Can Integration Be Temporary? The (Dis)Integration of Temporary Migrant Workers in Canada and the UK
This chapter deals with the issue of how policies and policy makers account for the integration of migrants whose stay is expected to be temporary. Temporary migration policies target those whose labour is wanted but whose integration is not. According to the international conventions regarding migrant workers, they should have the same access to social and economic rights as native workers. However, rights advocates point to the gaps between rights in theory and their implementation on the ground. This research is based on 53 semi-structured and in-depth interviews with policy-makers, migrant organisations, migrant lawyers, unions and migration research centres, conducted in Canada and the UK. The two countries have both implemented temporary migration programmes for seasonal and low-skilled workers. My analysis shows that, in both countries, temporary migration policies and temporariness hinder the integration of migrant workers. However, the two countries differ in their rhetoric regarding temporary migrant workers: Canadian policy-makers seem to be more self-critical and more inclined to have further solutions to temporariness, whilst UK policy-makers focus on a more functional perspective where temporariness is easily justified. I argue that this difference is at least partly due to the differential immigration histories of the two countries. Canada has a long history of welcoming immigrants, who are now part of the imagined community of nationals, whereas the UK is a post-colonial country where immigration policy has fluctuated in its liberalisation and restriction via temporary routes, visas and its five-tier points-based system.
KeywordsTemporary migration policies Temporary migrant workers Comparative research (Dis)Integration
Temporariness and integration are usually seen and treated as being in contradiction to each other and temporary migration policies more or less explicitly try to avoid or undermine the integration of temporary migrant workers (Hennebry 2012; Lenard and Straehle 2012). Also within the mainstream migration studies literature, integration is generally regarded as an arduous process that takes many years to achieve. Temporariness, therefore, does not fit with the nature of the integration process as understood by most scholars as well as policy-makers. At the same time, however, it is a necessary component of temporary migration policies (TMPs), which primarily serve the interests of businesses and sending and receiving states’ economies at large. In the two countries which serve as case studies in this chapter – Canada and the UK – such employer-driven migration policies and programmes have been a common feature for decades. However, there are important differences in terms of their continuity, implementation, and the accompanying rhetoric, which I particularly focus on here.
The aim of this chapter is to understand what policy-makers and other relevant actors mean by ‘integration’ in relation to temporary migrant workers (TMWs). It treats this policy field as part of broader migration regimes, within which ‘migration is not regulated, it is negotiated’ (Rass and Wolff 2018, p. 21). How diverse actors negotiate and contribute to the understanding of temporary migration is one of the central questions that this chapter tries to answer. The question is important because first, the number of temporary migrants is increasing (Castles 2006; Hennebry 2012; Ruhs 2006), as has been the case in Canada since 2006 (Open Government Canada 2015). Also in the UK, the management of migration via temporary routes and categories has gained precedence since a points-based system that categorises migrants into five ‘tiers’ – high-skilled, medium-skilled, low-skilled, students and temporary migrants – has been introduced. Between 2000 and 2009 the annual quota for temporary immigration was greatly increased (Consterdine and Samuk 2015). Second, despite the fact that international conventions exist, the rights of temporary migrant workers are extremely limited during their stay. Existing international conventions are either not ratified by the countries in which they work or simply not implemented (Basok 2004; Fudge 2012). For instance, Canada and the UK have not yet signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers, which, like other conventions1 contains basic rules regarding the employment and rights of migrant workers. Third, temporary migrant workers are deliberately excluded from the scope of integration policies precisely because they are expected to stay only for a limited amount of time. During this time, work dominates their lives, which keeps them from becoming part of the community in which they work as well as the one they come from (Foster and Taylor 2013). Yet, we also need to consider the fact that migrant workers can gain, even if only temporarily, at least partial access to certain rights and entitlements.
Examining the situation of temporary migrant workers with the notion of (dis)integration as set out in the introduction of this volume (Collyer et al. 2020) will highlight how their integration into particular segments of the host country’s labour market is linked to their disintegration from wider social relations. As I will show, both result from the temporariness of their stay and the precariousness of their employment, which are reproduced in law, policy and discourse.
Many scholars have argued that the term ‘integration’ is problematic and needs to be reconsidered when used as an analytical concept (see Cantat 2020; Magazzini 2020). Integration has generally been considered a long-term process and its meaning is often considered interchangeable with that of ‘assimilation’ (Diehl and Schnell 2006). Berry (1997) states that ‘integration’ is a term which falls somewhere between ‘acculturation’ and ‘assimilation’, being not as lightweight as the first yet not as strong as the second. From a more critical perspective, Li (2003) indicates that integration policies have been promoting conformism rather than diversity, while Abu-Laban (1998) points out that the term ‘integration’ has started to become disconnected from multiculturalism and less tolerant of diversity.
Even if all these views can be challenged, two points are certain. First, policy-makers believe that temporary migrant workers do not need to be integrated as they are only temporarily present on the territory and, that there is no need to create extra integration policies for them. In this chapter, however, integration is not only seen as a policy aim, but a process that is equally affected by what will be described as individual ‘acts of integration’ (see also Collyer et al. 2020). Even though these acts of migrant workers can lead to partial self-integration, the policies that regulate their stay prevent them from furthering their long-term goals of gaining more rights and becoming a part of the host community. By asking why there is no genuine effort by receiving states to integrate temporary migrant workers, this chapter highlights the role of temporariness as a means of (dis)integration.
I specifically focus here on low-skilled migrant workers rather than highly skilled ones, because the latter can more easily access their right to stay (longer), to benefit from family reunification and to unionize, compared to the former (Rajkumar et al. 2012), despite the fact that they might be both entering into a country under a temporary immigration and work permit (Ruhs and Martin 2008). The highly skilled are usually perceived as more deserving (Chauvin and Garcés-Mascareñas 2014) than low-skilled migrant workers. However, this does not mean that all those who come to work in temporary sectors are low-skilled. They might be high-skilled but ‘lose’ or not be able to use their skills in the host country’s labour market, a situation that seems to confirm what De Genova (2010) described as the universal disposability of labour.
Temporary migration policies divide the global labour force into categories. Deepening this view, De Genova (2018, 14) draws attention to the intersectionality of race, class, and migrant labour which is an important aspect to underline: ‘The sociopolitical and legal branding of migrant labor as ‘foreign’ and especially as ‘illegal’ supplies a crucial disciplinary mechanism for managing all labor through a multiplication of the categories of difference that serve to decompose and fragment labor into competing rival factions riven by racialized antagonisms.’
The aim of this chapter is to better understand how policy-makers and other relevant actors – including bureaucrats, academics, migration lawyers and representatives of migrant-organisations – account for the integration of migrants whose stay is expected to be temporary. To this end, I firstly describe the research design and provide a brief rationale for comparing Canada and the UK. Secondly, I situate my argument within existing debates and literature on TMPs. Thirdly, I look in more detail at how my interviewees in Canada and the UK perceive the role of, and interplay between, (1) temporariness, (2) precariousness, (3) rights. In the final section, I summarise my findings and propose agendas for further research. My main argument is that TMPs actively hinder the integration of migrant workers, despite the fact that temporary integration is not only a theoretical possibility but is also being achieved in everyday practice, through the acts of migrant workers (Foster and Taylor 2013; Hennebry 2012; Lenard and Straehle 2012).
4.2 Research Design and Case Selection
Comparing Canada and the UK in regard to their temporary migration policies, allows an ‘intensive examination of cases with limited resources’ (Collier 1993, p. 107). Both countries initiated more open immigration policies in the 1960s – the UK because of decolonisation and emigration from previously colonised countries; Canada for demographic and economic reasons and the changing international context during the Cold War. In both countries priority was thereby given to ‘high-skilled’ over ‘low-skilled’ migrant workers. Most importantly, both countries have benefited greatly from temporary migration programmes.
My examination of how temporary migration policies cause (dis)integration of temporary migrant workers within these different historical contexts is based on qualitative data I collected between 2013 and 2015 as part of my PhD research. I conducted 53 semi-structured interviews with policy-makers, politicians, migrant lawyers, migrant associations and trade unions in Canada (Ottawa and Toronto) and the UK (Brighton, London, Sheffield and York).
The two countries share multiple similarities but also very different histories of immigration, which allows for a deep and multifaceted comparison. Both countries have similar socio-economic background features and diversity in their demographical composition. They both chose liberal economic policies and free markets, whilst also possessing certain welfare measures that make the health sector one of the priorities of the state (Esping-Andersen 2013) as a part of ‘welfare capitalism’. On the other hand, Canada is defined as a settlement country and the UK as a post-colonial immigration country (Freeman 1995) and this difference has implications for the conception of foreign workers’ rights and their prospects to make a transition to a (more) permanent stay, as I will show.
As a settlement country, Canada has traditionally enabled immigrants to be part of the nation-building process (ibid.), thus providing them with the idea that their immigration would be permanent rather than temporary (Hennebry 2010). In comparison to the UK, Canada has more nuanced policies on temporary (labour) migration, which assign different sets of obligations and opportunities to foreigners according to their level of skills; and allow at least some of them a transition to permanent status.2 This chapter compares the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP) and Low Skilled Temporary Foreign Worker Programme (LSTFWP) with the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Scheme (SAWS) and the Sector-Based Scheme (SBS) in the UK, as these programmes are similar in nature.
In a first step, I analysed legislation regarding temporary migration through a review of policy briefs, documents and scholarly articles. This chapter mostly draws on my interviews with policy-makers, politicians, migrant lawyers, migrant-organisation leaders and research centres working on migration policies. Secondly, I used semi-structured interviews, which enabled participants to speak freely about temporariness, rights and how integration policies consider or neglect TMWs. Analysing my data, I used thematic and discourse analysis – which was inductive in some ways and deductive in others. The analysis has been constructed regarding social, economic and political rights of temporary migrant workers. In my analysis, I was particularly careful about which aspects of political economy and historical context the interviewees referred to when they provided justifications for the temporary migration policies whilst not having temporary integration policies.
4.3 Temporary Migration Policies and Integration: Rights and Numbers Within Temporality
Having a temporary workforce for many years without any attempt to integrate them has been criticised by many scholars (Hennebry and Mclaughlin 2012; Karolak 2020; Lenard and Straehle 2012; Sharma 2012). In the UK context, Rogaly (2008, 2009) and Scott (2013) wrote on the lives of TMWs, underlining the employer-imposed working conditions. Other research found that an active neglect of, and intentional undermining of the rights of TMWs leads to precariousness and exploitation (Preibisch 2010). As Sarkar (2017, p. 16) writes with regard to guestworker regimes:
Wickramasekara (2011) has defined temporary migration in the eyes of the receiving states as ‘labour without people’. In a similar way, De Genova (2010) draws attention to the universal disposability of labour, explaining the structure that shapes labour migration and that of the undocumented within restrictive migration policies. Similarly, Pessar and Mahler (2003, p. 816) indicate that ‘People – irrespective of their own efforts – are situated within power hierarchies that they have not constructed’. Part of these power hierarchies for immigrants emanates from the status they have when they enter a host country – not all categories of immigration help migrants start on an equal footing (Mügge and van der Haar 2016) but they define to what extent integration and disintegration take place in the daily lives of the migrants. The status a person has on entering a country defines her or his path within the intertwined processes of integration and disintegration (Hinger 2020; Mügge and van der Haar 2016).
What is lost, however, in this policy and academic verbiage is a simple fact: at the heart of all guest worker programmes lies a set of legally-constructed constraints that makes them profitable. Without these fundamental denials – of the right to choose one’s employer, the right to organise and protest, and most importantly, the right not to be deported at the whim of employers and receiving countries – guest worker regimes would lose their raison d’être. ‘Effective management’ may succeed in reducing the excessive abuses of this system, but it cannot begin to address the issue of the guest worker system itself as abuse in the service of inordinate surplus extraction through the work of non-citizen labour.
Ruhs and Martin (2008) famously proposed that there is a trade-off between rights and numbers when states need to make decisions about the intake of migrants: states who employ more migrants, tend to grant them less rights. This knowledge, however, does not challenge the status quo or state-guided and employer-driven system of TMPs but provides a general evaluation on these programmes. Within this discussion, regimes of inequality or concerns about global justice (Lenard and Straehle 2012) occupy an important position. Criticising the rights vs numbers discussion, Dauvergne and Marsden (2014, p. 529) note that the debate behind this trade-off ignores the fact that not everyone’s temporariness is the same. Moreover, they posit that there is a need for a ‘globally contextualised approach’ (ibid., p. 540) given the marked hierarchy of nation-states.
Within such contextualised approach, the differentiation of ‘foreign’ labour is rendered necessary and useful by TMPs (De Genova 2018). That these policies neglect migrant workers social, economic and political rights is partly justified by their only ‘temporary’ presence in the country and participation in the labour market. Within this picture, migrant workers are not permitted to have a future goal of completing their integration process, but are subjected to (dis)integration processes. And if the migrants overstay their residence and work permit, they become ‘illegal’ and deportable despite having sold their labour (De Genova 2018).
Inspite of these structural constraints, there is still some room for migrant agency. Rogaly (2009, p. 7) draws attention to migrant workers who are unorganised but still manage to gain more rights and better conditions for themselves:
The logic of employers in choosing migrant workers can be quite strict and deliberate. Having the choice between workers who possess ‘soft skills’ (McCollum and Findlay 2011, p. 3) and those with a ‘strong work ethic’, who are ‘great workers’, employers will usually choose the latter (MacKenzie and Forde 2009, p. 150). Findlay et al. (2013) draw attention to how these migrant workers self-describe by sketching themselves on paper as figures, exhausted but obedient and still cheerful.
Temporary migration as an intentional move to counter entrenched inequalities with more powerful people at home; negotiation and contestation of employment arrangements; and the deliberate seeking of non-wage based livelihoods so as to avoid being subject to an employer’s control.
Also from a normative perspective, the issue of temporary migration and the limitation of rights and possibilities for integration is mostly seen as a problem. Walzer (1983) argues that guestworkers cannot be retained for long periods of time without being granted further social and political rights, as this would imply a democratic dilemma for the constituency of the nation-state. Similarly, Attas (2000) suggests that they should have a route to citizenship and the right to be able to change employer(s). Lenard and Straehle (2012) approach the issue from a global justice perspective and claim that the current application of TMPs does not promise TMWs a dignified life and that they should have more guaranteed rights, together with an open path to citizenship. Sager (2012) defends TMWs’ right to vote so that they can prevent exploitation by their employers. Ruhs (2013) mostly defends migrant workers’ economic rights and, to a certain extent (after a period, such as four to 5 years), their right to vote. Carens (2013) claims that despite the rights and numbers trade-off, migrants’ rights cannot be restricted during their stay. This is also true for migrant workers who engage in circular migration (Hennebry 2012) – livening up the economy in the towns and cities where they work. On the contrary, assuming that temporary plans are just temporary, Ottonelli and Torresi (2014) challenge these points of view, saying that people have personal projects and might not want to gain further rights nor stay for longer periods.
In this chapter, I argue that an additional problem is that no matter how many times migrant workers take up temporary labour in a host country, their rights will not accumulate. Instead, with every repeated temporary assignment, a migrant worker restarts to manoeuvre between integration and disintegration. (Dis)integration as a dialectic process thus has a strong presence in migrants’ lives both in Canada and the UK. This dialectic of (dis)integration in decision-making is seen also in the discourse of the policy-makers. Ambiguity about granting a permanent stay to TMWs is under discussion, but when it comes to political and social rights, there is hesitancy.
4.4 Migrant Rights and Temporary Integration: Conceptions of Integration for TMWs in Canada and the UK
In this section, interview based data from the two case studies are presented and discussed in order to show how the situation of TMWs is perceived and presented by various key actors involved in the politics of (dis)integration that specifically affects migrant workers.
A major difference between the two countries is that the UK chose to discontinue these programmes while Canada has demonstrated an ambivalent attitude (Samuk 2015), although the government in 2016 and 2017 talked of reforming its TMPs. The Conservative administration decided to decrease the numbers who arrive via temporary channels and better inform the migrant workers of their rights (Open Government Canada 2015). Nevertheless, those who stayed for 4 or 5 years suddenly faced the risk of deportation because they were forced to leave (CBC News 2015). In the UK, programmes were discontinued not because they resulted in unjust consequences and the deterioration of the lives of migrant workers but because the labour force was thought to be available from the countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, and thus not needed from outside the EU.
Both Canada and the UK have been keen on increasing their highly skilled labour force and to ensure the labour-market integration of TMWs but do not consider other aspects of their integration. For instance, in an interview I conducted on 11 October 2013 in Ottawa, a migrant lawyer particularly stressed how important the highly skilled are for the labour market and that they integrate more easily compared to low-skilled migrant workers. Still labour-market integration is given priority over cultural, social and residential integration. Mirroring official policy discourses, demographic reasons for immigration, while highly considered in Canada, seem to be avoided in the UK as a discourse for encouraging immigration. Demographic growth is not a consideration in the UK: security and keeping the numbers down were more often used by interviewees to explain the logic of immigration policies.
4.4.1 The Case of Canada
While integration is not planned for in Canada’s TMP, some efforts to integrate TMWs at the local level are visible. Two Liberal Party MPs I interviewed in Ottawa seemed ambiguous when it comes to people migrating under temporary schemes, while the so-called ‘Ottawa Immigration Strategy’ prepared by the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) and other local parties is explicitly open to providing settlement opportunities for TMWs, as confirmed by an OLIP and by a United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) representative. Despite the fact that temporariness goes against the historical way of drawing up immigration policies, it has become institutionalised in Canada (Goldring et al. 2009; Rajkumar et al. 2012). Hence, temporary schemes which allow migrant workers to stay for up to 5 years with limited rights are set to remain.
Due to the understanding of Canada being a ‘settlement country’ or ‘immigration country’ (Freeman 1995) Canadian authorities demonstrate more flexibility in terms of understanding the shortcomings of temporary migration and its limitations for the rights of migrant workers. It is true that policy-makers incline more towards a policy3 that would grant TMWs permanent residence in the country and support their transition to permanent migration status. Nevertheless, the numbers of those transiting to permanent residence status are below 3% (Lu and Hou 2017, p. 13). Being temporary and low skilled, family reunification and voting are out of question as social and political rights. Moreover, TMPs are known to cause the exploitation of migrant workers. Policy-makers from diverse parties accepted the exploitative aspect and were aware of the deterioration of the situation of TMWs’ living conditions. For instance, a Liberal Party MP told me in an interview:
TMPs demand sacrifices not only in the social but also in the private lives of the migrant workers (Hughes 2012). A representative of the UFCW emphasised that these policies have many negative outcomes: ‘We don’t want to separate families for four years. Those who have jobs, we want to bring the families too and let them work then they can get to stay here’. He clearly stated that family reunification as a social right is under threat for the migrant workers’ families. When I asked him about the argument in the media (Hari 2018) about the replacement of Canadian workers by migrant workers, he said:
We are talking about people working in Tim Horton’s [Canadian coffee chain store]. Canadians do not want to go to work in Tim Horton’s. I don’t buy that either. I think that they bring people in some cases and exploit them. And pay them less. I think that it is a programme that I know too well that is easily exploited [by employers].
This interview reveals that economic rights are not guaranteed fully for temporary migrant workers in regard to wages. As a result, employers can undercut minimum wage levels, which in return lowers the general wages in the labour market. Furthermore, TMWs who work in agriculture have limited rights to become a member of a rights-based labour union or organisation, a right that depends on the province they are in, as provincial regulations might limit their political opportunities to defend their rights (Makin 2011).
Employers should pay decent wages, and then more Canadian people would be employed. I am saying if TFWP was not there, the employers would have been forced to pay the Canadian workers better. As TFWs [Temporary foreign workers] they take anyone and treat them as badly as they want, they think that that way… We have a Human Rights department at UFCW…
The possibility of a transition to permanence helps guarantee better social and political rights (and even economic rights) for migrant workers. Interestingly, when the transition-to-permanence programmes are considered, the most knowledgeable policy organisation was the Chamber of Commerce; it was impressive to see to what extent the Chamber of Commerce in Ottawa was well-informed about the amended immigration laws, and ‘transition to permanence’ Schemes. A representative of the Chamber said:
This observation proves that the Chamber of Commerce is closely following the developments regarding temporary migration policies. Within this context, employer-based and pro-employer institutions have higher leverage in design and criticism of immigration policies. The expansiveness (letting higher numbers of immigrants enter the country and giving them permanent status) aspect – within so-called liberal democracies – is fulfilled (Freeman 1995) via the involvement of private interests, whilst the integration aspect (further social and political rights) is not planned in detail by pro-immigration private institutions.
The provincial nominee programme has been very successful as a complement, right, as an addition to, well, the other programmes but certainly in some of the provinces there were very high skill shortages, like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Manitoba has always been considered the best with respect to its provincial nominee programme because of how it brought together the players so that employers and the provincial representatives were together at the table…. I think the same is happening in Saskatchewan, too, you know the premier of Saskatchewan has gone to Ireland on a recruiting mission, that is how vested he is on the part of his province recognising ‘We need these workers’ you know, so we need to show some real interest in attracting the right workers [with high skills or matching skills] to our province and to our projects. … So the Canadian Experience Class, very pleased to see that they have increased the numbers for that, so that is … a great addition, because it allows that ‘segue from temporary to permanent residency’ that is very encouraging.
Regardless of who contemplates inclusiveness within public and private bodies, temporary integration has become a social reality for migrant workers who stay and work in a place for often more than 3 years. A government official from Citizenship and Immigration in Canada (CIC) admitted that some of the TMWs are definitely integrated and do not want to return to their country of origin: ‘Some of them are very integrated already so they won’t go back. […] So it is a big challenge for us to force people to go back [even if they are temporary] if they are eligible to stay here’. In line with Schweitzer’s analysis of ‘integration against the state’ (2017) this interview confirms that there is ‘integration despite temporariness’. Hence, in Canada, sending people back after their temporary work permit has expired, is still taboo, although it does happen in some cases.
Interviewees in Canada used phrases such as ‘bridge building’ and ‘multi-sector cooperation’ which meant that integration necessitates collaboration of many institutions and that there should be bridge building between these institutions, which is precisely the intention behind the OLIP. Multidimensionality of integration also includes ‘cultural and language interpretation’ as a representative of the Immigrant Women Services Ottawa (IWSO) suggested: years of experience of immigration and settlement bring forward the fact that the interpretation of culture is not the job of the interpreter but it depends on the migrant who interprets her/his own culture. This is a historically valuable experience Canadian institutions possess. Regarding migrant workers, however, not speaking English or French is still a disadvantage as they need to learn/read more about their economic, political and social rights.
Overall, the ambiguity regarding the role of immigrants as a ‘demographic contribution’ and about possible limitations to immigration come to the fore in more technical terms such as ‘absorptive capacity’ and ‘skills set’, which pay attention to bringing highly skilled couples rather than low skilled, as observed in the discourse of one of the Liberal Party members.
Integration starts at the local level, whilst decisions on TMPs (which cause disintegration) are made at the national level. Immigrants are categorised before they arrive in Canada, since they are entering via diverse schemes which determine their potential status and the extent to which they can benefit from integration policies. While for highly skilled foreign workers there are explicit integration policies (Rajkumar et al. 2012) – such as benefiting from language courses and easier rules for family reunification – for low-skilled TMWs social rights are not easy to implement due to the time limitations; political rights are almost non-present and economic rights can be violated due to lower hourly wages.
4.4.2 The Case of the UK
My interviews in the UK reveal that there was less ambiguity about temporariness: the rules of the game were clearer – in other words, once one is temporary, one is temporary. On the other hand, ways of preventing exploitation were more institutionalised compared to Canada. The Gangmasters’ and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA)4 – was established in 2004 to protect the rights of migrant workers and to check for violations of their working conditions. However, the GLAA has its limitations, since it can only check officially registered legal agencies, employers and documented migrant workers but is unable to make inquiries on the situation of undocumented migrant workers.
The categorisation of immigrants into different ‘tiers’ reinforces the underlying hierarchy of skills, which highlights what the introduction of this book describes as the stratification of (dis)integration processes (Collyer et al. 2020). Tier 3 – designed as a work-permit route for the low skilled – was discarded. Tier 5, which is for temporary workers with medium to high skill levels, still exists. Other routes for migrant workers are via Tier 2 – for skilled workers with a job offer from outside the EU – and Tier 4 for students. The tiered admission system in the UK ensures that migrants have certain limitations regarding the timeframe of their residence, work permits and social rights. Within each tier ‘there are further differentiations to parameters of presence depending on what types of conditions applicants meet’ (Meissner 2018, p. 292). Finally, temporary programmes such as the Sector-Based Scheme and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme were discontinued in 2013.
Following the end of these two of the TMW programmes in the UK in 2013, integration is now considered through a different lens and generally not in relation to temporary workers. This constitutes a major difference with Canada, where there are some attempts to integrate TMWs, as in Ottawa for instance. In the UK, the main focus of integration policies is on preventing radicalisation, promoting social cohesion, supporting liberal values and relying on local integration (Communities and Local Government 2012). However, if the government does not provide sufficient funding/support for local authorities, the latter are not able to support migrants in accessing their social, political and economic rights effectively.
The policy-makers I interviewed did not perceive any need to provide integration support to migrant workers who come via tiered immigration routes. Referring specifically to Tier 2 and Tier 5 visa-holders, a Home Office official told me that ‘from a policy point of view [there is] not much there to support integration. Also, it could be argued, they are coming from Australia, New Zealand… so integration issues will not be a problem’. Hence, policy-makers differentiate between English-speaking and non-English-speaking countries. However, Tier 5, which was not mentioned by the interviewee, is the channel also used by migrants from non-English-speaking countries such as Turkey, for instance.
In contrast with the policy-makers’ perspective, temporariness is a very fluid state which can unexpectedly change, as representatives of NGOs like the Haringey Migrant Centre in North London emphasised. For instance, temporariness can turn into permanence, as a caseworker for the Migrant Forum explained:
The real picture is thus much more intricate than the categorisations established by the tiered visa system and other TMPs indicate. Migration regimes render the integration of third country nationals impossible via temporariness: in this sense, the high-skilled and the low-skilled face similar difficulties regarding temporary status. Moreover, those who came to the UK from one of the countries that joined the EU in 20045 are not considered as migrants under EU law but despite their relatively privileged status (full political and economic rights) they face significant levels of discrimination and everyday as well as institutionalised racism (Parachivescu 2016; Sahraoui 2020). Also the lack of language skills is a major factor hindering integration that affects EU citizens to the same extent as third country nationals, as confirmed by an interviewee working for the Haringey Migrant Centre:
Temporary migrants… I just don’t really know if we can define them in the category of temporary migrants. There are people who say they just want to come to the UK to make enough money to build a house in their home [country], but then they end up staying for ten years. So, I don’t really know if we can define them as accepted … or [as] temporary migrants, because if you don’t give me a temporary time-frame I don’t really know.
In addition, there is a major problem about providing language training and support to foreigners whose integration is not explicitly desired by the host state. An interviewee who worked at the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration (SESPM) responded in the following way to my suggestion of creating a temporary integration policy that would guarantee access to such support: ‘They will be inclined to stay if we give them integration possibilities like teaching them the language’. So not wanting to encourage them to stay was an excuse for not supporting them to develop their language skills, which would ultimately also enable them to defend their rights. Nonetheless, the interviewee added, in Scotland migrant workers also receive English lessons during their stay, suggesting that regional practices regarding integration policies can differ greatly. An interviewee from UNITE indicated that they are directly involved in the provision of language support for migrant workers but struggling due to insufficient funding coming from central and local government since the budget for language courses was cut in 2010.
…the migrants that we help can be coming from the EU and outside of the EU, I think [those from] outside of the EU would have more limited resources but of course those from the EU can benefit from more rights… I don’t know. I think that the people we help here [who come from] within the EU, their problem is mainly language it seems; and increasingly benefits and housing because those are being limited for EU [citizens].
The policy-makers whom I interviewed suggested that integration policies require investment; some underlined that it is not worth having integration for those who will leave relatively soon. When I asked a case-worker at Migration Yorkshire about the concept of temporariness and how the policy conceives it she replied:
In accordance with the dilemma of temporariness and rights, a representative from CentreForum indicated that ‘Even if the state devised a temporary integration programme, the state would spend the minimum budget that it could spend’ – in other words, not enough money would be available for this cause.
Yeah, I think, that’s… we know it is difficult to create policy that is actually for the people who are here temporarily. Then, kind of, you can spend a lot of resources on integration and they might not be here. So I think there are some interesting parallels with asylum here…
A researcher from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) pointed to the hostile environment, which creates a kind of active strategy of disintegration:
Likewise, my interviewee at the Haringey Migrant Centre in London underlined the gap between rights and their implementation: ‘They have rights [political, social and economic] but they cannot access them’ for reasons related to discriminative practices; she also said that there are ‘no integration policies but disintegration policies’. She used disintegration practices and policies to mean those that create a hostile environment by depriving people of their basic social, economic and political rights so that, in the long term, they give up and decide to leave the country.
…certainly with lower-skilled migrants it would appear that the more who come, the less you do to integrate them. And with the fewer rights they are able to enjoy and with policy and rhetoric suggesting that migrants are unwelcome, it creates a very hostile environment… Some of the changes [Immigration Acts 2014 and 2016] that have been made to the benefit system recently in response to concerns about EU migration, have made it more difficult for certain groups of migrant workers who might be on temporary contracts and who don’t have regular work, which might mean that their access to the benefits system is taken away and that tends to hurt the most vulnerable migrants, particularly the women migrants. I think that the changes that have been made recently have implications for the rights of migrant workers.
On the other hand, there is the question of what TMWs deserve – as long as their opportunities to find other employment are limited because of legal restrictions to their permits (Chauvin et al. 2013). In relation to this notion of deservedness over time and of achievement, a representative of the Home Office told me:
This interview explains how integration cannot go beyond where ‘British policy would like to go’ and how the expectations of migrant workers are shaped by the logic of deservingness. This can be seen even in the case of family reunification, for instance, whereby the human right to family life (Art. 8 ECHR) is severely limited through unrealistic wage thresholds or the temporariness. Despite the fact that these basic rights are indicated in international conventions like the ICMW, states can easily escape from their responsibility simply by not signing them.
It is not that Britain is unwilling to protect the rights of the migrant workers. As I have said, we treat, we expect the migrants to be treated equally with domestic workers [domestic and seasonal agricultural workers] in the same way, but obviously as migrants there are certain things that we expect from those who come to work – not to go directly onto benefits, for example, so there is a delay before they can apply for benefits. You know, we might expect migrants to come and find work before bringing their families. There are things in that declaration [ICMW] concerning the rights of migrant workers, which go further than British policy would like to go. For a lot of countries [it is like this] as well.
In this sense, historical institutions and path dependency (Consterdine & Hampshire 2014) explain a great deal about how integration, and migration in general, are understood. For instance, the UK Home Office has mostly focused on national security and keeping the number of immigrants low than about economic competitiveness, as my interviewee from CentreForum emphasised:
In the UK, eliminating temporary migration policies is assumed to result in lower numbers of immigrants. Likewise, not providing any integration support is thought to further discourage potential migrants. Access to healthcare for instance, although it is a universal right, is rendered tricky and time-consuming via identity document checks, making sure that migrants are legally present and that their visa and work permit allow them to benefit from the health system. As Schweitzer discusses in this volume, those who enter the UK as ‘visitors’ (i.e. for 6–12 months) have no ‘recourse to public funds’, implying exclusion from the health system. The question of deservingness is hereby combined with the idea that the temporary visitor has not done anything to deserve access to public benefits, such as health.
Temporary migration is quite short in the government’s mind [meaning from six months to one year by law] and there is not so much integration you can do when you stay here for three months. Whereas if you are here for two years, that is plenty of time to integrate even if you are not going to stay longer. You have to define what you mean by integration.
Although, according to the Home Office, integration is primarily a matter of local policy in the UK, financial and administrative support to local governments is generally insufficient as my interview at Migration Yorkshire explained. Therefore, if integration is considered local, then there should be more funds for the integration of TMWs who stay in the same locality for the period over which they work. After all, TMWs have very similar needs to other newcomers, including housing, language learning and social protection, my Migration Yorkshire interviewee continued. Hence, both national and local integration policies could accommodate their needs.
On the other hand, the UK discontinued its TMPs as labour-market assessments suggested that there would be sufficient supply of foreign labour from within the EU. The government promised to check the numbers of labour migrants to ensure that there would be no shortages (NFU 2017). Currently, 75% of migrant workers are from Bulgaria and Romania whilst the rest are mostly from A8 countries (ibid.). If Brexit comes into force, however, there is a risk that the UK will re-establish and rely on ‘foreign’ labour even more than they did before 2013 (Consterdine & Samuk 2018). At least in the current situation, EU citizens have more political and social rights compared to third country nationals who migrate on a temporary basis. Therefore, violation of political, social and economic rights, are likely to be greater if also EU citizens become ‘foreign’ labour following Brexit.
4.5 The Disruption of Integration Via Temporariness and Processes of (Dis)Integration in Canada and the UK
The aim of this chapter has been, firstly, to describe two national approaches to temporary migration policies and to critically assess how these policies prevent – although never fully – a natural process of integration in both Canada and the UK, thereby neglecting the inherent changeability and fluidity of migrant workers’ lives (Hennebry 2012; Lenard and Straehle 2012). This chapter elucidates four crucial aspects of comparison between Canada and the UK:
First, despite their diverse histories of immigration and despite the fact that they both greatly benefited from TMPs, their approaches to these programmes diverge. The UK ended their temporary migration programmes such as SAWS and SBS in 2013 but without closing temporary routes (based on tiers) for medium- to high-skilled migrants. However, in the UK, ending TMPs was not justified in terms of these policies being unjust to migrant workers; it was because, sufficient labour would be provided from within the EU. Moreover, the dominant discourse in the UK has been more concerned with national interest, security and keeping numbers down. In Canada, TMPs have been criticised for the fact that TMWs cannot stay permanently and donot have access to full social, economic and political rights. Yet, in Canada the programmes continue to be implemented.
A second crucial aspect is that, in Canada, the rhetoric is more pro-immigration and pro-rights when it comes to TMWs, whereas in the UK, temporary migration is still largely perceived as ‘labour without people’ (Wickramasekara 2011). In both countries, however, the policy rhetoric reflects a general preference for highly skilled workers. Canadian policy-makers make references to the history of Canada as an immigration country and acknowledge the fact that these policies can have exploitative consequences for migrant workers, particularly the low-skilled. In the UK, questioning of temporariness and its consequences by policy-makers is not so obvious, also because the country relies more on the labour of EU citizens, whose rights are much better protected.
Thirdly, the integration of TMWs is regarded as an anomaly in the two countries (though arguably less so in Canada) and the corresponding integration programmes and policies therefore often exclude especially low-skilled migrant workers. Rather than meeting the actual needs of the TMWs, especially in the UK, the discourse around who contributes enough is still predominating in policy decisions (Chauvin and Garcés-Mascareñas 2014). It seems that TMWs never contribute enough to escape from permanent temporariness and processes of (dis)integration. In Canada, the discourse is not about deservingness but about the instrumentalisation of the ‘right workers’. Differently from the UK, Canada has two well-functioning programmes that include a transition to permanence, and the overall rhetoric in Canada is more inclusive and open-ended as the country continues to implement TMPs.
Fourthly, in Canada, the highly skilled are seen to be contributing much more than the low-skilled, in terms of both social and labour-market integration, whilst low-skilled migrants’ contributions are considered as secondary. Therefore, there are more integration policies for the high-skilled to benefit from (Rajkumar et al. 2012). In the UK, the gap between the perceived contributions of high- and low-skilled migrant workers has narrowed in the last eight to ten years as the channel for the highly skilled within tier 1 has also been restricted (Samuk 2015). Also access to family reunification has become dependent on the salary level, not skill level: rights are a part of the discussion but the integration of TMWs is not, and the discourses of policy-makers are restrictive regarding how far the policy can proceed, while un/deservingness is still a dominant element of the rhetoric.
My interviews reveal that there is a certain level of ambiguity when possible integration policies for migrant workers are pronounced. However, ambiguity about the current treatment of TMWs is more visible in Canada, while integration of TMWs was clearly rejected by my interviewees in the UK. There is the presumption in the UK that migrant workers have access to rights, either because they are EU citizens, or because they come through tiers that allow certain access to rights (while upholding divergences between different tiers). And since the UK eliminated the TMPs and tier/route for the low-skilled, the policy-makers assume that there is no need to spend on integration policies for ‘the temporary’.
Finally, I would like to suggest ideas for further research. First, there is a need to examine TMPs in relation to the gendered dimensions of (dis)integration. Holliday et al. (2018) have recently written on this topic but gendered processes of temporariness requires more attention. Secondly, how Brexit might potentially affect TMPs could be a relevant theme – it might mean more restrictive immigration policies and more disintegration measures. In this paper, I aimed at drawing attention to this temporary integration and (dis)integration process – caused by states and employer-driven economic policies. However, I also wanted to underline that migrants can integrate, although this self-integration is ignored by the state and other economic actors. In line with this idea, thirdly, temporary integration and migrant agency require further research in diverse contexts of temporary migration. Finally, yet importantly, who can and cannot benefit from Canadian Experience Class and Provincial Nominee Programme have been researched less, and this would be a good area for further research and comparison. In addition to these topics, the role of temporary migrants’ agency –what the editors of this volume have called ‘acts of integration’ (Collyer et al. 2020) – influencing the differential implementation of TMPs in dissimilar local contexts and how their agency becomes a part of resistance within (dis)integration, are crucial research themes.
Besides the ICMW, there are many other conventions such as the International Labour Organisation Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), the Private Employment Agencies Convention (1997), the Domestic Workers Convention (2011), the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
In Canada, Temporary Foreign Worker Programmes (TFWPs) include the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and Live-in Caregiver Programme (LCP), which all give great weight to the transition to permanent status in comparison with the Low-Skilled Temporary Foreign Worker Programme (LSTFWP) and the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Programme (SAWP), although not all can be compared to those in the UK.
Such as CEC (Canadian Experience Class), PNP (Provincial Nominee Programme) and FSWP (Federal Skilled Worker Programme)
The previous name was Gangmasters’ Licensing Agency (GLA)
Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia
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