Process and Dynamics of self-employment of legal and illegal Ukrainian immigrants in London
The paper highlights the process and dynamics of employment of Ukrainian legal and illegal immigrants and barriers for business entry and their sectoral distribution. The study focussed on London examines skills, aspirations and potential of Ukrainian illegal and legal immigrants towards employment and entrepreneurship. This paper explores the Ukrainian people through the investigation of resources they deploy in developing their businesses by using forms of capital framework (Bourdieu, 1983; Nee and Sanders, 2001). The theoretical frame devised for the study is derived from Ram et al (2008) on Somali community and Vershinina et al (2009) on Polish entrepreneurs in Leicester, where both studies took forms of capital approach (Bourdieu, 1983; Nee and Sanders, 2001) and linked motivations for self-employment of these ethnic entrepreneurs to the mixed embeddedness approach (Rath and Kloosterman, 2002). In-depth case studies were undertaken with eleven self-employed Ukrainians legally and illegally operating in London in predominantly construction but also other industries. A snow ball sampling method was used to identify illegal and legal Ukrainians in London similar to approaches used when working with hidden communities (Hamilton, 2006) through an intermediary. Our sample comprises of ten male and one female self-employed workers aged from 25 to 45. The interviews with participants were carried out over the phone, recorded, transcribed and analysed using NVivo, qualitative software package. We found that Ukrainian legal or illegal self-employed individuals were not confined to a niche in the economy, although all started in construction industry due to the availability of work in this sector and reputation East European workers have for being hard-working. When looking at forms of capital Ukrainian respondents mobilise – human, financial, cultural and social – we found that it was not enough only to rely on "social capital" to understand business formation, which is the tendency in ethnic entrepreneurship area. Immigration status has an impact on how well the individuals integrate into host country, and how accessible some forms of capital like cultural and financial are to these individuals. This comparative research provides valuable insights for policy, as there is no estimate of contribution this ethnic group makes to the UK economy, given a large number of immigrants working illegally in the UK. It is clear that all the illegal self-employed individuals who participated in this study say that their prospects of work and ability for business start-up are reliant to a large extent on their ability to legalise. Some of the income generated by these illegal individuals is sent out of the UK to support their families or invest back at home, while some of the income is reinvested in the UK. The paper’s main contributions consist of an innovative deployment of the theoretical models of forms of capital and empirical focus of an ethnic community based in London, which is neglected within current studies of ethnic entrepreneurship. The novelty of this study is the research design that looks at Ukrainian illegal immigrants through the lens of entrepreneurship theory rather than general migration literature.
Citation:Vershinina, N. and Rodionova, Y. (2010) Process and Dynamics of self-employment of legal and illegal Ukrainian immigrants in London. 33rd ISBE Conference, London, UK, 3-5th November 2010
Research Group:Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship