Younas, Hira (2018) The true cost of cheap labour: An intersectional study to understand exploitation of immigrant students working in co-ethnic SMEs. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The purpose of this report is to empirically examine intersectionality in order to analyse the exploitation of migrant student workers and the vulnerability of their identities. Furthermore, using race theory, the report aims to explore the concept of exploitation within Ethnic Minority-owned Small and Medium Enterprises (EMSMEs) in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire (UK).

The research is concluded based on semi-structured interviews and past literature. A representative sample of 21 employees (16 men/5 women) and five employers (four male/one female) provides empirical results from an exploratory study investigating aspects or assumptions of exploitative behaviour in SMEs with owners or managers of minority ethnicity. To analyse the data, an interview guide was provided. A qualitative content analysis examined the interviews. To gather more accurate results, the author used software NVIVO, which facilitated to compare the data with the given intersectional and exploitation concepts.

Considering the economic factors and mutual cultural perceptions in SMEs, this report concludes that co-ethnic exploitation is formulated and justified by both employers and employees in ethnic minority businesses. Employers perceive the student workers as hardworking, vulnerable, naive and apt for work. On the other hand, migrant student’s desperation for work, relatively higher currency value, barriers to culture and legal rights understanding, working hour restrictions, under‐employment and devaluation of their qualifications increase the possibility of migrant workers to work in the informal sector of non-white ethnic minority-owned businesses within their home networks. Hence, there is ambivalence about migrant employment opportunities and cash economy issues in return.

Although the qualitative design of the study allows for an in-depth exploration of the experiences of migrant student workers, the relatively less time span of one year and the small sample size poses some limitations. The study emphasises the need to consider intersectional lens when examining migration, highlighting how migrant studies are mostly limited to a single axis of anti-immigrant or gendered inequality and often ignores multiple axes of migrant’s identity.

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