Essential, but precarious work: Covid-19 and perceived employability in the Dutch logistics sector

  • Kerti, K. A. (Speaker)
  • Orsolya Szabó (Speaker)
  • Kroon, B. (Speaker)
  • Marloes van Engen (Speaker)
  • Inge Bleijenbergh (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentationScientific


The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the precarious working conditions of Central and Eastern European migrant workers in Western Europe (Guadagno, 2020). The measures to prevent contagion were issued on the state-level in March 2020, without distinguishing between different interest groups. After the first weeks, it appeared that in particular Central and Eastern European migrant workers employed in key economic sectors have been adversely affected. Previous research indicated that Covid-19 can be seen as a career shock (Akkermans et al., 2020), defined as a “disruptive and extraordinary event that is, at least to some degree, caused by factors outside the focal individual's control and that triggers a deliberate thought process concerning one's career” (Akkermans et al., 2018, p. 4). In line with the sustainable careers literature, the effects of Covid-19 are contingent on the personal, contextual and time dimensions of one’s career (De Vos et al., 2018). As Central and Eastern European migrant workers suffer from resource loss cycles and job insecurity in Western Europe (Kerti & Kroon, 2020), Covid-19, as a career shock, can have important implications for their working conditions and perceived employability (De Vos et al., 2018). This study explores the effects of Covid-19 on the working conditions and perceived employability of Hungarian migrant workers in the Dutch logistics sector. As part of a longitudinal qualitative research design, 10 phenomenological interviews were conducted with Hungarian migrant workers before and after the outbreak of Covid-19. The findings indicate that the extent to which Covid-19 can been seen as a career shock for Hungarian migrant workers is resource-dependent. On the one hand, those equipped with employability skills, such as higher levels of education, language skills and experiences in the Dutch labour market, are able to successfully manage their careers during the pandemic. On the other hand, those with limited resources experience increased working hours and overtime, extended periods of unemployment, and transitions to different sector in their career path. In the case of the latter, Covid-19 has a negative influence on Hungarian migrant workers’ working conditions and perceived employability, further fuelling the resource loss cycles experienced. The findings highlight that the position of vulnerable migrant workers is increasingly precarious in a system of fissured employment relations for low wage jobs. Future research should concentrate on tracing and engaging actors in global production networks, such as states, trade unions, employers’ organizations and temporary agencies, to look for contributions that could facilitate Central and Eastern European migrant workers’ sustainable careers in Western Europe.
Period7 Jul 20219 Jul 2021
Event titleIMISCOE Annual Conference
Event typeConference
LocationEsch-sur-Alzette, LuxembourgShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • migrant worker
  • career shocks
  • perceived employability
  • Covid-19
  • warehouse distribution
  • sustainable career