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From Porto to Portadown: Portuguese workers in Northern Ireland's labour market

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While North-Western Europe remains the principal destination for Portuguese emigrants, post-millennium flow has seen the United Kingdom (UK) and Northern Ireland (NI), in particular, emerging as a focal point. As part of a changing labour market demand and supply process, several thousand migrants have now been recruited by agencies to work in the region's rurally based food processing industries. This article quantifies the resurgence of Portuguese emigration trails, explores their recent distribution patterns, and evaluates the role of employment intermediaries in facilitating the flow. Using qualitative discursive techniques the experiences of these players are examined before determining their impacts on the local labour market. Results show that benefits have been brought to a number of localised economies suffering from shortages and working patterns based on substitution and segmentation have been fundamentally altered. At the same time, some small towns have struggled to adapt to this influx and concerns have been raised in relation to work-based problems and the pace of developmental change associated with the growing numbers of Portuguese emigrants in Northern Ireland.

Keywords: Northern Ireland; Portuguese; employment agent; migrant worker; rural labour market

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Ulster.

Publication date: 2008-05-17

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  • The Portuguese Journal of Social Science opens a gateway for the international community to engage with a high calibre of academic work in social sciences produced by Portuguese scholarship. Previous to the publication of this journal, this work remained largely inaccessible to an international readership due to issues with language and translation.
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