UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Undocumented migrants and ethnic enclave employers

Title details

SN: 851487
Title: Undocumented migrants and ethnic enclave employers
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-851487
Depositor: Alice Bloch, University of Manchester
Depositor: Sonia McKay, London Metropolitan University
Principal investigator(s): Alice Bloch, University of Manchester
Sponsor(s): ESRC
Grant number: ES/I037490/2
Other acknowledgements: Leena Kumarappan

Subject Categories

Employment and labour


Abstract copyright data collection owner.

The research collected qualitative interview data from 55 undocumented migrants and 24 ethnic enclave employers from Bangladeshi, Chinese, Turkish (including Kurds from Turkey and Northern Cypriots) communities who were living in London. The three groups were selected for their sizeable presence among London’s minority ethnic communities but also their migration histories, reasons for migration and pathways to the UK have been different, providing the variance of experiences that we were looking for in the study. The fieldwork took place between February 2012 and April 2013. Interviews with undocumented migrants: Of the 55 interviews carried out, 20 interviews were with undocumented migrants from China, 20 with undocumented migrants from Turkey (including Kurds and Northern Cypriots) people and 15 with undocumented migrants from Bangladesh. Trained interviewers, with relevant community language skills, carried out the interviews with undocumented migrants in first languages and translated, transcribed and anonymised the transcripts. The project team carried out detailed training about the project, in-depth interviewing, translations and transcriptions, networking and sampling and research ethics. A number of starting points into networks were used to identify interviewees as a way of ensuring greater diversity than would have been the case if we had drawn from fewer networks, as networks are often quite homogeneous. Indicative quotas to obtain different social and demographic profiles that were relevant for the research questions were used to guide the fieldwork. These included quotas for sex, length of time in the UK and place of employment, either within or outside of the ethnic enclave. In the final sample of undocumented migrants, 40 were men and 15 were women reflecting the greater difficulties we had locating women who were living as undocumented migrants due, in part, to the mores hidden nature of their experiences within domestic settings. Interviews with Employers: Interviews were carried out with 24 employers. The final sample of employers comprised 7 Bangladeshi, 8 Chinese and 9 Turkish entrepreneurs of whom 6 were Kurds from Turkey, 2 were Turkish and 1 was from Northern Cyprus. Five interviewees were female and 19 were male. With the exception of one Bangladeshi heritage woman who ran a family owned business, all the other employers interviewed were migrants born outside of Britain. Length of time in Britain ranged from 9 years to over 40 years. The interviews were carried out in English by the university based research team. Employers were identified for interview using chain referral methods starting at multiple access points for greater sample heterogeneity. Initial points of access included cold calling at businesses, gatekeepers from community organisations and through the networks of the community researchers. Our success at finding employers willing to be interviewed was due in part to the timing of the fieldwork, which took place after most of the interviews with undocumented migrants had been carried out and so we were able to effectively utilise some of the networks that had been developed for that part of the research. An asynchronous internet focus group, conducted through an email group was carried out with seven employer participants.

Project description:

This research explores the labour market experiences of undocumented migrants from Bangladesh, China and Turkey (including Kurds) living and working in London and the motivations of minority ethnic entrepreneurs employing people from these three groups. The study examines the ways in which undocumented migrants and their employers use social networks and other resources in relation to job seeking and work and how working relationships operate within frameworks of ethnicity, class and gender. Any additional disadvantages that might exist as a consequence of imbalanced power relationships due to immigration status and the extent to which employment relationships within ethnic enclave employment replicate or differ from employment relationships in general are examined. We are concerned to understand the ways in which being undocumented intersects with employment experiences and decision making about work and recruitment from both the perspectives of migrants and their employers, while engaging critically with theories of social capital. The research is based on in-depth interviews with 60 undocumented migrants, male and female, 30 working inside ethnic enclaves and 30 outside and with 24 minority ethnic employers running enclave businesses. Two asynchronous Internet focus groups with employers of undocumented migrants will be conducted to obtain a collective employer perspective.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Dates of fieldwork: 01 April 2013 - 31 January 2014
Country: United Kingdom
Geography: London
Observation units: Individuals
Kind of data: Textual
Method of data collection: Two populations were studied in this research: undocumented migrants and ethnic enclave employers. In-depth qualitative interviews were used for both study populations. A total of 55 interviews with undocumented migrants and 24 with ethnic enclave employers from Bangladeshi, Chinese, Turkish (including Kurds from Turkey and Northern Cypriots) populations who were living in London at the time of the fieldwork. Non-probably sampling techniques were used for both study populations. Participants were found using networking and chain referral / snowballing methods that included multiple starting points from community organisations, migrant and refugee support groups, cold calling, snowballing through other interviewees and interviewer and research contacts. Quotas were set for key variables for the interviews with undocumented migrants. An asynchronous internet focus group, conducted through an email group was carried out with seven employer participants. Anonymous email accounts were set up for those who expressed their interest ensuring complete confidentiality and anonymity. Once the email addresses were set up and the participants signed up, the research team posted questions to the group and the participants could reply to the question, and to each other’s comments through Reply All. The discussion was open for three weeks.

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Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 04 February 2016
Latest edition: 04 February 2016 (minor amendments only)
Copyright: Alice Bloch, University of Manchester
Access conditions: A waiver has been granted from depositing the interview transcripts. The reasons for this are: 1.Our interviews with undocumented migrants contain sensitive material about their migration journeys and working lives. Though we have taken every care to protect their identities, through the use of codes and substitute names and through the deletion of any references to specific locations (either in the UK or in the country of origin), we remain concerned that it might still be possible for a very determined investigator to identify some of the interviewees, through matters such as their age, length of time in the UK, political activity, descriptions of work places and gender. Since the consequences of such identification could be very grave for the individual we would like to eliminate all possibility of this happening. We cannot with confidence assert that, were the political climate against migration to become even more hostile than at present, records such as those that we hold, if in the public domain, would not put individuals at risk. 2. There are policy issues within the data with employers and workers and we feel it is important to carefully consider how this data is analysed and presented, as it is potentially very political in relation to both external border controls (Strategies to enter the UK and remain hidden) and internal social and economic controls, in the form of sanctions especially in relation to work places. Having worked with the data for two years we are aware of the importance of understanding the context in which the data was collected and without this there is a risk of the data being misunderstood and incorrectly analysed. 3. Some employers have undocumented migrants working for them and we feel that businesses could potentially be identified and targeted and as researchers we have a duty to do no harm to our interviewees. Although the employers and their businesses have all been annoymised, in some cases, for example where the nature of the business is out of the ordinary, it might still be possible to identify them. 4. In order to access interviews with such hidden and vulnerable groups and to get the employers whom we interviewed to speak openly about practices we did need to have in place rigorous ethical procedures and our concern is that sharing the data, which is sensitive, will breach these. Furthermore we have given undertakings to those whom we interviewed that at all costs their anonymity would be preserved. 5. Our intention is to publish widely from both data sets to ensure excellent use and dissemination of the data by the research team. The outputs will include numerous interview extracts so to that extent the data will be in the public domain in various forms though not in its entirety so ensure that the construction of a profile of the interviewee which could identify her/him would not be possible. Other researchers will, we hope, use and review the data, as we present it and we will of course remain willing to meet with other researchers, policy makers and practitioners to discuss the data, its collection and our findings. 6. We have and will continue to carry out non-academic impact activities to ensure that the data reaches a varied audience and has user and policy impact. Again this includes the use of extensive interview extracts. We have already, as can be seen from our outcomes report, engaged widely with non-academic audiences and we intend to continue in this direction in our dissemination strategies. 7. We also have concerns in relation to the community researchers whom we employed to access the interviewees. They used established contact points to begin their search for interviewees and we would want to ensure that they did not feel themselves placed in compromising positions with regard to their own duties of confidentiality to these very vulnerable groups.
Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Sonia McKay, London Metropolitan University


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