Non-agricultural seasonal and temporary migrant workers in urban and rural Scotland: report

Report providing an estimate of the proportion of seasonal migrant workers outside of the agricultural sector in Scotland and information on the living and working conditions of non-agricultural seasonal migrant workers in rural and urban Scotland.

Qualitative research findings

The key finding from the qualitative research is that migrant employment patterns are complex and varied outwith the agricultural sectors – in other words, they do not necessarily follow the seasonal patterns of employment found within the agricultural sector. The sector most closely aligned with the agricultural sector in terms of seasonal patterns of employment is seafood processing; therefore the findings suggest that the primary industries have a focus on seasonal migrant labour in contrast to the non-primary industries.

Within the non-primary industries, there are a range of migrant workers who undertake temporary employment, casual and agency work as well as students that are working in Scotland over the summer months within non-agricultural sectors in rural and urban Scotland. Therefore, there is a more varied ecosystem of migrant employment outwith the agricultural sectors which is in part related to the flexibilities that flow from free movement as well as the other routes for migrant employment such as Tier 5 Youth Mobility.

The research has been conducted at a point where there is continued free movement, therefore there is flexibility for EU migrant workers to extend their stay beyond the seasonal or temporary periods of their employment. This increases the level of fluidity in terms of the patterns of employment and the pathways available for migrant workers from the EU. Only one seasonal migrant worker interviewed as part of the research was from outside of the EU. In essence, migrant experiences are by nature fluid and unpredictable, and these patterns are precipitated by free movement.

For the purposes of conceptual clarity when thinking through the qualitative research findings seasonal workers are defined as "persons who have moved across an international border and have been employed by a country other than their national or home country for only part of a year because the work they perform depends on seasonal conditions."

It is important to note that circular migration is not a prerequisite of seasonal employment undertaken by migrant workers, as noted in the literature review, seasonal workers may or may not return year after year depending on various factors, including the law in the host country, and their own preferences and circumstances.

However, given the varied picture of employment found within the research, we will use the term temporary migrant worker, set out in the policy context as follows: "a broader term to describe employment undertaken by a person in a State of which he or she is not a national, for a time limited period either a fixed-term, on a project-specific- basis, or task-based contract. This term encompasses derivative terms such as casual workers, guest workers, and overseas contract workers" (ILO 2019). The term includes students who undertake temporary employment to fit around their studies.

The term temporary migrant workers will be used when the work being undertaken by participants was not inherently dependent on seasonal conditions and could in practice be extended for another short-term period.

Another key point to bear in mind is that while definitions are important in terms of conceptualising the audiences that were included in the research, participants themselves did not self-identify with any of these terms. The experiences identified by migrant workers are more important than the definitional categories that we use to codify them.



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