Positioning for their Future: Timorese Migrant Workers in the UK

  • Ann Wigglesworth Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia
  • Lionel J. Boxer
Keywords: migrant workers, Timor-Leste, social positioning


In Timor-Leste, the national economy offers few work opportunities. As a result, temporary migration overseas has become a significant source of support for family livelihoods. The largest source of migrant work for Timorese is the UK. A small study of Timorese migrants who have worked in the UK was undertaken in 2016, including interviews in Timor-Leste with workers from UK who had returned, and with current workers in Northern Ireland. A follow up visit was made in 2018. Timorese migrants enter UK on Portuguese passports and, unlike the two official migrant worker programs to South Korea and Australia, the UK migrants lack any official support.
Migration to the UK offers opportunities and hardships. Positioning theory is used to analyse different migrant motivations and experiences of living in the UK. The diverse ways in which migrant workers position themselves and others in the host community is analysed. Strong ties with their home country carry a sense of obligation to their families which remains a driving rationale for Timorese workers’ presence in the UK. Yet a range of positioning becomes apparent in that while most workers stay only to contribute to the needs of their families at home, other workers have started to see UK as a more permanent opportunity for a better future.

Author Biographies

Ann Wigglesworth, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia

ANN WIGGLESWORTH has extensive experience in international development, working in Asia, the Pacific, Africa and Latin America, including seven years in the north of Mozambique. She became involved in East Timor when she started work with Caritas Australia as Program Manager for East Timor in 1997. Friendships that were developed with the Timorese during this critical period were formative in her ongoing interest in the Timor-Leste. Her doctoral thesis was a study of the early years of Timor Leste’s independence, specifically through the perspectives of the younger generation. Her book on the topic is ‘Activism and Aid: Young citizens’ experiences of development and democracy in Timor-Leste’. She works as a research and development consultant and is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Melbourne (annww@ozemail.com.au).

Lionel J. Boxer

LIONEL J. BOXER, CD, PHD, MBA, BTECH(IE), is a management systems auditor with a multinational certification agency and an independent researcher. His research interests relate to application of positioning theory in business organisations. He has served with the Royal Canadian Engineers and Royal Australian Engineers from 1974 to the present, where he currently manages safety and welfare for army reserve training and plays bagpipes. He studied industrial engineering at the Royal Military College of Canada and Ryerson University and business at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. In 1993, he was listed in the International Who’s Who of Quality and made a fellow of the Quality Society of Australasia (Lionel.Boxer@saiglobal.com).