention on the question of employing migrants. Two qualitative studies were carried out additionally to complement the survey findings. To be specific, there were 58 interviews with local stakeholders and 65 with migrants in the three areas. In the follow-up study four years later 31 more interviews were conducted with stakeholders and migrants in the same areas.

37In the following paragraphs there will be a brief presentation of certain implications of migrant employment for rural/farm households and local economies.

38Migrant labour has become an important feature of rural households, affecting not only those who own a family farm, but also those without a farm, i.e. those who simply live in rural areas (Table 1). Nearly one fifth of rural households, farm and non-farm alike, employ migrants for a number of different domestic tasks such as household maintenance, taking care the garden or orchards, cutting the wood, bringing provisions, taking care of the children and/or the aged family members. The households containing more old people, extended families and the wealthier type of rural resident, all more frequently employ migrant labour at home.

Tab. 1 - Migrant employment at home by type of houshold

Tab. 1 - Migrant employment at home by type of houshold

Source : Household survey data 2001

39The survey and the qualitative data confirm that migrant employment has become an abiding characteristic of farm households since the early 1990s. The majority of farms (60 %) employed migrants both at the beginning of the 1990s and in the year 2000, but almost 26 % of the farms have never employed migrants. A higher percentage of large farms have employed migrants over the last decade (Table 2).

Tab. 2 - Frequency of employing migrants by farm size

Tab. 2 - Frequency of employing migrants by farm size

Source : Household survey data 2001

40By the end of the period between 1991 and 2000, farms had on average been employing migrants for 7.7 years. The mixed-crop and arable farms had employed migrants for the briefest period (6 to 6.9 years), while the permanent-crop farms and the vineyards had the longest record (8.2.) of employing migrants. The larger farms tended to be concentrated in the dynamic areas, with the smaller farms being more typical of the pluriactive and marginal areas.

  • 10  Between 1991 and 2000 the number of labour days worked by family farm members decreased by 20% and (...)

41There also seems to be a positive correlation between the amount of migrant labour employed and the size of the farm. The larger the farm, in other words, the higher the percentage of non-family labour employed. Given that there has been a decline in recent years10 in the availability of family labour, the proportion of work being carried out by migrant labour has increased. In the farms of less than 3 ha in size 15 % of total farm labour is non-family labour, for between 3 and 5 ha 22 % is non-family labour and for those between 5 and 10 ha almost 35 % is non-family (Fig. 1).

Fig.1 -Family and non-family Labour

Fig.1 -Family and non-family Labour

Source: Household Survey data, 2001

42Furthermore, the share of non-family labour is higher for absentee farmers or pensioners (55 %) owning a farm than it is for farmers without a second job (27 %) and pluriactive farmers (18 %). It is, therefore, the relatively larger farms that seem to have benefited more from employment of migrants. The main reasons for employing migrants that were cited by the interviewees and survey respondents were the low cost of their labour, the opportunities for modernization that it made available, the facilitation of a division between mental and manual labour within the farm and the opportunities it provided for improved organization and management of farm holdings.

43There are two types of migrant labour in rural areas : permanent and seasonal. In the dynamic rural area permanent migrant labour is more prevalent than in the marginal area. Nearly 9 % of the farms employ permanent migrant labour, in the process absorbing 54 % of total migrant labour. On the other hand about 57 % of farm households employ seasonal migrant labourers, a figure that accounts for 46 % of total migrant labour.

44Permanent workers are employed by only 9 % of the farms and they perform all tasks throughout the course of the year. In peak periods when seasonal labour is needed they tend to carry out the more specialised tasks (e.g. pruning, spraying fertilizers, watering, using the tractor and other machines), also exercising duties of supervision. When specialized tasks are assigned to immigrants this is due to their being a long-established presence, to their being considered trustworthy and to their employers having a heavy workload and/or being advanced in years. The role of permanent workers is of central importance for professional or entrepreneurial farmers, who “invest” in them by making them “part of the family”. This means that permanent workers are often expected to perform additional tasks such as house repairs, housework, transport of produce or working in the (non-farm) family business. These tasks, which are paid extra, comprise elements of a close relationship forged between the local farmers and trusted migrants. For the farmers the permanent labour is fully exploited through being transformed into flexible labour that can be used to carry out supplementary tasks not related to the full-time employment. The migrants, for their part, gain both economically and socially from being trusted. They are introduced into the local community by their employers, who recommend them to their fellow villagers so that they have the opportunity to expand their own interpersonal network.

  • 11  Migrants’ living and housing conditions are also for the most part in the hands of the farmers bec (...)

45The income of permanent workers is more stable because they have a regular employer. On the basis of the survey findings, approximately half of them are paid a monthly salary. Three out of five permanent workers have social insurance, because it is their employer’s responsibility to organize it11.On the basis of their farming activity and crop production farmers declare a certain number of working days to the Organization of Agricultural Insurance (OGA) and the migrants pay the cost of the insurance. Migrants are dependent on these declarations by the farmers because it is on the basis of them that their employment is recognized and they become entitled to a work and resident permit. Permanent workers thus acquire legal status in the local economy and society on the basis of their relations of trust with their employer. The latter becomes both mediator and guarantor of immigrant labour in rural areas. Obtaining a permanent job has been a necessary prerequisite for migrants wishing to bring their wife into the country and reunify their families.

46Seasonal migrant labour is the type employed by the majority of farm households. Farmers employ migrant labour because of the locals’ reluctance to do agricultural work and because migrant workers cost less. Farmers find their seasonal labourers at the local village square or contact them through locals and friends in other nearby villages. This means that farmers employ those they find locally and/or who are recommended by their social networks.

47There are also migrants who are employed as permanent labourers but also perform seasonal tasks, migrants who work seasonally in an same area but go back to their country of origin for a certain period and then return next year/season in the same area (circular migration), migrants who combine different seasonal jobs, migrant couples who work in different kinds of jobs (permanent and seasonal or vice versa) and migrants who are flexible enough to alternate between different jobs on the same day. This flexibility and adaptability n immigrant employment has certain important implications for farm households and the local economy.

  • 12  There are urban residents who own farm holding and therefore here they are considered absentee far (...)

48Migrant labour in general has important implications for farm restructuring, agricultural modernization, family labour and the local economy. Due to the availability and low cost of immigrant workers, farm households have modified their strategies. Absentee12 and part-time farmers have been given the opportunity to revitalize their farms. Large farms have aimed at, and in many cases achieved, expansion. Small farms have concentrated their efforts on survival, and have mostly succeeded. This applies particularly in the more dynamic areas, and in areas of pluriactivity.

49Many of the changes that have been registered on the farms, such as including innovatory farming methods, changing the crops that are being cultivated, having a farm modernization programme under implementation, have been possible because of the availability of migrant labour. Again, these shifts have been observed mostly in the more dynamic rural area.

50Nevertheless, in all three areas family and gender roles were modified within the farm household as a response to migrant employment. Its impact differed depending on the intensity of the farming being carried out and the type of household. To male farmers immigrants offered the social status of employer and at the same time reduced the workload by taking over the heavy and dangerous tasks. For a small number of farmers, the professional/entrepreneur farmers, immigrants became like sophisticated toolkits, undertaking a supervisory role on the farm and leaving for their employers the tasks of managing and marketing their produce. For female farm women, immigrants had a dual impact. On the one hand their work freed women from the burdens of agricultural tasks, enabling them to seek off-farm employment and focus on housework. But in some cases the presence of the immigrants generated new labour demands for women, necessitating preparation of food and confirming women’s role as auxiliary labour in the farm household. Such reaffirmation of women’s auxiliary role was more evident in the relatively larger, more mechanized and intensive farm households (Papadopoulos, 2006).

  • 13  This arises from interviews with local authorities. However, other researchers argue that regions (...)

51Despite the fact that the migrant presence and the availability of their low-paid labour had a positive impact on agriculture and local economies in the most general sense, there were certain potentially adverse implications for ethnic minority groups (i.e. gypsies, Muslim groups from northern Greece)13 and poor rural strata (e.g. farmers’ wives, members of families running small farms) who had in the past functioned as an unskilled auxiliary labour force. The ethnic minority groups were mostly displaced from the agricultural labour markets. The poor rural strata felt the competition from migrant labour. They usually moved either to more specialized agricultural tasks such as pruning, transport, driving tractors or working other machines or to non-agricultural jobs (e.g. employment in packaging companies, full- or part-time jobs in shops or in the service sector).

52Migrants’ contribution to the local economy has not gone unappreciated. 49 % of survey respondents considered that the effects of their presence had been positive, 17 % perceived them as being negative and 29 % both positive and negative. But those who still employ migrants and thus depend on them have a greater appreciation of their contribution to the local economy than those who have employed them for briefer period or who have not employed them or who do not have a farm.

  • 14  The first was the Municipality of Vouprassia (Prefecture of Elia in Western Greece), where dynamic (...)

53The second study investigated the dynamics of immigration flows and the labour market implications of immigrant employment in two regions with different sectoral and labour market characteristics14. The survey data were collected by means of a semi-structured questionnaire addressed to immigrants and 205 questionnaires were completed in the two study areas. The respondents were located through snowball sampling because the main objective was to question both documented and undocumented immigrants. In addition, 18 qualitative interviews were carried out with representative local stakeholders and migrants (Kasimis and Papadopoulos, 2008).

54This study addressed a number of issues all relating to migrants’ prospects for integration into local labour markets. It became clear that the differences between the types of migrants seeking work in rural labour markets depended firstly on the length of time they had lived in the area, their family situation (whether they were married or single or members of an extended family), the work experience they had acquired and their interpersonal networks. Migrants who had come earlier to the local labour market were more likely to have made some progress. One Albanian migrant asserted, for example that he was “not afraid of the labour” and that “anyone who really wants to work will always find employment”. To this way of thinking, beginning from the bottom was the prerequisite for developing the capacity “to move up”. This time-honoured formula combining personal motivation and the will for social integration had been important for a large number of migrants in both study areas.

55Married migrants were clearly more motivated to succeed and move up the professional and social ladder because of the fact that having a spouse (and children) implies the adoption of a more highly-developed employment strategy. Success and progress in the case of the male migrant is identified with securing a full-time job (preferably in the construction or service sector) working for a respectable employer in the local community, and with his spouse having found full-time or part-time employment in the service sector. It became evident from the fieldwork that migrants’ work experience is gained over time and that most immigrants are highly mobile both occupationally and geographically. What is most crucial is that those who have succeeded in developing stronger – and more effective, extended and varied – social networks, are better informed about available employment opportunities, continue to be in a position to make comparisons and choices and in the end are better prepared to get ahead in the local labour market.

56Apart from the central role of agriculture in rural areas, the mix of economic sectors has been important in determining migrants’ opportunities for upward occupational and so social mobility. The more developed the other sectors of the economy, the more differentiated and multifunctional is migrant employment. There are two directions for upward social mobility : one is intra-sectoral (within agriculture), moving from unskilled tasks not involving responsibility to more skilled and responsible tasks ; the other is inter-sectoral from agricultural labour to employment in construction and/or services. In most cases migrant labourers find their first job in agriculture and then move on to other jobs with a view usually to obtaining non-agricultural employment that is better paid and where working conditions are less harsh. Once migrants become legalized they do their best to move to other sectors and/or seek higher wages in more developed labour markets.

57Figure 2 shows the movement of migrants in the two regions out of the agricultural sector into the secondary and tertiary sectors. In the region of intensive agriculture the occupational mobility of migrants is lower than it is in the island region. Moreover mobility in the former region mostly involves ethnicity (predominantly Albanians) and is limited to the agricultural sector. There is more, and faster, mobility in the latter region. It is cross-sectoral, with parallel maintenance of agriculture as a seasonal activity.

Fig.2 - First and current occupation of immigrants

Fig.2 - First and current occupation of immigrants

Source: Household Survey data, 2001.

58Social networks are an asset to migrants for it is through them that they find their jobs and get ahead. Migrants most commonly depend on assistance from their compatriots when looking for jobs but their most effective connections are those with locals enjoying more privileged positions in the local labour markets.

  • 15  There are other problems pertaining to the legalization of migrants in Greece that cannot be discu (...)

59Another important finding is that in both areas we observed consecutive waves of immigrants constantly replenishing the lower levels of immigrant labour. Nearly half the migrant labourers in the areas of intensive agriculture are undocumented, but only one fifth undocumented in the island area15. New migrants are constantly arriving in both regions and in most cases they are recent entrants to the country (26 % having been here less than five years). These migrant newcomers, who tend to be undocumented, work mostly as seasonal labourers and for a long period remain notably mobile, constantly on the lookout for higher wages. The island labour market is more attractive to migrants due to the higher wages to be found there than in the labour market of the region of intensive agriculture.

  • 16  The presence of immigrants in Zakynthos is higher that anywhere else in the country. More than 13% (...)

60It is important to note that the immigrants of longer standing in both areas have got ahead occupationally and improved their social and economic situation through earning higher wages. One point to mention is that although immigrants in the island area tend to have a main employment in non-agricultural sectors16, most still pay social insurance to the Organization of Agricultural Insurance (OGA). This phenomenon reflects two aspects of their situation : a) employers in construction and tourism avoid paying for the insurance of their immigrant labour, and b) immigrants themselves, being self-insured, choose the less costly form of social insurance.

61Migrant labour in the island region has different characteristics from migrant labour in the region of intensive agriculture. Migrants who end up in the island region have actively sought out better-paid employment and been to some extent successful in finding what they were seeking. The jobs available to migrants are more skilled, with more favourable conditions, and mostly in construction and tourism. All this is entirely consistent with the lower number of undocumented migrants and the relatively higher wages that migrants enjoy in the island region. The difference is reflected in the following : 54 % of migrant respondents in the region of intensive agriculture and thinking of changing their occupation but this applies for only 32 % of those in the island region. Finally, 20 % of respondents in the former region plan to move to another area in search of better employment, as against only 2 % in the latter.

62It is not surprising that in their struggle to survive migrants have adopted employment strategies analogous to those of the indigenous population. A significant percentage of immigrants in both regions hold a second (and in some cases even a third) job in addition to their main employment. Specifically, 28 % of migrants in the region of intensive agriculture and 42 % in the island region are pluriactive. Among the pluriactive migrants in both areas Albanians are over-represented. There are two models for pluriactivity :
a) migrants whose main employment is in agriculture and have a second job in construction or services (the agricultural area), and b) migrants whose main employment is in tourism or construction and have a second job in agriculture or services (the island area). These two models involve rather different arrangements in relation to working time. In the first case the migrants do both jobs in parallel. In the second there is seasonal alternation between the different jobs (in summer services and/or construction and in winter agriculture) for the purposes of adaptation to the characteristics of the local economy.

  • 17  One example of the second case is an incident occurring in April 2008 in the village of Manolada ( (...)

63Last but not least, some consideration must be given to the increasing incidence of discord and antagonism between migrant nationalities. By and large Albanians are the old-timers and all the other nationalities, i.e. Bulgarians, Romanians, Eastern Europeans, Asians, Africans, the ‘newcomers’. Albanians have been in the country for an average of 10.7 years, as against 5.3 years for the Bulgarians, 5.4 years for the Romanians, 3.9 years for the Banglandeshis and 5.6 years for other nationalities. Those who entered the local labour markets at an earlier date have established their work reputation more firmly, are more trustworthy and have occupied the more skilled and responsible jobs. They clearly enjoy a higher social status than the newcomers who remain unknown (i.e. without an identity) in the local societies. The newcomers, who are mostly undocumented, are willing to be paid less than the old-timers. Sometimes this leads to interethnic antagonisms and/or clashes with employers over wages17. Many newcomers in the agricultural area live in particularly harsh conditions, work for long hours and are ill-paid. But as one Albanian evocatively expressed it, the main point is the following : “As everybody fled, I also left my country… Chasing our dreams, in the hope of finding… paradise.”

Conclusion

64The EU member states promote (explicitly or implicitly) a segmented and selective management of migratory flows involving a number of features such as : i) ‘informalization’ of immigrant labour in the agricultural sector, in small-scale family-based enterprises and the secondary labour market ; ii) treatment of undocumented immigrants as a group supplementary to legal immigrants, and iii) immigration restrictions on third country nationals.

65The analysis in this paper appears to confirm that immigrants cannot be regarded exclusively as an agricultural labour force but should rather be seen in a wider framework as a labour force in rural areas exerting significant and multi-faceted influence upon the economy and society of these areas. It was illustrated in the Greek case that immigrant labour has rapidly been upgraded to a structural characteristic of rural development due to its embeddedness in the socio-economic characteristics of rural areas and its fusion with the social aspirations and economic performance of local labour markets.

66Owing to the consecutive nature of the immigration waves, the frequency of change and internal differentiation, immigrant labour became autonomous, affecting the restructuring of rural labour markets.

67Empirical findings reveal an uneven process of immigrant adaptation to the rural labour markets. The more flexible the immigrant employment the better the outcomes achieved. Those who came earlier have achieved legalization, show comparatively higher occupational mobility, have obtained higher incomes, have expanded their social networks and so appear more adaptable.

68Differences in the types of immigrant coming to Greece and in the degree of their interaction with local societies leads to differentiated prospects of integration. Due to their adaptive capacity, family strategies and labour flexibility, Albanian immigrants seem to be better integrated into rural labour markets. Other immigrant nationalities that appear to be making headway in occupational terms are those with some socio-cultural advantages and the benefit of chronological precedence (e.g. Bulgarians and Romanians).

69In the final analysis the social mobility and occupational prospects of immigrants depend on their capacity to adapt and to evolve in the labour market, their will to integrate and their systematic adoption of indigenous characteristics. The integration process for immigrants into the rural labour market includes a new element of economic inequality and social division among immigrants. All in all, immigration policy needs to take into account the lessons arising from immigrants’ everyday practices and strategies on their part which largely substitute for lack of an integration policy at the governmental level.

Acknowledgements

70I would like to thank the three reviewers whose comments and criticism have, directly and indirectly, contributed to the significant improvement of this paper. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Loukia-Maria Fratsea for editorial assistance, to Wayne Hall for the editing of the English and to Christos Chalkias for preparing the maps.

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Notes

1  This is the number of third-country nationals and not the total number of migrants in Europe. The number of foreign nationals in the EU-27 is 23.9 million or 4.9% of total population. The foreign born, including those born in other European countries, number 40.7 million or. 8.3% of the total population (Münz, 2007; p. 9-10).

2  Irregular immigration and employment are among the most important public issues relevant to European migration today. Irregular migration is driven both by labour-market demand for lower-skilled workers and by differences in income levels between the developed countries of the EU and the immigrants’ poorer countries of origin in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia (Castles and Miller, 2009; p. 110-1).

3  No data were recorded for Portugal, despite the fact that a significant number of immigrant workers are employed in agriculture there.

4  This incident has been recorded in the press and led to the mobilization of civil rights organizations. See Picum, 2005, p. 16-18.

5  Romanians today are the most numerous foreign nationality in Italy - surpassing the Albanians - with 500,000 people (OECD, 2008).

6  Recently a story was published in Italian press stressing the harsh living conditions and exploitation of undocumented immigrants by gangmasters in Puglia (Gatti, 2006).

7  This is based on data publicized by the Ministry of Interior for the period January-October 2008 (data were retrieved in January 2009 from the following site: www.antigone.gr). It should be noted that over 66% of documented immigrants are Albanians.

8  Due to space limitations we will provide only a synthetic account of the empirical findings.

9  The first region, comprising the municipalities of Konitsa and Mastorochoria (Prefecture of Ioannina in Epirus), exemplified a marginal/ mountainous rural region. The second region included the Municipality of Velo (Prefecture of Corinthia in the Peloponnese), a characteristic dynamic lowland rural region of intensive agriculture. The third region embraced the municipalities of Kissamos and Innachorion (Prefecture of Chania, Crete) and was selected as a pluriactive island region.

10  Between 1991 and 2000 the number of labour days worked by family farm members decreased by 20% and the number of labour days performed by permanent workers increased by 85% and seasonal workers by 43% (NSSG, 2001b).

11  Migrants’ living and housing conditions are also for the most part in the hands of the farmers because 60% of permanent workers have a house provided for them by their employer. Migrants frequently live in the same house as their employer (e.g. in the basement or on a lower floor) or occupy an older dwelling alongside their employer’s house. Housing for the accommodation of migrants is in any case by no means plentiful in rural areas. Finding a house or other dwelling to rent depends entirely on the state of relations with the indigenous population.

12  There are urban residents who own farm holding and therefore here they are considered absentee farmers (see, e.g., Sivignon, 2003).

13  This arises from interviews with local authorities. However, other researchers argue that regions where ethnic minorities predominate are not so much attractive for migrants (Sintes, 2008).

14  The first was the Municipality of Vouprassia (Prefecture of Elia in Western Greece), where dynamic and intensive agriculture has been developing over the past few years with all-immigrant labour and the second was the Municipality of Arkadion (Prefecture of Zakynthos in the Ionian Islands), where the economy is a mutually complementary mix of agriculture, tourism and construction. The research was carried out under the scientific co-ordination of Prof. C. Kasimis.

15  There are other problems pertaining to the legalization of migrants in Greece that cannot be discussed here. Discussion of the subject is in progress. See Kapsalis (2007).

16  The presence of immigrants in Zakynthos is higher that anywhere else in the country. More than 13% of the population are foreigners according to the 2001 Population Census.

17  One example of the second case is an incident occurring in April 2008 in the village of Manolada (part of the agricultural area where the empirical research was carried out). Immigrants working in the strawberry fields went on strike demanding better pay and living conditions. The immigrant workers’ protest had been organised by a left-wing party following publication of press articles describing the dire conditions of immigrants in improvised camps established by the strawberry producers (see D. Daskalopoulou and M. Nodaros, ‘Red gold: A sweet taste with bitter roots’, Epsilon, magazine 30/3/2008, p. 60-70 and various articles in Rizospastis newspaper 13/5/2007, 20/5/2007 and 29/12/2007).

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List of illustrations

Title Map1 - Percentage of migrants in the labour force
Credits Source: ESYE, 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-1.png
File image/png, 66k
Title Map2 - Percentage of migrants in rural aera
Credits Source: ESYE, 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-2.png
File image/png, 73k
Title Map3 - Percentage of migrants employed in Agriculture
Credits Source: ESYE, 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-3.png
File image/png, 67k
Title Tab. 1 - Migrant employment at home by type of houshold
Credits Source : Household survey data 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 276k
Title Tab. 2 - Frequency of employing migrants by farm size
Credits Source : Household survey data 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 216k
Title Fig.1 -Family and non-family Labour
Credits Source: Household Survey data, 2001
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-6.png
File image/png, 15k
Title Fig.2 - First and current occupation of immigrants
Credits Source: Household Survey data, 2001.
URL http://mediterranee.revues.org/docannexe/image/3636/img-7.png
File image/png, 28k
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References

Electronic reference

Apostolos Papadopoulos, « “Begin from the bottom and move up” : Social Mobility of Immigrant Labour in Rural Greece », Méditerranée [Online], 113 | 2009, Online since 31 December 2011, connection on 26 May 2017. URL : http://mediterranee.revues.org/3636 ; DOI : 10.4000/mediterranee.3636

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About the author

Apostolos Papadopoulos

Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Harokopio University of Athens, Greece, apospapa@hua.gr

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Copyright

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