15. maj 2012

Institutional differences and varieties of social dumping

- A comparative study of wages and working conditions among recent Polish migrants in Oslo, Copenhagen and Reykjavik

Paper by Jon Horgen Friberg (Fafo), Jens Arnholtz (FAOS), Line Eldring (Fafo), Nana Wesley Hansen (FAOS) and Frida Thorarins (CIRRA)

Since the first eastward enlargement of the EU in 2004, substantial numbers of Polish workers have been recruited to fill relatively low skilled jobs in the Nordic countries. This development has given rise to substantial concern of low wage competition or ‘social dumping’. Using data on wages and working conditions among Polish migrant workers based on three RDS-surveys from Oslo, Copenhagen and Reykjavik, this paper explores the variation within and between these three Nordic capitals in the outcomes and conditions of new migrants in the labour market. We find that there is significant variation in the ability to regulate the labour market and to protect the basic rights of migrant workers. There are also significant differences between how the labour markets for Polish migrants are structured in the three cities. Transnational subcontracting and new forms of atypical and casual employment has been a particular powerful driver of low wage competition in Oslo, while Poles in Copenhagen appear to enjoy slightly more protection from existing systems of trade union representation and collective bargaining. In contrast to Oslo and Copenhagen, Polish migrants in Reykjavik are generally incorporated into regular forms of employment with some protection against arbitrary treatment, but in the context of the recent economic crisis, the encompassing system of extended collective bargaining on Iceland have not been able to prevent the establishment of unusually low wage levels. The analyses highlight how different institutional configurations within the Nordic labour markets shape the outcomes of migrant workers and mediate the effects which labour mobility may have upon the labour market.

Paper presented at the 6th Nordic Working Life Conference, Elsinore, Denmark, 25-27 April 2012.