Agricultural employers’ representation and rationalisation of their work offer: The ‘benevolent moderator’

Rye, Johan Fredrik and Scott, Sam ORCID: 0000-0002-5951-4749 (2020) Agricultural employers’ representation and rationalisation of their work offer: The ‘benevolent moderator’. In: International Labour Migration to Europe’s Rural Regions. Routledge Advances in Sociology . Routledge, pp. 141-158. ISBN 9780367900717

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Low-wage migrant workers have been widely studied because of the value they appear to bring to employers and, more worryingly, because of the poor pay and working conditions they often endure. Against this backdrop, the chapter discusses how low-wage agricultural businesses employing international migrant workers talk about their recruitment and employment practices. Drawing on a case-study involving 15 in-depth qualitative interviews with strawberry growers in the UK, US, and Norway, we illuminate the moral and ethical negotiations and contradictions that employers face when providing low-wage work towards the bottom of the labour market. While acknowledging the hardships of their migrant farm workers, employers consistently rationalise and represent their work offer as a decent and ethically acceptable one. Two mechanisms appear to underpin this. First, employers identify a ‘dual frame of reference,’ and they hold that migrants value work in relation to both the home and host country. Thus, low wages and poor working conditions are evaluated by farmers to be preferable to the even worse work options back home in the sending countries. Second, employers also make sense of their employment strategies by pointing to their ‘socially responsible’ labour management on the farm. Positioned between capital (the agri-food complex) and labour (the migrant workers), low-wage employers conceive of themselves as ‘benevolent moderators,’ rather than ‘exploitative employers.’

Item Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Full text is available at:
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human geography. Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Place, Environment and Community
Depositing User: Sam Scott
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2020 10:40
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:58

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