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Bulgarian Immigration and Community Cohesion in London and Brighton Eugenia Markova Hellenic Observatory, London School of Economics Richard Black Sussex Centre for Migration Research, University of Sussex
Bulgarians in the UK - what’s known • Bulgarian immigrants in the UK: made the headlines in spring 2004 – the alleged visa scam • Bulgarian immigrants: dramatic re-appearance in the press in summer 2006 • October 2006: limited access of Bulgarian & Romanian immigrants to the UK labour market after EU accession
Legal routes of entry to the UK labour market • Since 1994: self-employment visas under the European Community Association Agreement (ECAA) March 2002-March 2005: 2,422 ECAA visas • Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) 2005: work permits issued to 2,867 Bulgarian nationals • The Sector Based Scheme (SBS) 2004: work permits issued to 1,424 Bulgarian nationals • The High-Skilled Migration Programme (HSMP) 2002 (start of HSMP): 6 applications approved to Bulgarians; 2005: 40 applications approved.
Background • This presentation on Bulgarian immigrants in the UK is extracted from a large survey of five non-EU nationalities:Albanians, Serbians, Russians, Ukrainians and Bulgarians and long-term residents, living with them in the same neighbourhoods • Localities: two London Boroughs of Hackney & Harrow, the City of Brighton & Hove • Field work: June-November 2005 • Quantitative survey: 388 new immigrants [85 Bulgarians] & 402 long-term residents • In-depth interviews
Study localities • The London Borough of Hackney: inner-London Borough; population of just over 200,00; phenomenal ethnic diversity; GLA Ethnicity index – third most diverse local authority in the UK • The London Borough of Harrow:outer-London Borough;population of just over 200,000; fifth nationally in terms of proportion of non-white residents; a third of residents born in 137 different countries; 2,040 born in EE • The City of Brighton & Hove:South coast; low rate of ethnic diversity; predominantly white population
Immigration and community cohesion: a key relationship • Main concern: experience of Bulgarian immigrants in the UK - labour market, their broader interaction with local communities, and the issue of community cohesion • Operationalising community cohesion: • employment, education, housing • sense of ‘belonging’ in the neighbourhood and in the UK • extent to which diversity is respected • expectations for the future • participation in community activities
Bulgarians coming to the UK • Peak years: 2003 & 2004 N=35 (41%) • Couples rather than single men: N=57 (67%) married or had a partner • N=45 (79%) of partners in UK, the rest – in Bulgaria, usually women • N=45 (79%) of partners of Bulgarian origin; N=12 (21%) - other ethnicity • N=41 (48%) with dependent children; Most of them in UK
Legal status • Temporary, with a right to work 42% (N=36) • Dependents 18% (N=15) • Permanent residents 17% (N=14) • ‘Semi-legal’ 8% (N=7) • Student 6% (N=5) • Temporary, not allowed to work 5% (N=4) • Undocumented 5% (N=4)
Reasons for coming to the UK • More than half in the sample left Bulgaria for economic reasons: ‘not earning enough’ (29%) ‘could not see any prospects for improvement of economic conditions’ (13%) ‘unemployed’ (4%) • Bulgarians came to the UK because of: ‘ease of entry’ (45%) ‘family and friends in the UK’ (37%) ‘studies’ (8%) NONE OF THE BULGARIANS IN THE SAMPLE CAME BECAUSE OF WELFARE BENEFITS
Education • Educational background • No qualifications – 1% (N=1) • Secondary education or college – 47% (N=40) • University or above – 52% (N=44) • Most of Bulgarians in the sample had completed education in their origin country
Language skills on arrival • More than two thirds of Bulgarians in the sample reported ‘none’ or ‘basic’ level of English on arrival • A quarter spoke no English at all • More Bulgarian women (46%) than men (23%) reported ‘fluent’ or ‘adequate’ English on arrival
Current English language skills • More than three quarters reported ‘fluent’ or ‘adequate’ current level of English • These are self-reported levels of competence • 83% of Bulgarian women reported ‘fluent’ or ‘adequate current level of English, compared to 74% of men
Housing • Almost three quarters of Bulgarians interviewed lived in private rented housing in all three localities • Owner-occupiers – 12% (N=10), residence in UK=5- 10 yrs • Common routes for finding accommodation – family, friends, other Bulgarians (44%); letting agency (28%) • Living with non-family members (NFM)– 57% (N=48, of them: 23 living with another 1-2 NFM; 19 – with 3-5 NFM; 6 – with 6-10 NFM)
Labour market (1) • Employment prior to the UK • Professions varied: from doctors, accountants, midwifes, nurses to tennis coaches, fitness instructors, shop-owners, taxi drivers and locksmiths • Not all were in employment – 28% students, 4% unemployed • Just under a quarter worked in another foreign country – 10 different countries; mainly, Germany, Greece, Libya=> most “first time emigrants”
Labour market (2) • Bulgarian immigrants’ first employment in UK Main sectors: construction (men); personal services (women); hotel & restaurant sector (both men & women) • Bulgarian immigrants’ current employment: Never worked – 11% (N=9); mainly women - dependants Very high employment rate – only 1 unemployed Majority in full-time employment Self-employed – 20% (N=15, 4 – through an agency) Only 4 working illegally, in agriculture & construction; 7 –‘semi-legal’, in health, personal services, hotels and construction Jobs: 50% - process, plant & elementary occupations; 20% - managerial, professional; 16% - administrative & skilled trades; 15% - personal services
Labour market (3) • Finding & changing employment Most important way for finding first/current job –‘through other Bulgarians’ Two thirds working for a White British employer; 11% - for a SEE employer; 9% - another Bulgarian • Wages 24% (N=15) of economically active earning below £5, the National Minimum Wage Rate No men working below £4 an hour, just 2 women Low wages prevalent in Hackney and less so in Brighton
Labour market (4) • Working hours: Bulgarian immigrants were more likely than the other groups in the study to work over 45 hours per week; more women than men. Those with permanent status were more likely to work longer hours. Only 8% of economically active Bulgarians were doing more than one job. • Membership of a trade union: Bulgarians – the only immigrant group in the survey without a single trade union member
Cohesion in diverse communities (1) • Sense of ‘belonging’ • Belonging to the neighbourhood Real lack of identification amongst Bulgarians and the other immigrant groups surveyed with the neighbourhood they were living in (two thirds of Bulgarians felt they did not belong to it) • Belonging to Britain More than half of Bulgarians felt they belonged ‘strongly’ or ‘fairly strongly’ to Britain Bulgarians in Brighton with weakest sense of belonging to Britain: N=18, 62% felt they did not belong to Britain, compared to 7 (24%) in Hackneyand 10 (35%) in Harrow
Why this weak feeling of belonging to neighbourhood? Weaker belonging in Britain because of stronger belonging in the home country? • Belonging to Bulgaria 95% (81) belonged, 59 (70%)–‘very strongly’; 4(5%) – felt they belonged not very strongly to Bulgaria Those in Brighton – weaker sense of belonging to Bulgaria than those in London • Belonging to the Borough Belonging to Borough stronger than belonging to the neighbourhood Bulgarians in Brighton more pessimistic about belonging than those in London (only 2 in Brighton felt ‘fairly strongly’ to the City, 11 – in Hackney, 12 – in Harrow)
Other factors affecting neighbourhood belonging • Of those who would return to Bulgaria soon, just 15% with return plans in the next three years said they belong compared to 57% without return plans • Bulgarians with children in the UK; home owners and men – stronger sense of belonging • Language ability, occupation, age and legal status – not associated to belonging to the neighbourhood
Valuing diversity • Three measures are used Whether the individuals believed that: a) their neighbourhoods are places where people get on well together Bulgarians had the most positive stance in the survey about this – 81% definitely agreeing or tended to agree with this proposition; this was much lower for the other groups in the survey; 83% in Hackney, 69% in Brighton • neighbourhoods are places where people help each other • And, frequency of talking to neighbours
‘Neighbourhood is a place where people help each other’ • Bulgarians were much more positive than the other groups in the survey – one in three agreeing with it; Albanians – most pessimistic • Bulgarians and Russians in the sample – less likely to reportthey talked to neighbours frequently; 17 Bulgarians (20%) never talked to neighbours; 5 (6%) – never spoke to local people; they had no children, recent arrivals
Interactions between immigrants and long-term residents • At one extreme – marriage and co-habitation Most of Bulgarians (84%, N=48) with a Bulgarian partner; just 7% (N=4) with an English person • Role of social networks 75% of Bulgarians (N=64) had friends from a different ethnic group, usually former socialist countries In case of a problem – more than three quarter relied on their partners or Bulgarian housemates, relatives or friends; 3 said ‘nobody to help’ • Cooperation at work Almost all working Bulgarians believed people at work respected each other; only 3 said they did not More than half were working with people from other ethnic groups; only 8 (11%) working with other Bulgarians
Expectations from life in the UK • Stable job to pay for a decent living • ‘quiet life’ “I like my life in the UK, that’s why I have chosen to live here. I want a quiet life and to be able to travel with my family everywhere in the world-I want everything that a normal person wishes to achieve”. (Bulgarian, Hackney, M, 28) • Plans to return to Bulgaria Bulgarians with higher intentions for return than the other groups in the sample Those in Brighton more likely to return Few Bulgarians felt the return was imminent; more than half did not know when, only 2 with a fixed date ‘Earning enough money’ and ‘improvement in the economic situation in Bulgaria’– the most important factors for return
Community participation • Whether people feel they can influence decisions at local level Just a quarter of Bulgarians felt they could do so A quarter had undertaken action to solve a local problem (contacted the appropriate organisation, local radio, MP) • Volunteering Only 3 (4%) Bulgarians had volunteered in the last 12 months compared to 30% Ukrainians, 31% Serbians, 27% Russians, 26% Albanians • Involvement in groups, clubs More than half of Bulgarians (55%) involved in clubs, mainly sports clubs; none of the Bulgarians – members of a political party or religious organisation Bulgarians and Russians – more likely to be members of an ethnic community group
Conclusion • Bulgarians in the selected localities in UK differed significantly from those in Athens, Greece and Madrid, Spain: better educated, more families with children than in Greece but less than in Spain • Bulgarians that arrived in UK in 2000 and after were competing in a more crowded labour & housing markets since East European immigration had grown • Stereotypes of Bulgarians - potential welfare dependents, Albanians - linked to organised crime and Russians - wealthy newcomers interested in football are very wide from the mark • A better image would be of hard working individuals supporting their families
Should the government, and civil society pay more attention to East Europeans?