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Preconditions for the economic mobility of immigrants working in the countryside: The case of Greece

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to identify the preconditions for an upward economic mobility in time of immigrants working in agriculture. It argues this through an analysis of immigrants in the Greek countryside and a comparison of their performance to immigrants working in rural areas of other major host countries, for which the research has shown stagnant or even deteriorating economic conditions over time. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Field research in two Northern Greek rural prefectures between May 2007 and January 2008. Use of questionnaires addressed to 165 immigrants and 40 key-informants. Findings ‐ The immigrants' ability to improve their economic conditions stems mainly from three labour market characteristics which differentiate the Greek countryside from other major host countries' rural areas. The first is the interpersonal relation of mutual trust that is built between immigrants and farmers. This relationship provides immigrants with a steady employment and allows them to develop strategies to increase their income by either working within or outside agriculture. The second is the lack of intermediaries in the labour market which allows immigrants to freely negotiate their wages, to move from agriculture to non-agricultural jobs, and thus to achieve upward occupational mobility. The third is the lack of competition between old and new immigrants, which does not negatively affect their day wages. Therefore, we conclude that the structural differences in the agricultural labour markets of different countries lead to different opportunities of immigrants' economic improvement. Originality/value ‐ Fills the major gap in the European and Greek literature of immigrants in the countryside and especially their socioeconomic mobility over time.
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Keywords: Agriculture; Greece; Immigrants; Labour market; Labour mobility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 3, 2009

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