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Accepted Paper:

Producing precarious workers: outsourced social work in the French field of asylum  
Tessa Bonduelle (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

Focusing on state-outsourced refugee resettlement programs and emergency shelters for asylum seekers in France, I explore the increasing use of short-term labour contracts and its impact on social workers' experiences of precarity.

Paper long abstract:

Anthropologists have widely explored the impacts of a retreating welfare state under neoliberal imperatives of public efficiency on the provision of social services. Many have noted the importance of non-governmental players filling the void left by the downsizing state. Yet few have examined the growing "markets" of state-outsourced social work and what marketisation is doing to employment regimes and worker experiences of precarity.

My paper addresses the French state's recent moves to subcontract the social work of resettling refugees and sheltering asylum seekers to non-governmental "operators." In responding to state published "calls for tenders," non-governmental organisations with missions of social support vie to enter "markets" of social work structured by precepts of austerity and competition.

Focusing on a refugee resettlement program and two emergency shelter for asylum seekers in France, I ask: how do neoliberal precepts of austerity and competition condition labour contracting practices across the French field of asylum? How does the marketisation of social work impact workers differentially in their experiences of precarity? How does precarity effect social workers' approaches towards critique of the system of asylum?

Examining the increasing use of short-term labour contracts in the field of asylum, I argue that outsourced social work produces disparately precarious workers. Precarious job appointments impact workers differentially along race and class lines, producing not only economic but also administrative insecurity for those with job-dependent immigration status. Economically and administratively precarious workers, though critical of everyday asylum operations, remain averse to potential worker mobilisations challenging the system itself.

Panel P002
Works and lives: new perspectives on economy and livelihoods in Mediterranean Anthropology [Mediterraneanist Network (MedNet)]