THE BELGIAN CATCH (C6). SOCIO-CULTURAL CONTEXT OF THE LABOUR MARKET IN SIEMIATYCZE. A QUALITATIVE RESEARCH REPORT
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The report summarizes the findings of a qualitative research carried out in Siemiatycze, north-eastern Poland, in June 2006 as a part of an international project 'Dynamics and Social Impact of the Labour Markets on Local Communities in Eastern Europe Accelerated by the EU Integration' within INTAS 'LocLab' research network. The town of Siemiatycze was selected for the project as one of five mid-size provincial towns of different characteristics in Eastern Europe, the selection criterion being large-scale workers' migration that was expected to be the predominant factor accounting for the character of the town's transformation, both before and after EU enlargement in 2005. In the light of collected qualitative data, for the last 15 years, the town of Siemiatycze has become a scene for growing disparities and contrasts in peoples' economic position. Hence, the real life in Siemiatycze, as seen through the eyes of its dwellers, does not fit the popular image of local prosperity. What people see and experience in their day-to-day struggle for economic well-being is far from a simple interrelation between labour migration and local welfare. In Siemiatycze, the emerging vision of social structure takes the form of crisscrossing dichotomies: having a decent job vs. joblessness, economic well-being vs. poverty and welfare dependence, living 'here' vs. commuting to Brussels. Mobility, as contrasted with immobilizing local ties, is widely recognized as the defining factor of success. It is not, however, the mobility of 'half-beings, half-flows', that Manuel Castells associates with the age of information, the exterritorial, technocratic and cosmopolitan elite of professionals, paying with gold credit cards and traveling in business class. Mobility patterns, which can be observed in Siemiatycze, are followed mostly by those who have to struggle for their social position and status, those threatened with unemployment, poverty and social degradation. Therefore, it seems that in the case of Siemiatycze one may speak about an interesting new phenomena - mobile, exterritorial working class, whose high position in the local community depends on the dirty work done for the affluent middle class in the western Europe.
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