Migrant identities in a new immigrant destination: revealing the limitations of the ‘hard working’ migrant identity

Ruth McAreavey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
298 Downloads (Pure)


Migrant labour has transformed local economies in many places, often helping to reverse long-term decline. The emergence of new immigrant destinations (NID) globally brings mixed opportunities for the individuals involved. This article uses empirical evidence, focusing on the workplace, to show the performance, construction and significance of migrant identity. By using social identity theory to examine what it means to be a ‘migrant’, it follows from Goffman’s overarching concern with social interactions and his promotion of microanalysis as analytical lenses.
The article reveals the ambiguity of the label ‘migrant’. It shows how the external application or internal enactment of migrant identities bestow particular status that represents an asset or an obstacle to integration. It can mean ‘hard working’, ‘less deserving’ and ‘exploitable’ and it also denotes ‘lazy’ and individuals. While some individuals assume the hard working migrant and ‘exploitable’ identity in certain circumstances because of the benefits that it brings, this status can also cause high levels of dissatisfaction and distress among migrants. The research shows how the creation of a migrant identity limits the structures and networks from which migrants may draw resources and in so doing curtails the possibilities for social change due to migration.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPopulation, Space and Place
Early online date28 May 2017
Publication statusEarly online date - 28 May 2017


  • new immigrant destinations
  • integration
  • labour market
  • Migrant
  • identity


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