Essential workers or essential hands for work? Multisited research on migrant farmworkers safety in Poland and Germany


Seasonal workers in agriculture are the so-called essential workers, without whom fresh fruit and vegetables would not find their way from the fields to our tables. Their absence has proved problematic for their employers and whole agri-food production sector, especially during a pandemic, when borders were temporarily closed and various pandemic restrictions applied to third country nationals as well as to the mobility of EU citizens. Fast track solutions securing arrival of farmworkers and enabling work during quarantine were introduced during the first months of the pandemic. The aim of this project is to analyse the situation of migrant farmworkers in Poland (mainly Ukrainian citizens) and Germany (farmworkers from Poland) and how their safety is influenced by the so-called agricultural exceptionalism (i.e. special provisions applicable to employment in the agricultural sector, also in times of a pandemic).

Focusing on the case of seasonal migration to agriculture of Poles to Germany and Ukrainians to Poland, the project touches upon not only international migration studies but also labour relations, employee safety and rural sociology. The research question is how does the agricultural exceptionalism, both before and during the pandemic, affects work and employment conditions of migrant farmworkers in Poland and Germany?

The research will be carried out by a team of three young researchers, and will use triangulation of methods and tools in the field of social sciences (e.g. existing data, empirical research, analysis of legal provisions), the most important part is multi-sited qualitative research, including interviews with migrants working in two countries, their employers and stakeholders.


2021 - 2023

Source of funding

„Inicjatywa Doskonałości – Uczelnia Badawcza” (IDUB), Priorytetowy Obszar Badawczy V (POB V), „Nowe Idee"