Watch our talk on using Facebook Ads for research

Our recent talk on using Facebook Ads for research is available on YouTube! The talk was delivered on 7 April 2022 as part of an excellent seminar series ‘Facebook as a research tool’ organised by Prof. Anja Neundorf and Dr Aykut Öztürk at the University of Glasgow. In the talk, we reflect on how we used Facebook Ads to recruit respondents for our online survey with Polish essential workers in the UK. With thanks to Anja and Aykut for organising this!

Spin-off project funded by Scottish Government

Fantastic news! We have secured approx. £30K from the Scottish Government research grant scheme for a new spin-off project exploring the needs of Scotland’s migrant and minority ethnic communities under Covid-19. The project that you can read about HERE, will support building a fairer Scotland by providing policymakers with expertise about the service provision needs of migrant and minority ethnic populations in COVID-19 recovery and future crisis planning. It is led by our own Dr Paulina Trevena. Details to follow!   

Our project was on BBC 1!

Excellent news! Our very own Dr Paulina Trevena was interviewed by BBC 1 Reporting Scotland on vaccine hesitancy among the Polish community in Scotland. The material was aired on 21 January 2022 at 6:30 pm. Drawing on our findings, Paulina focused on misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine among Polish migrants and how it could be tackled by reaching out to migrant communities in their first languages. Read more about addressing vaccine hesitancy among Poles in Scotland in our recent blog HERE. Find out more about vaccine intentions in our UK-wide sample HERE.  

Covid-19 impacts on mental health 

Worsening mental health is one of the biggest impacts of the pandemic on those living in the UK (ONS 2021). Pre-pandemic, around one in four people were thought to have a mental health problem. The pandemic is argued to have heightened the risk factors related to mental ill-health such as unemployment, financial insecurity and distress, and significantly reduced access to the mitigating factors such as social engagement, health support and daily exercise. 

In our survey, we asked Polish migrant essential workers in the UK to assess their wellbeing, as of February/March 2021, compared to the period before the pandemic – March 2020. Most of them – 55% – stated that their wellbeing deteriorated either significantly (31%) or somewhat (24%), followed by 30% who said it improved in some ways, but deteriorated in others (labelled as “improved/deteriorated” in the graph descriptions below). Only 4% felt better than before the pandemic, while 11% did not report any change. 

Family circumstances

People with caring responsibilities (40% of our sample) reported deteriorating mental health, with 66% of men and 61% of women in these circumstances saying that their mental health worsened during the pandemic. While men without caring responsibilities were the largest group who stated their wellbeing stayed the same or even improved, women with caring responsibilities were the smallest (28% vs. 7%, respectively). This suggests strongly gendered patterns in Covid-19 impacts on mental health (although this might be affected by men feeling less comfortable admitting a mental health problem). 

Financial worries

Change in personal financial situation was the strongest correlate of the subjective wellbeing change during the first year of the pandemic. Poles who said that their financial situation got worse in comparison to the period before the pandemic (March 2020) were much more likely to see their overall wellbeing deteriorate. Over two thirds (70%) of Polish essential workers whose financial situation got much worse felt that their mental health declined, while this was the case only among one third of people whose financial situation improved a lot (31%). 

Differences across sectors

When two changes are compared by sector, we can notice an interesting pattern. 

  • Polish essential workers in the health/care and education/childcare struggled more in terms of mental health, but their financial situation was more likely to improve or stay the same in comparison to workers in other sectors. 
  • Those working in production, sales and delivery of food/essential goods and utility services (eg. cleaning) more often reported doing worse financially than Poles working in other essential jobs. 
  • Meanwhile, Poles in essential worker jobs in other sectors (e.g. public/national security, local government, finance) were the ones who were the least impacted by the pandemic financially and in terms of mental health. 

Providing evidence at the Scottish Parliament

We are thrilled to report that our own Dr Paulina Trevena provided research evidence at the Scottish Parliament Covid-19 Recovery Committee on behalf of the project team. Paulina joined the committee meeting online on the 9th December to provide project insights and answer questions on the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy among the Polish community in Scotland. She was drawing on our findings and recommendations that we recently published HERE and HERE. Massive thanks, Paulina, for representing the project at such a high-profile meeting!

Funding for spin-off project secured!

Brilliant news! We have secured £20K from the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account fund at the universities of Glasgow and Sheffield for an exciting spin-off project: a traveling art exhibition on migrant essential work in the UK. We are very pleased that our project partner – Alicja Kaczmarek from Centrala – will be curating the exhibition. We plan to launch the exhibition in Birmingham in 2022 and then move it to London and Edinburgh. More details soon: stay tuned!  

Vaccine hesitancy among Polish migrant essential workers in the UK

In our recent guest blog for SPICe – the Scottish Parliament Information Centre – we focused on Polish essential workers in Scotland and their intentions to get vaccinated against Covid-19. In this blog, we look at the vaccine intentions for our entire sample and how it differs by age groups, gender, education level and sector of employment.

At the beginning of the vaccination programme in the UK, in February-March 2021 the majority of Polish essential workers we surveyed, 67%, declared that they intended to be vaccinated or already had been (see Figure 1, a bottom right chart [1]). Overall, about 12% thought they would not vaccinate against Covid-19, 18% did not know what they would do, and 3% refused to respond. 

Together these three answers sum up to 33% and reflect fairly high vaccine hesitancy – defined as a delay or refusal of vaccination despite its availability (SAGE 2014) – among Polish essential workers in the UK. In contrast, according to an ONS survey from January-February 2021, only 9% of UK adults (16+) reported vaccine hesitancy. However, the vaccination hesitancy of Polish essential workers in the UK was still lower than among people in Poland, where in January 2021 only 57% of those surveyed were keen to get vaccinated or already had done so (CBOS 2021).

Going back to our survey, vaccine hesitancy is higher among younger Poles – below 40 years old [2]. Education level can partially explain the difference, as 18-29 years olds were less likely to be highly educated (47%), in comparison to 30- and 40-year-old participants (60%) in our sample. Overall, while vaccine hesitancy was expressed by 43% of Polish essential workers without a higher degree diploma, for those who held such diploma it was still relatively high – 26%. 

More women in our sample had already got vaccinated (Figure 2), possibly due to working more often in health- and care-related occupations (see our previous blog). At the same time, women were more likely to feel uncertain about the vaccine and 19% of them replied ‘Don’t know’ compared to 15% of men. In surveys, in general, women are more prone to avoid responding to sensitive and health-related questions. Looking at the intersection of age and gender, women aged 30-39 most often expressed vaccine hesitancy and 42% of them replied either No, Don’t know or Prefer not to say [3]. Their higher hesitancy might be linked with more concerns about possible fertility side-effects.

Figure 3 shows the vaccine question by four broad sectors of employment. As expected, Poles working in health and care-related occupations expressed lower vaccine hesitancy (22%), than those working in other sectors. It was the highest among workers who worked in utility services and transport (44%) and production, sale or delivery of food and other necessary goods (42%).

It is important to acknowledge that vaccine hesitancy varies across time. As more information and research becomes available, it has generally been declining among ethnic minority groups in the UK. We have proposed how to address vaccine hesitancy among Poles in the UK in our SPICe blog


  1. As we explained in our first blog, people in their 30s and 40s constitute about half of the population of adult Poles in the UK, hence we acknowledged it in our sampling strategy.
  2. This age pattern is also visible in the entire UK population: 
  3. Vaccine hesitancy by age groups and gender: men – aged 19-29: 35%, 30-39: 30%, 40-65: 20%. women – aged 19-29: 35%, 30-39: 42%, 40-65: 30%.

Our first guest blog

What are the key reasons behind Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy in the Polish community in Scotland? Our first guest blog is out on SPICe Spotlight, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre’s website. It is co-written by our own Paulina Trevena and Magda Grzymkowska from Feniks, an Edinburgh-based mental health charity. The blog combines our early findings with Feniks’ work scoping attitudes towards Covid-19 vaccination amongst 20,000 Poles in the UK. Read HERE.

What essential work do Polish migrants in the UK do?

Defining ‘essential work’ is far from straightforward – it varies across countries and the list of ‘essential work’ jobs has changed throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of our research, in November 2020, we adopted the UK Government definition1,2 of essential work as: the type of work that is essential for keeping British society and economy running during the pandemic. 

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS 2020), pre-pandemic, in 2019, about 10.6 million of those employed (33% of the total workforce) were in key worker occupations in the UK. Migrant workers are known to be over-represented among some essential work occupations, yet better information is needed. Estimates based on the 2019 Labour Force Survey indicate that the foreign-born population makes up a substantial proportion of all workers in such occupational groups as: health professionals (27%), IT and telecommunication (23%), nursing and midwifery (22%), caring (19%), and transport (18%)3

Figure 1, below, illustrates the occupational distribution among all essential workers in the UK, as estimated by the ONS Annual Population Survey (ASP), compared with proportions in our survey sample4

  • While among all essential workers in the UK, 31% worked in health and social care occupations, their proportion was comparable but slightly lower among Polish people in our sample – 28%. 
  • The largest group among our respondents – almost 35% – worked in food and other necessary goods production, processing, sales or delivery. This is 21 percentage points more than all essential workers (14%).
  • In contrast, Polish essential workers in our survey were less often employed than all essential workers in education and childcare (7% vs 20%, respectively).

Focusing now only on our Polish survey (see Figure 2), we see an interesting split in occupations by gender: 

  • Male respondents more often worked in food and other necessary goods occupations, while women in our sample more often worked in health and social care. 
  • Employment in utility services (such as cleaning, postal, energy, and sewerage services) was less common among men in comparison to women. Anecdotally, this may be due to significant overrepresentation of Polish women in cleaning roles.
  • Men, on the other hand, more often worked in transport and transport supporting occupations. 
  • Education and childcare was another important sector of work for Polish women, while communication and finance – for men.

To read more about our survey have a look at our previous blog here.


  1. UK Government, 8 January 2020, Children of critical workers and vulnerable children who can access schools or educational settings:
  2. Scottish Government, 11 May 2020, Coronavirus (COVID-19): prioritisation matrix for key workers to be tested:
  3. This estimation was done for sectors where over 70% of jobs are considered to be ‘essential’: Fernández-Reino, M., Sumption, M., & Vargas-Silva, C. (2020). From low-skilled to key workers: the implications of emergencies for immigration policy. Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 36(Supplement_1), S382-S396.
  4. Presented data from our survey was proportionally weighted by UK country, as we oversampled outside England (e.g. in Scotland).

Interviews completed

Key milestone achieved! We have just finished interviewing. We have conducted 50 online interviews in total: 40 with Polish essential workers in the UK and 10 with key stakeholders providing support to migrant workers in the country. We originally planned to conduct 30 interviews with Polish workers but ended up doing 10 more having obtained extra research funding at the University of Glasgow. Massive thank you Glasgow Uni!