What is the availability of "under the table" work in Europe?
March 10, 2007 5:03 AM   Subscribe

What is the availability of "under the table" work in Europe? I understand it's a per-country answer, but that's exactly what I am looking for.

Here in New York, you can pretty much do any job for cash. Which makes this country extremely popular with foreign workers that do not have any visas or work papers. I am looking to find out how easy it is find these types of working conditions throughout Europe.

My Girlfriend is Finnish and claims that it is next to impossible to find this type of work in Finland. Now I am not sure if this is her being naive, or if Finland truly is this tough. I tend to believe her as Finland is one of the least-corrupt countries in the world. But what about England? France? Italy I hear is quite easy to find this type of work as I have acquaintances that have done so, but I do not know of the extent.

/This is not for political research or statistical observations. More of a realistic evaluation for my own personal situation. Looking more for personal experience answers rather than a political discussion on the subject. Thanks!
posted by wile e to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Just to note, in England it's called "cash in hand", so if you ever ask to do this sort of work, that's what you need to ask for.

From my experiences here in the UK, cash in hand only tends to only spring from three sources: 1) dubious sources or crime, 2) given to people who are already trusted by the business owner (friends, old employees doing new temporary shifts, etc), 3) incidental work for the general public (cutting lawns, etc)
posted by wackybrit at 5:14 AM on March 10, 2007

What I just wrote here would certainly apply to your question too.
I do have a work permit though, and have told prospective employers that I do, but I don't think I ever had to actually produce it for them ... and until recently was paid with a temporary social insurance number on my pay slip...all very above the table.
Actually come to think of it getting a bank account, into which my pay goes, was much more of a hassle than in Canada and I assume the US. Only HSBC would give me one - a 'basic account' that I couldn't access from Europe. And I think not having a bank account would be a stumbling block in getting a normal job that wasn't like painting houses or cockle-picking...anyway to answer your actual question, yes there seems to be an abundance of that kind of cash in hand work done here, but Eastern Europeans seem to have a lock on it.
posted by Flashman at 5:35 AM on March 10, 2007

Can I piggyback? Do people looking for such work just say they want to work under the table or... ?
posted by dobbs at 5:46 AM on March 10, 2007

I've had lots of friends come to London who have found casual work, almost always in Pubs they've hung out in. That being said, as wackybrit points out, not all the offers have been for legal activities.

I work in banking, I've been here about ten years now, and my experience has been different from Flashman's; every time I've changed jobs HR has asked to see my passport and my Indefinite Leave to Remain stamp (aka "work permit"). Typically the take a copy for their own records and, I'm sure, indemnification should I turn out to be working here illegally.
posted by Mutant at 5:55 AM on March 10, 2007

Cash-in-hand work is often from small businesses, where the boss is the owner, and prepared to take the risks. Construction used to be good for this, but a huge crackdown has changed that.

Cleaning jobs are nearly always cash in hand, too, except when employed by one of the big sub-contracting firms.
posted by bonaldi at 7:06 AM on March 10, 2007

In the UK, the bigger the company, the less likely you are to find cash in hand work. It causes them way too much hassle with the Inland Revenue.

For example, ask at the corner shop, not the supermarket.
posted by Solomon at 8:31 AM on March 10, 2007

I have a good friend (an American) who worked at several pubs in the U.K. without the proper visa/work permit a few years back and was paid under-the-table; so, as Mutant points out, that's a definitely possibility in England and Ireland.
posted by maniactown at 9:30 AM on March 10, 2007

I agree with bonaldi, in the UK cash-in-hand is overwhelmingly for small one-person enterprises doing work for households. Typically, a gardener, cleaner, plumber or electrician will ask for cash (they might even give a 10% discount). They won't book it, no one knows the transaction ever took place, and they'll spend the money down the pub.
posted by TrashyRambo at 10:21 AM on March 10, 2007

Just to support the "one-person enterprises doing work for households" point... yeah this exists on the continent as well. It's quite common in Luxembourg where I am from (tho often it will be 'extra jobs' that established/employed workers do in the evenings and at weekends).

Also definitely exists in Germany (also thinking mainly construction here) - I read an article quite recently about day-labourers who wait for offers at some street corner early in the morning... most of that will be "under the table".
posted by ClarissaWAM at 12:34 PM on March 10, 2007

It seems to be virtually impossible in France, one of the most "we love our bureaucracy" type countries in the world. Unless, of course, you want to do something like sell donuts on the beach. (Which you probably don't.)
posted by Kololo at 1:29 PM on March 10, 2007

Also plenty of cash work in NL (in the Randstad area at least), generally in cleaning and small business as noted above. No job that you would really want to do (ie offering decent pay) would be for cash.

For anything that's *not* cash work you need to show your residence permit/passport to the employer. They keep a copy on file, as they risk hefty fines if they get caught employing people without the right papers.
posted by different at 2:44 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: I am not looking for career work or a high level executive job for cash. I was looking for the lower level type jobs as mentioned above.

For example, when my girlfriend first moved here (NY), she was on a tourist visa. Which means no working. Well thats not very realistic since I'm not related to the Rockerfellers, so she was able to get some work bartending and working at a local stable riding and training horses.

This is the type I was referring to. IF someone were to travel to these countries legally, but not be able to work legally, would they be able to survive with whatever jobs they could scrounge up?
posted by wile e at 4:42 AM on March 11, 2007

Theoretically, yes. I may or may not know some people who make (scrape) a living doing cash work.

I also know some people who have not been able to find any work at all.
posted by different at 10:09 AM on March 11, 2007

Spain, and from what I understand Italy, has a huge "black economy". You can work for cash in most menial labor jobs (harvesting fields or cleaning houses, for instance), as a nanny and also skilled jobs like plumbing, auto repair, construction (there is a crack down on this sector), etc.
posted by sic at 4:43 PM on March 11, 2007

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