A Study of Informal Enterprising Amongst Marginalised Migrants

  • School: Nottingham Business School
  • Starting: 2019
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / International student (non-EU) / Self-funded


Migrants risk deadly sea crossings across the Mediterranean to seek refuge from conflicts as well as economic opportunities in Europe. Little is however known about the immediate post-arrival dynamics of these migration processes (Castles et al., 2014). Recent research has focused on recorded migration in the formal economy, overlooking migrants’ activities in the informal economy (Dustmann and Frattini, 2014). Some categories of migrants are in fact more likely to work under exploitative conditions in the informal economy (Anderson, 2007) as their uncertain status and transitory domicile often prevent them from seeking formal work in the short term (Shelley, 2007). In addition, the transitory status of marginalised migrants means they are also more likely to suddenly relocate. This implies that the available opportunities for such research are few and often require urgent action immediately after arrival (Zontini, 2010). Thus, this project will increase knowledge on the informal activities of marginalised migrants such as asylum seekers, over-stayers, irregular, unauthorised, and undocumented migrants (Düvell et al., 2008). This is important in order to understand social integration’s dynamics of the increasing number of marginalised migrants in European society. In spite of structural difficulties, migrants traditionally thrive in promoting enterprise (Smallbone et al., 2003). The notion of Gemeinschaft helps to explain how migrants are able to mobilise social ties within tightknit communities to access resources and competences (Ram and Jones, 2008). If this is critical for the survival of marginalised migrants, it also means that their enterprising activities often take place within the shadows of the formal economy (Ram et al., 2007). Nevertheless, informal enterprising of marginalised migrants remains an unexplored reality, (Colombo, 2013; Webb et al., 2014). Therefore, looking at migrants’ post-arrival integration processes, our interest is in addressing the question: how do marginalised migrants start, promote, and sustain enterprising activities in the informal economy?

In spite of policy makers’ renewed interest in the impact of informal enterprising (Williams, 2015), the attention of European governments remains focused on the macro-level (Europa, 2014). Yet, understanding the informal economy is also critically relevant at micro and meso-level (Faist, 1997).

At the micro-level, we will welcome projects that explore how informal enterprising activities shape the lives of marginalised migrants. Proposals can focus on how individuals make sense of enterprising (Cohen and Musson, 2000); on how they construct an enterprising self (Watson, 2008); and on how they make sense of social expectations (Vazquez del Aguila, 2014) or of the factors preventing formal work (Dayton-Johnson et al., 2009). At the meso-level, we will welcome projects that investigate how the enterprising activities of marginalised migrants relate to and transform local social communities. We welcome proposals that explore how informal enterprising activities are embedded and how they shape societal meanings, expectations, and practices in the communities affected by migration. Proposals can draw upon theories such as Migration Systems (Castles et al., 2014) or Social Networks (Granovetter, 1973) to evaluate how social capital in these communities is capable of producing access to enterprising opportunities (Massey et al. 1993), of shaping, or preventing them (de Haas 2007).


Dr. Angelo P. Bisignano

Entry qualifications

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0). Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. A research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) must be submitted as part of the application.

For more information please visit the NTU Doctoral School – Research Degrees webpages.

How to apply

Applications are accepted all year round.

Download an application form here.
Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.

For informal enquiries about this project, please email Angelo Bisignano.

Fees and funding

This is a self-funded PhD opportunity.

Guidance and support

Find out about guidance and support for PhD students.

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Angelo P. Bisignano