2.9 “Low-skilled”: The exploitation of Eastern European workers - with Alex Bulat

2.9 “Low-skilled”: The exploitation of Eastern European workers - with Alex Bulat

By Mathilda Mallinson and Helena Wadia

A post-Brexit Britain has halted visas to low-paid, so-called “low-skilled,” foreign workers - primarily coming from Central and Eastern Europe. Policymakers hoped to increase wages and decrease unemployment for Britain’s own workforce. Yet in some sectors, demand for labour is now outstripping supply.

Official figures show a rise in reports of modern slavery and labour exploitation. While the Home Secretary has blamed this on fake claims by Albanians, we look for answers in the UK’s troubled labour market. Is today’s “low-skilled” economy a higher-wage world for British workers, or a lower-wage world for undocumented ones?

Helena and Mathilda are joined in the studio by Alex Bulat - Labour Councillor and co-founder of the Migrant Democracy Project - to discuss how Central and Eastern Europeans are represented by politicians, pop culture and the press. We dissect headlines on the Home Secretary Suella Braverman's beef with Albanians, and ask whether the BBC is too scared to say ‘Brexit’.

The episode is hosted by Mathilda Mallinson (@mathildamall) and Helena Wadia (@helenawadia).


Lucila Granada, @lulagranada FLEX @FocusOnLabourDora-Olivia Vicol, Work Rights Centre @WORCrightsMarzena Zukowska @MarzenaZukowska and Magdalena Fabianczyk @MFabianczyk, POMOC @polishmigrantsDr Kasia Tee @KasiaTeeDr Alexandra Bulat @alexandrabulat


Impact of the end of free movement on the low-wage labour force https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/reports/how-is-the-end-of-free-movement-affecting-the-low-wage-labour-force-in-the-uk/Low-skilled labour supply after Brexit https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/reports/exploiting-the-opportunity-low-skilled-work-migration-after-brexit/Post-Brexit work visa data https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/work-visas-and-migrant-workers-in-the-uk/Employer survey: wage-raises https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/skills-labour-shortages#gref; signing-up bonuses https://business.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/download/269/labour_mobility_post-brexitSeasonal Worker Visa (SWV) data https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-june-2022/why-do-people-come-to-the-uk-to-workReview of 2019 Seasonal Workers pilot https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/seasonal-workers-pilot-review/seasonal-workers-pilot-review-2019FLEX assessment of SWV exploitation risks https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/seasonal-workers-pilot-review/seasonal-workers-pilot-review-2019Low democratic participation of EU migrants in the UK https://www.jrrt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/


Researcher: Eliza MellerTheme music: Samfire @soundofsamfireSong: Bill LloydPiano: Anait Karpova http://anaitkarpova.com; https://www.facebook.com/anait.karpova

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