A comparative study of informal labour intermediation and workforce reproduction practices in Italy and the U.K. A research in progress

Sara Angiuoni


Starting in the late 1970s, the agricultural sector has undergone dramatic changes in Europe, leading to the development of an intensive model of production that is oriented to global markets. In this context, the use of lowcost migrant labour and the resort to informal labour arrangements have become the main tools to support this system and to face the increasing  competition from cheaper foreign goods. This research is aimed at the study of the informal management of migrant agricultural labour in Italy and the UK and the role of informal brokers that provide a variety of services to local employers. The hypothesis proposed here is that these intermediaries are rational and functional economic actors, whose role is embedded in a wide process of informalization of the economy. Moreover, this system requires the presence of an extremely malleable labour force, which is reproduced through a series of practices of power that push migrants into a condition of vulnerability. The research will be conducted through an ethnographic approach based on direct observation and in-depth interviews with migrant agricultural workers and informal brokers. This will help understand the different dynamics of informal employment and shed light on the hierarchical structure of the agricultural labour market.


Agriculture, Migrant Farm Workers, Labour Intermediation, Informal Brokers, Structural Vulnerability.

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