Migration aspirations and experiences of female Polish migrant workers in the UK

Aziz, Karima (2018) Migration aspirations and experiences of female Polish migrant workers in the UK. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis investigates migration aspirations and experiences of female Polish migrant workers and returnees, who have been working and living in the UK. In the face of theoretical debates and a lack of knowledge on the experience of Polish women as migrant workers in the UK, a contextualised study prioritising the narratives of the interviewees was established. The theoretical and methodological approach is characterised by grounded theory methodology informed by theoretical sensitivity, which is combined with the analysis of biographical narrative interviews, semi-structured expert interviews, and secondary quantitative data. Through this approach, the conditions and influential factors that shape female Polish migrant workers’ aspirations and experiences, as well the way in which they make meaning of them, are scrutinised. Different patterns of migration aspirations have been constructed by the informants’ narratives – migration as a solution, as a family strategy or as an opportunity. Furthermore, specificities of working and living in the UK have been established, marked by different routes into employment, migrant and feminised work, and different patterns of work trajectories; as well as social networks, transnational lives and experiences of women and family life. Constructions of return decisions or the lack of return motivations, as well as experiences after return, bring forth the relevance of expectations resulting in the question: ‘return to what?’ Additionally, return plans have been adapted in the face of structural constraints or because of individual preferences, which were at times overruled in the context of return as a family strategy. Return was also constructed, however, as path to personal or professional fulfilment, as an opportunity, or as a result of disappointment. In the context of the conditions of the enlarged EU providing the freedom of movement, the post-transformation labour market in Poland, and the gendered and migrant labour market segmentation in the UK, as well as gender regimes, female Polish migrant workers actively mediated their migration aspirations and experiences.

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