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The life and labour of undocumented Uzbeks in Sweden and Finland

A man carrying a black plastic bag and holding a rake.

In his current research project, Sherzod Eraliev investigates the conditions of life and work for some of the thousands of undocumented Uzbeks operating within the Swedish shadow economy.

The governmental agency Statistics Sweden put the number of Uzbek nationals in Sweden at about five thousand. Sherzod Eraliev, a postdoctoral researcher at the Sociology of Law Department, says the actual number could be as many as 20,000. Most are undocumented – having stayed despite being denied asylum or a visa expired – but they find work in the service, construction and restaurant sectors.

Life as an undocumented migrant in Sweden is precarious. They are at constant risk of deportation and labour exploitation, and a lack of medical care exacerbates health issues. Yet, undocumented Uzbeks seem to prefer life in Sweden's informal economy over living in Uzbekistan.

"If I were Swedish, I would wonder why people choose to come here and work under these conditions. But I, who know how people live in Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia, understand that it is a risk they are prepared to take," Sherzod Eraliev says in an article published by the project funder FORTE (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare).

A Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs report states that respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is severely lacking in Uzbekistan. Large-scale, long-term unemployment also motivates Uzbek men and women to emigrate. "Not only do they survive [in Sweden], they can send money home. And that's reason enough to stay in Sweden and continue working outside society," Eraliev says to FORTE.

He will specifically study how Uzbek migrants arrive in Sweden and Finland, how they access the informal labour market, and how they shape their living conditions.

Read FORTE's article (in Swedish) about Sherzod Eraliev's research project at (opens in a new tab).

More about the research project "Informality, Migrant Precarity and Exploitation in Nordic Context: Uzbek Migrant Workers in Sweden and Finland" on Sherzod Eraliev's page.

Sherzod Eraliev

Sherzod Eraliev is a postdoctoral research at the Sociology of Law Department. His main research fields are Migration Studies in Russia and Eurasia and Politics and Society in Central Asia.

More information about his research.