A seminar with Dr Sam Scott (University of Gloucestershire) “Precarious evidence on precarious labour? Looking at, and beyond, employers’ stories of work, employment and migration”.
Sam Scott has been a senior lecturer in Geography at the University of Gloucestershire since 2013 and Geography Course Leader since 2015. His research interests focus on international migration and work and employment. He is particularly interested in how the employer perspective can illuminate low-wage labour migration. Until recently, Sam was researching agricultural employment regimes and migrant integration in rural areas in the UK, US and Norway on a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council (2017-2022). He is now engaged in ongoing work (since 2018) for the UK Government Director of Labour Market Enforcement (DLME) and ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) on non-compliance experienced by precarious workers in the UK labour market. Sam is also currently assisting the Centre of Migration Research on the ‘e-factor’ research project.
Employers are pivotal gatekeepers in knowledge production in the fields of migration, work and employment. Since 2007, Sam Scott has been involved in research that has gathered testimony from a multitude of employers, mainly in the horticultural sector. Drawing on Erving Goffman’s (1959) concept of Dramaturgy, he argues that employers, from positions of relative power, engage in particular ‘front of stage’ performances when providing testimony to researchers. They often selectively and strategically filter the information they provide with an eye on impression management and external legitimacy. In some cases, this can also extend to active lobbying amidst a desire to change opinion and/ or policy. The label ‘employer’ is heterogeneous, however, with variation in access and disclosure especially evident according to country, sector, company size, and role of the informant (e.g. owner, CEO, HR manager). Despite these nuances, there are significant consistencies in the way employers talk about migration, work and employment: suggesting that impression management goes beyond the individual performance to include shared roles. As the employer voice starts to become louder within migration research, Sam Scott’s concludes that more methodological reflection is needed on both what is said and what is left unsaid in the research encounter with employers.
Date: 3 April 2023 (Monday), 3 PM (CEST time)