Uncovering the lifeworlds of residents and mobile workers in Europe’s peripheral regions

By collecting the experiences and stories of local residents and labour migrants, the research project ‘Vision: Envisioning Convivial Europe’ aims to contribute to a more welcoming, sustainable and just Europe. The project will start in December 2021 and run for four years. Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, the project is a collaboration between Deutsches Zentrum für Integrations- und Migrationsforschung (DeZIM) in Berlin (lead), Paris Lodron Universität Salzburg and Utrecht University.

Europe’s inner peripheries

Europe is a prosperous continent, but within Europe there are significant differences between the prosperity of regions. In some regions population density is low and declining and they are economically or socially lagging behind. As a result, the remaining citizens have low access to basic services like schools, doctors, shops or leisure activities. Policy makers and researchers refer to these regions as Europe’s so-called ‘inner peripheries’.

In the inner peripheries of Western and Northern Europe, the local workforce is often not sufficient to cover labour demands. That is why they rely on foreign - mobile and cheaper – labour, often from the east and the south of Europe. While this may add to economic growth for some, it also drains labour from other regions.

Collecting local narratives to contribute to more convivial European regions

“For a long time, free labour mobility was considered a panacea to regional disparities. Yet now politicians admit that when talented people leave, economic recovery is not possible”, Maggi Leung, researcher at Utrecht University explains. “Free mobility, as it is currently regulated and practised in the EU, actually endangers sustainable development and intergenerational justice”.

The research project ‘Vision: Envisioning Convivial Europe’ aims to dig deeper into the system of labour and growth in ‘inner peripheral’ regions in Germany, Poland and Romania. It takes on a novel approach towards this question by using a bottom-up approach focusing on the stories, experiences and future visions of local residents and mobile workers. How do they themselves feel about their situation and their position? How do they describe their life conditions? What are their lifeworlds like and how do they envision their futures? By collecting these narratives, the researchers aim provide input for the development of more welcoming, sustainable and socially just – ‘convivial’ - regions in Europe. They will be used to co-create new ways forward with local residents, NGOs and politicians alike.