University of Liverpool (United Kingdom)


The Covid-19 pandemic presents not just a global health crisis but also a major disruption to economic and social life. While workers on precarious contracts and those in the informal and gig economy have experienced heightened insecurity for the future of their jobs, during the pandemic many low-paid jobs have a shift of status from “low-skill” to “essential”. Migrant workers, who often occupy such positions, have shouldered a significant part of the “key” work of social reproduction. It remains unclear how this crisis affects social perceptions of the value of work and the link between “skill,” “risk,” and “reward.”  This project explores this shift from “low-skilled” to “essential” work during the Covid-19 pandemic through the case of Venezuelan migrants in Argentina. From 2014 to 2019, Argentina’s government attracted over 150,000 high-skilled Venezuelans, promising gainful employment, but a recession and a political crisis left many precariously employed and politically invisible in the informal and gig economy.   The outbreak of Covid-19 brought Venezuelan migrants back to media and political attention as “essential” workers. Yet, how do “high-skilled” Venezuelans experience this new visibility? Does being on the “frontline” change or reinforce their perception of what “skill” and “value” mean in relation to work, social welfare provision, and social solidarity? Through a survey among Venezuelan migrants and analysis of publicly available datasets and media coverage, we map the state, media, and community response to Venezuelan migrants during the pandemic. We aim to inform a migrant-sensitive policy, reflecting shifting perceptions of the value of work.

Principal Investigators

Mariya Ivancheva

Lecturer, School of Histories, Languages, and Cultures, University of Liverpool

Mariya Ivancheva is an anthropologist and sociologist of labour and education inequalities, and a lecturer of higher education studies at the University of Liverpool. Her academic work and research-driven advocacy focus on the casualization and digitalization of labor, the institutional re/production of and organized resistance against intersectional inequalities, and the geographic and social mobility of “high-skilled” workers, especially during processes of (post)socialist transformation. Ivancheva has carried out extensive fieldwork in Venezuela and has also done research in Bulgaria, South Africa, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Argentina. She has presented her work at invited lectures at universities and large conferences in Hungary, Chile, Turkey, Russia, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others. Her work has been widely published and translated in academic and popular outlets. Ivancheva is a member of the LeftEast web platform, the PrecAnthro watchdog group, the LevFem left-feminist collective, and has been active in anti-racist, gender, labor, and financial justice initiatives across Europe.

Jésica Lorena Pla

Permanent Research Fellow, Research Institute Gino Germani, University of Buenos Aires

Dr. Jésica Lorena Pla (University of Buenos Aires) holds a PhD in sociology, with a focus on social mobility in Argentina. She is a permanent research fellow at the Gino Germani Research Institute (IIGG) and the National Council for Science and Technology, CONICET. In her mixed-method approach, Dr. Pla combines qualitative and quantitative data analysis to operationalize and study social class and social mobility. She has worked on and produced academic and policy outputs with colleagues from institutions across Latin America, such as the College of Mexico, University of Chile, and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). She leads IIGG's seminar “Social Inequality, Class Structure and the Welfare Regimes."