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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Professor Catherine BarnardProfessor Catherine Barnard has been awarded a prestigious ESRC Senior Fellowship as part of the UK in a Changing Europe project. Throughout 2016 Catherine will work together with Dr Amy Ludlow to gather empirical evidence about the experiences of EU migrants living and working in the UK and to explore whether the UK benefit system is acting as a pull factor to the UK.

Background to the Project

Migration is a highly politicised issue in the UK, and the role of migrant workers from the EU is particularly sensitive. Unlike some other EU Member States, the UK did not impose restrictions on the admission of workers coming from the so-called EU-8 countries (such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia), apart from the requirement to register under the Workers Registration Scheme. Over a million EU-8 workers, taking advantage of their free movement rights under Article 45 TFEU, arrived in the UK after 2004. They enjoy rights to equal treatment not only in respect of their terms and conditions of employment, but also in respect of any social and tax advantages offered to domestic workers. This includes the payment of child benefit, an exportable benefit under Regulation 883/2004, and ‘in-work benefits’, such as tax credits. The combined effect of these EU rules and the nature of the UK’s welfare system (especially some of its universalist benefits) has led to accusations that the UK has become a ‘honeypot nation’

We need to understand the migrant experience. Our aim is to gather robust empirical evidence about EU migrants' experiences of finding work and being employed in the UK, as well as their use of social security.  We also want to know what motivates EU citizens to move to the UK. It is a big step for anybody to change countries…you are leaving your home and family, and coming to a very different culture. Are you glad you made the move?

By combining this insight with knowledge about the law in this field, we hope to shed new light on the big question of how we adequately regulate migration within a socio-economically diverse EU and a post-financial crisis context. This question is central to Brexit and to the outcome of the UK's referendum on EU membership.

To encourage EU-8 migrants to participate in the research, Professor Barnard and Dr Ludlow were interviewed on Polish Waves, Cambridge 105 FM, and have visited cultural centres in Cambridge and London. They also want to recruit a Polish-speaking research assistant. The project will be launched with a roundtable at Gonville & Caius College on 26 February 2016.

As well as one-to-one interviews and focus groups they are adopting novel approaches to research, including making a documentary and providing migrant workers with disposable cameras.

The project is a two-way process, with minute-long podcasts providing summaries of relevant aspects of the law, which will be available on the EU Migrant Worker Project website later this month.

Getting Involved

Drs Barnard and Ludlow are keen to speak with anyone who can contribute relevant experiences or insights. They are especially keen to speak to EU migrant workers who either will shortly depart their home Member State in search of work in the UK or are currently living in the UK.

If you would like to contact them please email or tweet @eumigrantworker. You can also contact them on Facebook and find more information about their work on the project website


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