Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

Migration and temporary agency work in the EU welfare, tourist and agricultural sectors


Principal Investigator: Thanos Maroukis

Funder: EU FP7 Marie Curie Research Fellowship Programme

Duration: October 2012 - September 2014


Research outputs

Policy briefs
Final Project Workshop
Departmental themes
Institute for Policy Research themes


Project rationale and aims

How do people live on temporary agency work (TAW), and how does it work for businesses? Is it a luxury to think twice about labour rights in times of high unemployment and economic recession or is it a necessity to revisit the ways capital finds opportunities for reinvestment of the production surplus in people and places?

This research project seeks to provide evidence in addressing these fundamental questions for the future of the European (if not global) political economy by looking more specifically in the healthcare, tourist and food industries of two EU ‘outliers’, the UK and Greece.

In a European economy that needs to redefine itself against high global economic competition and the recurring problems of effective demand, forms of employment like TAW seem to serve an undercurrent of matching (often) skilled labour with (often) unskilled wage rates and/or insecurity within and/or outside work. It is further suggested that the distance created between employer, production and worker under a TAW employment relationship eventually challenges the sustainability of this organizational form of production. Yet this system of fragmented labour relations seems to be reproducing itself.

This project explores how. The viability of these livelihoods and capital expansion plans is discussed against the features of the workers and the capital as they are bounded by formal and informal institutional arrangements and structures.


The exploration of the feature and processes of labour supply and demand mediating the experience of TAW on the production ground largely draws on qualitative semi-structured interviews with migrant temporary agency workers, a key labour pool for this type of employment. Complementary to this enquiry is the conducting of qualitative interviews with employment agencies/agents brokering these workers’ labour and employers in their respective sectors as well as civil society stakeholders and labour market control enforcement authorities in the two EU countries studied, characterized by different political economies and welfare regimes, experiencing different and managing differently migration flows. The primary data collected is examined against secondary data on the subject matter.

Project documents


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