Polish Migrant Essential Workers in the UK during COVID-19: Qualitative Data, 2021

Wright, S. , Gawlewicz, A. , Narkowicz, K., Piekut, A. and Trevena, P. (2023) Polish Migrant Essential Workers in the UK during COVID-19: Qualitative Data, 2021. [Data Collection]

Datacite DOI: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-856576

Collection description

The data collection consists of 40 qualitative interviews with Polish migrant essential workers living in the UK and 10 in-depth expert interviews with key stakeholders providing information and support to migrant workers in the UK. All migrant interviews are in Polish. Six of the expert interviews with key stakeholders are in English and four are in Polish. Fieldwork was conducted fully online during the Covid-19 pandemic between March and August 2021, following the third UK-wide Covid-19 lockdown. Restrictions were still in place in some localities. Interviews took place shortly after the end of the transition period concluding the UK’s European Union exit on 1 January 2021. All Polish migrant worker interviewees entered the UK before 1 January 2021 and had the option to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The objectives of the qualitative fieldwork were to: 1. To synthesise empirical and theoretical knowledge on the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on migrant essential workers. 2. To establish how the pandemic affected Polish migrant essential worker's lives; and expert interviews with stakeholders in the public and third/voluntary sector to investigate how to best support and retain migrant essential workers in COVID-19 recovery strategies. The project also involved: - co-producing policy outputs with partner organisations in England and Scotland; and - an online survey to measure how Polish migrant essential workers across different roles and sectors were impacted by COVID-19 in regard to health, social, economic and cultural aspects, and intentions to stay in the UK/return to Poland (deposited separately to University of Sheffield). Key findings included significant new knowledge about the health, social, economic and cultural impacts of Covid-19 on migrant essential workers. Polish essential workers were severely impacted by the pandemic with major mental health impacts. Mental health support was insufficient throughout the UK. Those seeking support typically turned to private (online) services from Poland as they felt they could not access them in the UK because of language or cultural barriers, lack of understanding of the healthcare system and pathways to mental health support, support being offered during working hours only, or fear of the negative impact of using mental health services on work opportunities. Some participants were in extreme financial hardship, especially those with pre-settled status or those who arrived in the UK during the pandemic. The reasons for financial strain varied but there were strong patterns linked to increased pressure at work, greater exposure to Covid-19 as well as redundancies, pay cuts and rejected benefit applications. There was a tendency to avoid applying for state financial support. These impacts were compounded by the sense of isolation, helplessness, or long-distance grief due to inability to visit loved ones in Poland. Covid-19 impacted most detrimentally on women with caring responsibilities, single parents and people in the health and teaching sectors. The most vulnerable Polish migrant essential workers - e.g. those on lower income, with pre-existing health conditions, restricted access to support and limited English proficiency - were at most risk. Discrimination was reported, including not feeling treated equally in the workplace. The sense of discrimination two-fold: as essential workers (low-paid, low-status, unsafe jobs) and as Eastern Europeans (frequent disciplining practices, treated as threat, assumed to be less qualified). In terms of future plans, some essential workers intended to leave the UK or were unsure about their future place of residence. Brexit was a major reason for uncertain settlement plans. Vaccine hesitancy was identified, based on doubts about vaccination, especially amongst younger respondents who perceived low risks of Covid-19 for their own health, including women of childbearing age, who may have worries over unknown vaccine side-effects for fertility. Interview participants largely turned to Polish language sources for vaccination information, especially social media, and family and friends in Poland. This promoted the spread of misinformation as Poland has a strong anti-vaccination movement.

Keywords: COVID-19, Migrants, united kingdom, health, cultural activities, finance, social issues, poland,
College / School: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2023 10:02
URI: https://researchdata.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/1476

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Wright, S. , Gawlewicz, A. , Narkowicz, K., Piekut, A. and Trevena, P. (2023); Polish Migrant Essential Workers in the UK during COVID-19: Qualitative Data, 2021

UK Data Service

DOI: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-856576

Retrieved: 2024-07-12