This article examines working conditions, careers and aspirations among immigrants working in the hotel industry in the Greater Oslo region. Using theories of labour market segregation and segmentation, and drawing on survey data of hotel workers, we show how migrants from various backgrounds are distributed into different jobs and have different work experiences in the hotel sector. Correspondence analysis shows how hotel workers are distributed along two major dimensions: quality of working conditions and time dimension of their current job. Migrants’ geographic background emerges as closely linked to their clustering patterns along these two dimensions, with very diverse implications for job opportunities and risks.
For many newly arrived immigrants, the hospitality sector constitutes the first entry-point into the labour market, as it typically employs a large number of migrant workers (Jordhus-Lier 2015:143). Here, we explore working conditions among immigrants in the hospitality sector in Oslo. What does it mean that this sector is a major employer of immigrant workers? How do immigrant groups respond to the structural conditions offered at these workplaces? We focus on the mechanisms of labour market segmentation, working conditions, and opportunities of workplace mobility. The study draws on a unique dataset with representative data on workers in the Oslo hotel sector. Various studies have focussed on ethnic segregation and segmentation in the labour market, also in the hospitality sector (Adler & Adler 2004; Matthews & Ruhs 2008; McDowell, Batnitzky, & Dyer 2009; Watt 2012). Most of these, however, were conducted in the USA, Canada or the UK; not enough is known about how the processes of labour market segregation work under different structural conditions. The mechanisms that lead to ethnic segmentation in the hospitality industry can be expected to vary depending on differences in, for instance, labour regulations, unionization levels and the role of trade unions, and various economic conditions, including unemployment levels (McDowell, Batnitzky & Dyer 2009). The Norwegian labour market, with its current low level of unemployment, high level of regulation, and relatively strong trade unions, contrasts with the settings where most studies have been undertaken, and might serve to modify or strengthen theories of segregation and segmentation. Rather than focussing on differences between Norwegian workers and immigrants, the present study describes how different groups of immigrants are associated with different sets of strategies and resources that shape the types of jobs they end up with, their workplace aspirations, and how they experience their working conditions. This study is among the first to thematise how theories of labour market segmentation apply to subgroups of immigrants in different ways.
We start this article with a brief overview of theories of immigrant labour segregation and identify three subgroups of theories with particular relevance for this study: theories of transient workers, theories of marginalised workers, and theories of networks and social capital. We then proceed to investigate the relevance of these theories, drawing on survey data from a study of hotel workers in the Oslo area. First, we investigate the extent to which Oslo hotels can be characterised as marked by ethnic segmentation. Second, we examine how working conditions in the hotels are experienced by different groups of migrants. Third, we look at the role of networks in manpower recruitment, and fourth, we examine the career opportunities and labour mobility of different migrant groups. We summarise these findings in a correspondence plot, to visualise and further illuminate the interrelationships between various factors. This analysis enables us to discuss whether the initial allocation of immigrants into low-skilled hotel jobs is likely to be of long-term significance for their careers, or whether hotel employment should rather be seen as a stepping stone towards other employment more in line with migrants’ ambitions and educational levels.
Migration and labour market segregation
Theories of labour market segmentation were developed in the 1970s, when US scholars started studying the mechanisms through which the US labour market came to be divided according to race, sex, and educational level. These groups operate not only in different labour markets, but also under different working conditions, with different chances for promotion, different wage levels and different market institutions (Reich, Gordon & Edwards 1973). Michael Piore (1979) introduced some of these theories to the field of immigration, pointing out the relevance of segmentation theories for understanding how opportunities are created for certain immigrant groups in the labour market. There is now a sizable literature on immigration and labour market segmentation, ethnic niches and the development of dual labour markets (see for instance Friberg 2011; Portes 2010; Waldinger & Lichter 2003). This research describes how segmented labour markets tend to develop when immigration reaches a certain level, and identifies various processes that lead to this segmentation. Segmentation is explained, on the one hand, as a process driven by employer preferences and demands; and on the other hand, with reference to the networks and social capital of the immigrants (Friberg 2011, Waldinger & Lichter 2003).
Some theorists see labour market segmentation as a demand-driven process that results from employers hiring immigrants, or specific subgroups of immigrants, because they are perceived to have skills that make them well-suited for performing certain tasks (for an overview, see Aslund & Skans 2010). This might be a demand for particular skills that only migrant workers can be expected to have, as when ethnic restaurants seek chefs or waiters of particular ethnic origin. However, , employers may also prefer to hire particular ethnic groups because the members are perceived to have certain skills, or are simply seen as appropriate workers for particular jobs. Such ‘suitability’ tends to be categorically determined, heavily influenced by the sex, ethnicity or other properties of those who usually do the job in question (Waldinger & Lichter 2003; Rydgren 2004; Manhica et al.2015) – as when women are seen as better suited for care work (Skeggs 1997; Näre 2013) or when Poles are seen as more hard-working than other groups of construction workers (Friberg 2011). Waldinger and Lichter (2003) refer to such ordering as the ‘hiring queue’: ethnic groups seen as having the most desirable job traits are higher up in the queue than groups deemed to have less desirable traits.
Theories of ethnic segmentation are closely linked to theories of dual labour markets. Depending on the kind of tasks that workers are hired to do, some employers will seek to develop a stable and competent work force, to reduce the costs of constant recruiting, training, and turnover, whereas others may value the flexibility entailed in employing transient workers (Waldinger & Lichter 2003). According to Piore (1979), the existence of such short-term employment opportunities in the secondary labour market matches the work aspirations of migrant workers who intend to return home with quickly earned money, and who do not seek permanent residence and employment. Due to their dual frame of reference, these workers will accept jobs with low status, harsher working conditions, and lower pay – conditions that the non-immigrant population is unlikely to accept. We will refer to these theories that explain segmentation in the labour force with reference to various mechanisms tied to the lack of permanency of stays, absence of focus on stability, and dual frame of reference for migrant workers, as theories of transient workers.
Piore has been criticised for presenting labour migrants as atomised individuals divorced from the social setting (Waldinger & Lichter 2003). It is not necessarily so that immigrants are not concerned with predictability and stability (Tyldum 2015). The argument can be turned on its head: some employers may hire immigrants because of their marginalised position in receiving communities, which makes them willing to take jobs that the majority population would not consider. Since they are far back in the hiring queue, they need to be willing to accept lower pay and worse conditions in order to find any work at all, and are not in a position to demand stable employment or more predictable working conditions. We will refer to these theories, which explain the development of dual labour markets with reference to a marginal position and lack of negotiating power of immigrant groups, as theories of marginalization.
Other theories argue that segmentation is an outcome of recruitment where job search and referrals often take place through social contacts and networks. These theories hold that immigrants tend to cluster in certain jobs because they are particularly dependent on networks to gain access to employment. Among Polish workers engaged in more labour-intensive types of construction work, for instance, information, positions and assignments tend to be transmitted through friendship, kinship, and collegial ties within Polish networks. This is facilitated by gatekeepers, foremen, team leaders and recruiters, as well as by experienced workers who provide onthe-job training – all of them Polish. Thus, networks of co-ethnics and the social capital that migrants derive from them are crucial for Polish construction workers seeking access to the Norwegian labour market, and become key mechanisms that help to maintain ethnic segmentation within the construction sector (Friberg 2011). Friberg shows that ethnic networks may be a resource for gaining access to employment in secondary jobs in the construction industry, but that social mobility into better, more stable jobs usually hinges on other factors (Friberg 2011).
Data and methodology
We apply survey data of hotel workers in the Greater Oslo area from the project ‘Industrial relations under global stress: fragmentation and the potential for representation of workers in the Norwegian hospitality sector’, funded by the Research Council of Norway.1
Creating a probability sample of hotel-sector employees entailed various challenges, as no sampling frame (i.e. a reliable, complete list of employees in hotels in Oslo and Akershus) was available. In a sector characterised by frequent use of outsourced and supplementary labour, official registers are likely to underestimate severely the true number of employees in a given hotel. Furthermore, these biases may be systematic and correlated with the size and type of the hotel. Therefore, we chose to sample hotel workers based on a random sample of hotels, and, within each hotel, a systematic sample of working hours (drawn with probability proportionate to the number of employees normally at work at that time), and register every worker present at the hotel in the sampled time-periods. This produced a three-stage sample. First, a sample of 40 hotels was selected, using linear systematic sampling from a complete list of all 110 hotels in the region pre-ordered according to the officially registered number of employees. After this, two time periods of two hours were selected in each hotel (proportionate to the estimated number of persons working at that time), and finally, all employees working within those two hours were selected for interviewing. In this way, we obtained core information, including country background information, on 867 individuals, who were interviewed at the workplaces. Of these, 44% responded to a self-administered follow-up survey (online or postal according to respondents’ preference) in Norwegian or English. Details about the survey, sampling process, response rates for various categories of respondents and challenges in organising the survey can be found in two working papers accessible on the web: Aasland & Tyldum (2011) and Underthun et al. (2011).
The subsequent analysis employs descriptive bivariate presentation of the survey data, comparing hotel workers from different geographic areas regarding central aspects of their hotel work. We then perform a multivariate correspondence analysis identify how various immigrant groups cluster in certain patterns according to their perceived working conditions and career paths.
Immigrants in the greater Oslo hotel industry
In the last two decades, Norwegian society has experienced significant increase in the share of the labour force from immigrant backgrounds, especially following the 2004 EU expansion. Approximately 12% of the current population was born outside Norway, to non-Norwegian parents. In Oslo, this share is 23% (Dzamarija 2014: 49). However, in the Oslo area, the proportion of immigrant workers in the hotel industry is much higher: roughly half the hotel work force. As Table 1 shows, no single national group dominates among immigrants working in the hotel sector. Swedes, the largest immigrant group in the sector,2 are the second-largest immigrant group in Norway (Dzamarija 2014: 46). Most of them are youth in their early twenties who come to Norway to work, and usually stay 1–3 years before returning to Sweden (Sundt 2012). While EU migrants from Poland, Lithuania and other East European states are the largest immigrant group in Norway, with Poles alone making up 13% of the immigrants (Dzamarija 2014: 46), they comprise only 8% of the immigrant workers in the hotel sector.
Country of birth of hotel workers in the Greater Oslo region, in percentage of all workers and percentage of immigrant workers (n = 867)
|In %of all workers in the hotel industry in Oslo||In %of immigrants in the hotels|
Source: This and the following tables and figures are from the Oslo hotel
With the exception of immigrants from Asia, most immigrant groups are under-represented in the hotel industry, relative to their share of the total immigrant population. Whereas 29% of immigrants to Norway came from Asia (Dzamarija 2014: 46), they made up 43% of the immigrants working in hotels in Oslo. Immigrants from Asia come to Norway generally either as marriage migrants marrying Norwegian men (the largest groups coming from the Philippines and Thailand), as refugees or asylum seekers (the largest groups coming from Iraq and Afghanistan), or as family reunification migrants, often re-joining the descendants of labour migrants from Pakistan who came to Norway in the 1970s. In all national groups, there are also those who have come to Norway to study and who combine their studies with part-time work: foreign students may work 20 hours per week and during vacation while in Norway on a student visa.
Ethnic segmentation in the Oslo hotel industry
Closer examination of the distribution of jobs in the Oslo hotel industry reveals major differences in the kind of work done by members of various immigrant groups (see Table 2). There are both Norwegian and immigrant hotel workers represented in all types of hotel jobs, but certain categories of immigrants are clearly over-represented in some job types. First of all, Table 2 shows the striking difference in national origin between ‘front’ and ‘backroom’ jobs. The different requirements of these positions reflect a range of labour-market segmentation processes at work (Denstedt 2008). ‘Front’ jobs bring the employees into direct contact with the hotel clients. For such positions, employers tend to emphasise personal appearance and service-mindedness, in addition to language skills and familiarity with the local culture. ‘Backroom’ jobs are more readily accessible to newly arrived migrants since there is less need for language skills. These positions have lower prestige, and work skills are considered more important than personal appearance and perceived social abilities (Wills et al. 2008).
Distribution of hotel workers’ tasks, by place of birth, % (n = 867)
|Norway||Other Nordic||New EU||Old EU||Other European||Asia, Africa, Latin America||Unreported/ unknown|
|Reception, admin, booking||77||8||0||3||0||10||2||100|
However, there is significant variation. Employees at some hotels enjoy high workplace security, skilled work, predictability and decent working conditions – others have low-paid jobs with uncertain working conditions, long or irregular hours, low pay and discriminatory practices and limited prospects for advancement (Aslund & Skans 2010; McDowell, Batnitzky & Dyer 2009).
Table 2 shows that administrative work at the hotel, including reception, conference work, and mid-level management, is dominated by Norwegians. However, Norwegians also work in all other types of hotel jobs, including as cleaners – but there they are in minority, as workers from Asia make up the largest group. The picture is complex: although there are clear tendencies of ethnic segmentation in the Oslo hotel sector, it seems more accurate to speak of moderate, not complete, workplace segregation. Still, the tendency is clear: the less visible and the more uncertain the work, the fewer Norwegians will there be among the employees.
The hotel industry: An uncertain workplace for some
The hotel sector in the Oslo region is the largest in Norway, with about 110 hotels located predominantly in Oslo itself and around its international airport at Gardermoen. The hotel market is dominated by Scandinavian-owned chains (Jordhus-Lier et al. 2010).
The Norwegian labour market has a relatively high level of regulation compared with other European states (Storm & Naastepad 2007), and this is reflected in the hotel sector as well. In our survey, most hotel workers report having a formal work contract: only 2% of our respondents – nearly all of them immigrants – report working without a contract. However, the sector is characterised by flexible organization of work, where part-time arrangements, call-lists, odd working hours, outsourcing and use of temporary agency arrangements, and frequent overtime work in peak seasons are all common (Jordhus-Lier et al. 2010). This flexibility, deemed necessary by employers in a sector characterised by fierce competition (Knutsen 2014), can give rise to instability and uncertainty among many workers. Table 3 shows some characteristics of hotel work arrangements for workers of various immigrant backgrounds.
Various aspects of work for people of different immigrant backgrounds and native Norwegians, % (n = 352)
|Permanently employed||Have other employer than hotel (outsourced)||Combine hotel job with studies||Combine hotel job with other job||Work overtime several times per week||Would have liked to work more hours at hotel|
|Asia and Africa||78||12||25||24||20||44|
Hotel chains in Norway follow the international trend of expanding the use of external staffing and temporary work agencies. In the hotels in our survey, outsourcing is most widespread among cleaning staff (24% outsourced). The share of hotel workers with fixed employment is lowest among those working in restaurants (59%) and cleaning (70%) (Jordhus-Lier et al. 2011). Table 3 shows that immigrants are less likely to have fixed employment than their native Norwegian colleagues. They are twice as likely to be subcontracted (have another employer than the hotel) and to have several jobs; and more than three times as likely to want to work more hours. However, as Table 3 also shows, there are differences among immigrant groups, and between immigrants and native Norwegians – but the differences are not very marked. Norwegians and other West Europeans (except Swedes) are somewhat more likely to have permanent employment than other groups. Immigrants from the new EU member-states and Asia are far more likely to be subcontracted and not employed by the hotel – but even in these groups, 87% and 88% are hired directly by the hotel, respectively. The largest differences are found with regard to self-reported underemployment – while only 10% and 4% of the Norwegian and other West Europeans (respectively) say they want to work more hours than at present, this is true for up to 44% in other immigrant groups.
Immigrants are over-represented among the workers who report uncertain working conditions. More immigrants than native Norwegians say they are afraid of losing their jobs, experience health problems in relation to their work, feel that they have little control over their work tasks, report discrimination or harassment, and are generally dissatisfied with their hotel jobs. Further division into subgroups based on country of birth gives a more nuanced picture: the most uncertain working conditions are reported by immigrants from Asia and Africa (Table 4) – for instance, almost half of them say that they have experienced discrimination or harassment at work. While discrimination is primarily performed by a superior, harassment is more commonly experienced from hotel customers. Half of the non-European hotel workers say they are afraid of losing their jobs, as against less than one in five workers from Western Europe. Indeed, immigrants from Western Europe tend to report considerably better working conditions than do native Norwegians. Hotel workers from both new EU member-states and most Western countries (except Sweden) report a higher degree of satisfaction with their work than do native Norwegians. This corresponds with qualitative findings of general subjective satisfaction with working conditions among Central and East European hotel workers in another Norwegian city, despite the lower pay and less secure work situation compared to their Norwegian colleagues (Rye 2012).
Experienced working conditions, by place of birth: percentage reporting various work challenges (n = 350)
|(Very) dissatisfied with job||Afraid of losing job||(Very) little control over work tasks||Has been discriminated or harassed||Health problems caused by jobs||Poor living standard because of low salary|
|Rest of the world||39||50||52||47||60||20|
Many of these results are hardly surprising, given the over-representation of immigrants in job categories that generally entail hardships (Jordhus-Lier et al. 2011). Still, some results seem puzzling. While hotel workers from Eastern Europe are equally likely to work in room service or cleaning as immigrants from Asia, Africa or Latin America, the latter have a much greater tendency to report these as involving difficult working conditions. On average, hotel workers from Eastern Europe are much more satisfied with their work – which on paper appears quite similar to the work performed by non-European and non-Western workers. For the Swedish and many East European workers, the transient nature of their stay in Norway may, in accordance with the theories of Piore (1979), make them more ready to accept unstable working conditions. Waldinger and Lichter (2003) point to the dual frame of reference, which in the case of recently arrived migrants would imply that they compare working conditions in Norway with those in their country of origin. Asian migrants in Oslo often have a more long-term perspective as regards staying in Norway; most of them come through marriage or as refugees or asylum-seekers, which means that they are unlikely to have immediate plans for return. For this group, the uncertainty of their jobs and hardships relative to other groups in the same hotel may seem problematic. This is also reflected in the likelihood of their joining a trade union.
Trade union membership
Are processes of segmentation driven by marginalization? In Norway, the hospitality sector has traditionally had low union membership rates, but with hotels being more unionised than, for example, restaurants (Jordhus-Lier et al., 2010). While immigrants are generally less unionised than native Norwegians (Lund & Friberg, 2004), in the Oslo hotel sector, our survey shows that some categories of immigrants have much higher union membership rates than native Norwegians – as high as 43% among Asian and African hotel workers (see Figure 1). Immigrant groups from regions known to have shorter stays in Norway are much less unionised. However, also West European immigrants – who enjoy better working conditions and greater stability – have union membership rates below 10%.
Further analysis shows not only that trade union membership goes together with long-term perspectives of working in the sector, but also that those who express the highest degree of satisfaction with their hotel workplace are less likely to be unionised. It seems that hotel workers who are least satisfied with their work are more likely to join a trade union, perhaps hoping that the trade union will defend their rights and support them, if problems arise. However, it could also be that those workers who are most aware of their rights and have access to comparable information about workplace conditions elsewhere are more likely to be dissatisfied with their work, even if their objective working conditions are basically the same as those of others.
The high level of unionization among immigrants with long-term perspectives of working in the hotel sector indicates that processes that could lead to the emergence of a dual labour market with migrants in an insecure position might be countered by a legal framework that gives influence to unions, when immigrant groups with longer-term perspective are likely to join them.
Role of networks in processes of labour market segmentation
The network theories of segmentation presented above hold that immigrants tend to cluster in certain jobs because they are particularly dependent on networks to gain access to employment. To test this, it would be relevant to check whether particular ethnic or immigrant groups tend to cluster in certain hotels. The Oslo hotel sector would appear to support these network theories. In terms of the proportion of immigrant workers at specific hotels, there is great variation: from 10% in one hotel to 100% in another (phi = 0.4, p < 0.00). Moreover, further analysis shows clear patterns in national background of the immigrants at specific hotels. For example, in the hotel with 100% immigrant staff, all the employees come from the new EU member-states. In particular, hotels tend to employ room-service workers and cleaners with the same regional, often national, background. A few hotels have tended to employ room-service workers only from the same or a few Asian countries, for example, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, or China (phi = 1.4, p < 0.00). This indicates that network recruiting is among the factors contributing to ethnic segregation in the Oslo hotel industry. It could also reflect deliberate recruitment practices on the part of the employers.
In the survey, we asked hotel workers how they had heard about their jobs. The results, shown in Table 5, confirm that network recruitment is common, but especially within certain immigrant groups. Particularly hotel workers from the ‘rest of the world’ (predominantly Asia and Africa) had more often heard about the job from family, friends or acquaintances. Workers from new EU member-states were more likely to contact the hotel directly, although the question did not ask whether they already knew someone working in that hotel. The proportion who had replied to a job advertisement was highest for Swedish workers, but even so, less than one-third had got their job that way.
How did you get your job? By place of birth, % (n = 350)
|Acquaintances, friends, family||Inquired directly at hotel||Was promoted or offered a new position in the same hotel||Replied to announcement||Agency||Other/ unknown|
|Rest of the world||47||24||6||11||2||11|
Education, career paths and mobility
Despite the big differences in the work they perform, immigrants in the hotel sector generally have educational levels similar to the native Norwegians working there (Figure 2). However, again we find noteworthy variation. Among immigrants from the new EU member-states, there is a strikingly high proportion of workers with higher education, in contrast to hotel workers from Sweden and ‘the West’. Many in the latter category, however, have more specialised professional education. For example, migrants from ‘other Western countries’ are the most likely to have a certificate of apprenticeship (57%). Having such certificates is also quite common for hotel workers from the new EU member-states (about 33%), but less so among those from Sweden or the ‘rest of the world’ (ca. 20% in each).
Taking into account their work in lower-end jobs, we can conclude that many hotel workers from the new EU states and from non-Western countries are over-qualified for their current positions. However, with fewer relevant language skills and possibly few networks in Norway, this might be a temporary phenomenon that could change, whether by promotion or return to home country. The theories of transition presented above indicate that recent immigrants will move to other jobs where they will use more of their education as they learn Norwegian and gradually become more integrated into Norwegian society. Otherwise, working in Oslo hotels may represent downward social mobility relative to class position in the home country.
Far from all immigrants working in the hotel sector are newcomers to Norway or to their current job. Especially immigrants from outside Europe are likely to have worked for at least six years in hotels, whereas Swedes and workers from new EU member-states have worked the shortest time on average (Table 6). The latter are also younger than the average, mainly below the age of 45.
Age, length of work and future job prospects, by place of birth, % (n = 350)
|Share of workers aged 45 years and above||Have worked six years or more in present job||Say that they will definitely/ definitely not be working in present job one year hence|
|Other Western||30||22||54/ 6|
|‘New’ EU||5||9||0/ 22|
|Rest of the world||17||34||12 / 3|
|Native Norwegians||15||27||28/ 22|
|Total average||15||25||27/ 18|
As to how long workers expect to stay in their current job, we find substantial differences depending on region of origin (Table 6). Immigrants from Asian and African countries are least likely to say that they are certain they will change jobs. Many workers from these regions also say they do not know. Many hotel workers from new EU member-states, and an even larger share of Swedes, are certain that they will not be working in their current jobs in a year’s time, and very few say they are certain that they will continue there. Workers from other Western countries, on the other hand, are usually quite certain they will continue working in their present job.
Correspondence analysis of Oslo hotel workers
The hotel sector represents a ready point of entry into the labour market for immigrants. For some groups, like Eastern Europeans and Swedes, jobs in the hotel sector seem to function mainly as an entry point into the labour market, and most of them are optimistic that they will have moved on in a year’s time. By contrast, immigrants from Asia and Africa seem to experience less occupational mobility; they seem to get stuck and do not move on to other jobs, regardless of their skills and previous education. However, systematic patterns are difficult to discern. In the following, we propose a way to visualise and systematise the presented findings that can help to identify how various immigrant groups cluster in certain patterns according to their perceived working conditions and their career paths.
Correspondence analysis is a data analysis tool that enables the researcher to uncover underlying structures in a dataset. It summarises the relationship among categorical variables in a large table, offering a visual presentation that facilitates a holistic interpretation of trends in the data. Categories with similar distributions will be represented as points that are close in space, and categories with highly dissimilar distributions will be positioned far apart (Clausen 1998).
The correspondence plot in Figure 3 shows several variables that denote the characteristics of employment situation, and own relationship to the workplace, of different hotel workers. The correspondence analysis produces two dimensions. The vertical dimension we read as a reflection of the level of permanency in the relationship to the employer. At the bottom, we find employees with short-term contracts, employees on call, and employees with irregular work-hours. Workers without prospects or plans of staying on in hotel work are found at this end. On the top, we find the employees in long-term, permanent positions, and with expectations of continued work in the hotel industry.
The horizontal dimension can be read as a reflection of satisfaction with own work and employment conditions, where those ones with few complaints of own working conditions are found to the left, and those reporting working condition problems accumulate towards the right-hand side of the plot.
It should be noted that location in the plot shows average positions of the different groups and categories, and may hide considerable internal variation within the categories of hotel workers, as shown in the bivariate analyses in previous sections. Furthermore, small gender differences in the plot could hide intersectional relationships of gender and immigration background that should be investigated further. Nevertheless, the plot illustrates some overall trends and patterns in the data.
Here, our main interest lies in finding where the various groups of migrants are located in the plot. However, let us start with native Norwegians: hotel workers with ethnic Norwegian background are found to the left in the plot, with above-average working conditions. They are close to the middle as regards permanence, indicating a mix of persons with long-term aspirations and more transitory prospects of working in the sector.
For immigrant workers, the plot shows clearly different constellations of working conditions and job permanence, depending on region of origin. Western, mostly West European, immigrants are clustered in the upper-left part of the plot. Here we find permanent and long-term employees with professional background in the hotel industry, reporting good working conditions. Work certificates are common among these hotel workers. Persons with management positions are found in this part of the plot.
The plot identifies two different migrant groups of shorter-term workers. The first is the large group of Swedes, who have the lowest position as to the permanence of their hotel jobs. Many of them are students or young people who take hotel jobs as a temporary measure, while planning for a career outside the hotel sector. Their reported working conditions are close to the average for all hotel workers. They are young and not in leadership positions – but they have the language skills that can put them in front-of-house jobs.
Also at the lower end of the permanence dimension are East Europeans from the new EU countries. Many seem to see their hotel jobs as an entry point into the Norwegian labour market, but do not expect to remain long in their current job. These hotel workers are less satisfied with the working conditions than the Swedes, perhaps because their lack of relevant language skills and unfamiliarity with local conditions mean access only to back-of-house positions for many. Non-unionised workers are typically found in this part of the plot. Those who do not expect to continue hotel work may feel it not worth spending money and effort to join a trade union. Irregular work hours indicate a certain distance to the sector, where hotel work might be one of several jobs or combined with studies.
The most problematic location in the plot is found at the upper right: those who are least satisfied with their working conditions but who are also in the hotel sector on a more permanent basis. Here, we find hotel workers from the ‘rest of the world’. Back-of-house cleaners are over-represented in this quadrant. It seems their high scores on the permanence dimension are not voluntary, but indicate people working in less-than-ideal conditions and without prospects of finding other employment. They are ‘stuck’ where they are.
Discussion and conclusions
We have mapped the interrelationships between workplace organization, employment conditions and contentment and well-being at work, in the heterogeneous groups of hotel workers in the hotel sector in and around the Norwegian capital. Our analysis has revealed a moderately segmented labour market, where immigrant status predicts the kind of positions workers have in the hotel, as well as how they experience their working conditions and job permanence. However, instead of an immigrant/non-immigrant dichotomy, our analysis has shown significant differences among immigrant groups in how they experience their hotel jobs. Differences among subgroups of immigrants are as large as, or larger than, those between immigrants and native Norwegian hotel workers.
How can theories of labour market segregation and segmentation explain these differences among subgroups of migrants? We began by presenting three sets of theories of labour market segmentation. Theories of transient workers hold that migrant workers are in demand because of their transient relation to the labour market. With short-term perspectives as to their stay, they are more willing to work without a formalised work relationship; and as their frame of reference is often a country with harsher working conditions and lower pay, they are willing to accept working under conditions that the native population would not, for lower pay. Our analysis shows that there is a workforce that can be described as transitory in the Oslo hotel industry, associated with young Swedes and people from the Central and Eastern EU countries. Their lack of bonds to the current job is likely to reduce their propensity to join a trade union, or to put efforts into a struggle for better working conditions.
We have referred to another set of theories of labour market segmentation as theories of marginalised workers. These theories hold that the migrant workers would opt for jobs with better conditions if they could, but that they have no other choice: they are at the back of the hiring queue, with no negotiating power to escape the marginalised positions in which they find themselves. Our analysis shows that some categories of immigrants, especially those from outside Europe, accept poor working conditions not because they are in a transitory phase, but because they are unable to gain access to better, more secure employment. However, one should be careful about describing their working conditions as ‘dismal’, or ‘unacceptable’, since objective criteria show that virtually all hotel workers enjoy a certain basic job standard. The hotel industry in Norway is fairly well-regulated: nearly all workers have an employment contract, and the majority report many positive aspects of their work.
As a group, however, non-European immigrants are clearly less satisfied with their jobs than other hotel workers, whether Norwegians or immigrants from other countries, and report substantial challenges as to their working conditions. The problems accumulate for those who have no alternative employment opportunities and are ‘stuck’ in a negative job situation. Our findings support the arguments of theories of marginalised workers that note how employers may select workers for unattractive hotel jobs from a pool of workers with relatively grim prospects for alternative employment.
Thus, both theories of transient workers and theories of marginalised workers can explain the processes of segmentation that take place in the hotel sector in Oslo. However, these theories are relevant for explaining the job situation of different categories of immigrants. In addition, we find that theories of networks and social capital can explain part of the variation, as networks appear to be a vital channel for recruitment of hotel workers.
Friberg (2011) argues that the Norwegian construction sector is characterised not so much by processes of segmentation among sectors, or the development of ethnic niches (Portes 2010), as by processes of segmentation and development of a dual labour market within workplaces. Immigrants and Norwegian workers have different kinds of jobs, and different conditions of work in the same workplaces. Much the same can be said about the hotel sector in Oslo – but here we find a labour market that is divided into three. One segment is made up of Norwegian and other West European employees who enjoy better working conditions and greater permanency than other workers. Then there are the transient workers, who have short-term contracts and who might not be happy with their conditions of work, but who do not mind so much because they do not intend to stay in these jobs for long – they plan to return to their home country or to move on to better jobs. The last group are the marginalised workers, who are stuck with the least attractive jobs because they are at the back of the hiring queue and are not able to find better employment. They also lack the negotiating power to improve their working conditions.
Both theories of transient workers and theories of marginalised workers can explain the existing processes of segmentation in the Norwegian hotel sector. For some immigrants (typically West Europeans), the hotel represents a workplace with good opportunities for professional self-realisation and development. For others (typically young Swedes, and Central/ East Europeans), the hotel job is often a welcome temporary stepping stone to another job. The greatest risks are borne by the large group of non-European migrants with diverse geographical and immigration backgrounds, working mostly as hotel cleaners, with the poorest working conditions and prospects. Similar findings are reported in a study of the restaurant sector in Sweden (Urban 2013). The labour market was found to work in different ways depending on the ethnic origin of the worker: for some, it meant dead-end jobs; for other groups, the restaurant sector served as a stepping stone to other parts of the labour market.
Thus, as regards labour market adaptation, immigrant workers should not be considered as one unitary group. Our study shows that the causes and the consequences of segmentation differ not only between the majority population and the immigrants, but also among migrant groups. While some immigrants regard their employment in the hotel sector as transient and do not mind the insecurity and low pay, others find themselves stuck in poor working conditions with few opportunities to escape.
Aasland A & Tyldum G 2011 A note on sampling procedures for the hotel survey Oslo NIBR. Available from: http://www.nibr.no/filer/2011-105.pdf. [Last accessed 15.11.2015].
Adler P & Adler P 2004 Paradise laborers: hotel work in the global economy ILR Press Ithaca NY.
Aslund O & Skans ON 2010 ‘Will I see you at work? Ethnic workplace segregation in Sweden 1985–2002’ Industrial and Labour Relations Review vol. 63 no. 3 pp. 471–493 .
Clausen SE 1998 Applied correspondence analysis: an introduction Sage Thousand Oaks CA.
Denstedt MJ 2008‘Precariousness on the menu’: restaurant work and labour mobility within the low-wage service industry in Kingston Ontario PhD thesis Queens University Kingston.
Dzamarija MT 2014 Oversikt over personer med ulik grad av innvandringsbakgrunn Statistics Norway Oslo.
Friberg JH 2011 ‘Culture at work: Polish migrants in the ethnic division of labour on Norwegian construction sites’ Ethnic and Racial Studies vol. 35 no. 11 pp. 1914–1933 .
Jordhus-Lier D Aasland A Underthun A & Tyldum G 2011 ‘Fragmenterte arbeidsplasser? En spørreundersøkelse blant hotellarbeidere i Oslo og Akershus’ Søkelys på arbeidslivet vol. 28 no. 4 pp. 355–373.
Jordhus-Lier D Bergene AC Knutsen HM & Underthun A 2010 Hotel workplaces in Oslo and Akershus NIBR Oslo.
Jordhus-Lier D 2015 ‘Extinguishing fires: coping with outsourcing in Norwegian hotel workplaces’ in Jordhus-Lier D & Underthun A A hospitable world? Organising work and workers in hotels and tourist resorts Routledge London pp. 137–155.
Knutsen HM 2014 ‘Restructuring and socially managed flexibility in the Norwegian hotel industry’ Norsk geografisk tidsskrift/Norwegian Journal of Geography vol. 68 no. 5 pp. 271–-281 .
Lund M & Friberg JH 2004 En inkluderende fagbevegelse? Innvandrere arbeidsmiljø og fagorganisering i renhold og hotell og restaurant Fafo Oslo.
McDowell L Batnitzky A & Dyer S 2009 ‘Precarious work and economic migration: emerging immigrant divisions of labour in Greater London's service sector’ International Journal of Urban and Regional Research vol. 33 no. 1 pp. 3–25 .
- Export Citation
McDowell, L, Batnitzky, A & Dyer, S 2009, ‘Precarious work and economic migration: emerging immigrant divisions of labour in Greater London's service sector’,)| false International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 3–25, 10.1111/j.1468-2427.2009.00831.x.
Manhica H. Östh J. & Rostila M. (2015). ‘Dynamics of unemployment duration among African migrants in Sweden’ Nordic Journal of Migration Research vol. 5 no. 4 pp. 194–206
Matthews G & Ruhs M 2008Are you being served? Employer demand for migrant labour in the UK’s hospitality sector University of Oxford.
Piore MJ 1979 Birds of passage: migrant labor and industrial societies Cambridge University Press.
Portes A 2010 Economic sociology: a systematic inquiry Princeton University Press Princeton NJ.
Reich M Gordon DM & Edwards RC 1973 ‘A theory of labor market segmentation’ American Economic Review vol. 63 no. 2 pp. 359–365 .
Rydgren J 2004 ‘Mechanisms of exclusion: ethnic discrimination in the Swedish labour market’ Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies vol. 30 no. 4 pp. 697–716
Rye JF 2012 ‘Jeg tror jeg er tilfreds’: Østeuropeiske arbeidsinnvandreres vurderinger av norske lønns-og arbeidsforhold Søkelys på arbeidslivet vol. 29 no. 1–2 pp. 56–75.
Skeggs B 1997 Formations of class and gender: becoming respectable Sage Thousand Oaks CA.
Storm S & Naastepad CWM 2007 Why labour market regulation may pay off: worker motivation co-ordination and productivity growth ILO Geneva.
Sundt CS 2012 Den svenske arbeidsinnvandringen: Fortrenges norsk ungdom i arbeidsmarkedet? En empirisk analyse av ungdomsarbeidsinnvandringen fra Sverige (Masters thesis) University of Oslo.
Tyldum G The Social Meanings of Migration(PhD thesis) University of Oslo Oslo.
Underthun A Hellvik H Loge J & Jordhus-Lier D 2011 On-site workplace survey and internet-based questionnaire for hotel workers in Oslo and Akershus NIBR Oslo. Available from: http://www.nibr.no/filer/2011-106.pdf [Last accessed 15.11.2015].
Urban S 2013 ‘Restaurant work experience as stepping stone to the rest of labour market’ Nordic Journal of Migration Research vol. 3 no. 2 pp. 100–109
Waldinger RD & Lichter MI 2003 How the other half works: immigration and the social organization of labor. University of California Press Berkeley.
Watt P 2012 ‘Work-life mobility and stability: the employment histories of immigrant workers at a unionized Toronto hotel’ Hospitality & Society vol. 1 no. 2 pp. 117–136.
Wills J May J Datta K Evans Y Herbert J & McIlwaine C 2008 London's changing migrant division of labour University of London.