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la società contemporanea / Re-thinking the quality of public space (I)

Quality of Space as Experienced: Impacts of Needs and Affordability on Spatial Appropriation of Cross-border Labor Commuters

Elifcan Karacan
p. 47-59


Research on spatial quality generally evaluates the quality of space through the factors of infrastructure, use of streets and shared spaces, security, accessibility, and inclusiveness of various activity centers and districts. However, how people perceive a place as one with good qualities and establish an attachment depends on their needs and the affordability of the place. This paper discusses the dynamic process of spatial appropriation through the findings of research on intra-European cross-border labor commuters. Differences resulting from uneven developments in Europe are still the prominent factor for many to seek employment opportunities abroad for higher incomes, better living standards or attractive and secure jobs. However, upon employment cross-border workers continue to reside in their home countries and practice a circular mobility. Despite the difficulties of dealing with the dual frame of two nation-states’ legal settings on taxation, social security regulations, and employment rights, cross-border commuters, through their mobility across borders, enjoy the flexibility of choosing their place of residence depending on their changing needs and on affordability. This relation between needs, affordability and spatial appropriation is shown in the paper through place attachment narrations of lifestyle- and livelihood-oriented commuters.

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Testo integrale

1. Introduction

1At the beginning of the 1980s, debates on globalization paved the way for two main tendencies in the social sciences: the mobility of goods, capital, and labor across borders, known as the mobility turn (Sheller, Urry, 2006); and the impact of time-space compression (Harvey, 1995) on spatial transformations in the new era of globalization, known as the spatial turn. Circulation of capital, information, products and people across borders is an old phenomenon practiced more than a thousand years before the globalization debates. The Silk Road, the spice trade, and the facilities of the East Indian Company are early examples of global commerce, exchange of capital and goods, and human labor (Braudel, 1992). However, with technological innovations in transport and rapid developments in information and communications technologies (ICTs), the mobility turn is accelerated.

2These new mobility trends have resulted in new regulations that arrange, limit, or promote humans’ mobility across borders. Since the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1985, the European Union (EU) has announced several other declarations to promote cross-border labor mobility between member states. The declaration made in 2011 aims at removing the last obstacles, to ease freedom of movement for workers within the EU. Since then, the number of people practicing intra-European labor mobility has increased to approximately 1.5 million (Eurostat, 2020). In the annual report on intra-EU labor mobility prepared by the European Commission, cross-border workers are defined as: “EU or EFTA citizens who live in one EU or EFTA country and work in another, either as employees or self-employed. Cross-border workers therefore move across borders more or less regularly” (2022).

3In their material sense, borders have two opposing yet complementary functions; they relate, they are connection points, while at the same time they separate by defining – both physically and politically – nation-states’ surface areas and their limits (Löw, Weidenhaus, 2017). Borders, aiming at “creating” container-formed spaces (nation-states), generate polymorphic spaces (Jessop et al., 2008) – relational and conflictual spaces facilitated through a complex set of territorialization, place-making, scaling, networking and multi-governance. However, despite borders’ function of “creating” container-formed spaces, Löw and Weidenhaus warn that borders cannot be reduced to their function as boundaries; rather, borders are relational (Weidenhaus, 2015), as they put at least two different places in relation, and hence space needs to be understood “as relational arrangements with borders” (Löw, Weidenhaus, 2017, 558).

4The multi-spatial characteristic of cross-border mobility makes the practice even more complex in terms of its multi-governmentality and socio-spatial dynamics. Commuting across borders is highly dependent on legal settings at the territorial and national levels that regulate taxation, social security, work and residency permits, and employment in Europe. Despite the complexities of multi-governance, legal challenges and obstacles, millions of people practice intra-European circular labor mobility. In this paper, I will discuss the impact of spatial factors on commuters’ preference for country of residence, and how this preference is shaped through their needs, and affordability. After outlining different approaches that focus on humans’ needs and expectations as factors that impact spatial quality, through the empirical findings of the research conducted in three German border regions (Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Poland) I will demonstrate two commuter typologies, lifestyle-oriented and livelihood-oriented, and show differences and similarities in their narrations of spatial re-appropriation.

2. Impact of needs and affordability factors in defining spatial quality

5Approaches that define and evaluate the quality of public space could be summed up in two groups: those that focus on the material quality of the public space, such as public space’s availability, its use, facilities, and accessibility, and those that emphasize the importance of power relations and inclusiveness. These two approaches are not necessarily contrary to each other, but rather complementary. An inclusive public space needs to be accessible. The availability of facilities (sociability) in a public space means a public life that functions equally as a common place for various social groups (Thomas, 1991).

6The quality of the public space is not limited to its physical characteristics or material surroundings and structural settings. Social contact, in addition to the issues of access and control, play an important role in public space quality (Lynch, 1965). Therefore, social needs and meaningfulness of the public space, are argued as the prominent criteria to define the quality of public space (Carr et al., 2007; Gehl, 1987). Carr et al. (2007, 230) draw attention to the interaction between places and people’s lives and expectations, and contend that “the human perspective has been neglected in both public space design and management”. In their study, Carr et al. (2007) define five types of reasons for people’s needs in public spaces: comfort, relaxation, passive engagement with the environment, active engagement with the environment, and discovery. With this framework, they bring the factors of human perspective and experience into debates on the quality of public space. Although some of the needs and activities in the public space can be common to members of different classes, Carr et al. (2007) do not ignore the role of class difference, in other words the relation between people’s needs and affordances in their relation to the public space. The authors assert that: “less affluent people, particularly in cities, are clearly more dependent upon outdoor spaces close to home. The public spaces that play the most important social function in many older, working-class, and low-income neighborhoods are the streets and sidewalks” (Carr et al., 2007, 235).

7Similarly, Mehta (2014), by referring to the conceptualizations of Carr et al. (2007) and Gehl (1987), suggests that “good public space is accessible and open, is meaningful in its design and the activities it supports, provides a sense of safety, physical and environmental comfort and convenience, a sense of control, and sensory pleasure” (Mehta, 2014, 57). He argues that there are five dimensions of public space: inclusiveness, meaningful activities, safety, comfort, and pleasurability. Accordingly, a good public space is open to the participation of various groups, meeting the basic need of human beings to feel secure, which can be maintained through security policies, as well as the presence of people in the public space that increase perceived safety. However, both Mehta (2014) and Carmona (2015) point out the role of familiarity and exclusion as a dimension of safety, and argue that the presence of “strangers” or those who are excluded as “undesirables” may result in a perception of the space as scary or unsafe. The meaning of a place is assigned through individual and collective experiences and there is an ongoing interaction between people’s experiences (familiarity, historic and political events) and the meaning of a place (place attachment) for the sense of belonging.

8These dimensions of public space emphasize the importance of belonging and place attachment in addition to fulfilling certain needs in evaluation of the spatial quality. Similarly, Moreau (2020) argues for the role of appropriation and reappropriation along with public space fulfilling needs and having functional capacity. Appropriation is a continuous process of transforming a physical environment into a meaningful place, and most importantly it is related to affordability. People’s needs and expectations of a public space, as well as the process of place attachment (appropriation), are related to their past experiences and structural factors at a macro level. Hence, their needs and place attachment practices alter as socio-economic and political changes occur on a regional, national or global scale.

3. Research

  • 1 This research is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a period of three years, from M (...)
  • 2 The gross average monthly wage in Luxembourg was 6228.80 US dollars in 2020 (UNECE, 2022). In 2020, (...)
  • 3 The 2021 report of the IBA shows that 93 per cent of the commuters from the Rhineland-Palatinate re (...)
  • 4 In 2020, the average annual wage in the Netherlands was 50,173 euros (Statista, 2022b).
  • 5 For more information on the Freedom of Movement for Workers Agreement (Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit), (...)

9The research entitled: “Cross-Border Mobility: Socio-Economic and Spatial Dynamics of Short-distance Transboundary Migration in Germany” started in March 20211. The field research is conducted in three border regions of Germany: (1) Görlitz (Germany) – Zgorzelec (Poland); (2) Kleve and Kranenburg (Germany) – Nijmegen (the Netherlands); and (3) Trier (Germany) – Luxembourg. Luxembourg attracts cross-border commuters from its neighboring countries with its high-income levels2. It is also unique in terms of its economy’s dependency on cross-border labor commuters, which constitute almost half of the total employees in Luxembourg. However, because of the high living and accommodation costs, most of the commuters (33,470) from Germany reside in Rhineland-Palatinate (IBA, 2021, 19).3 In the case of the Netherlands and Germany, the difference in the income rates and real-estate market is not as dramatic as it is in the case of Luxembourg. The average annual wage in the Netherlands is only slightly more than Germany.4 In the Nijmegen/Kleve and Kranenburg region, both in- and out-commuting are practiced. Due to the advantageous situation in Germany’s real-estate market, the main tendency is residing in Germany and commuting to the Netherlands for work (EURES, 2021, 24). The third border region discussed in this paper is the Saxony region, particularly twin cities of Görlitz (DE) and Zgorzelec (PL). Saxony became attractive to Polish cross-border commuters following the agreement on “full freedom of movement for workers” signed in 2011.5 Statistics on the distribution among sectors show that Polish commuters were employed in Saxony in transportation and storage (23 per cent), the manufacturing industry (21.7 per cent), the construction industry (9.4 per cent), and in the service sector (34.8 per cent). The service sector, which has the highest share in the distribution of employed sectors, has at the same time the highest percentage of temporary positions (95 per cent) (Sujata, Weyh, Zillmann, 2020). Higher income levels in Germany play the major role in commuters’ decision for employment.

  • 6 Except one interview in Luxembourg, expert interviews were conducted as online video meetings. Depe (...)
  • 7 Interviews with commuters were conducted in English or German, depending on interviewees’ preferenc (...)

10A comparative research design is planned to understand the dynamics of the cross-border mobility in these regions. The first stage of the research focused on the interviews with experts, and visits to initiatives, institutions, NGOs, and border information centers. Between April 2021 and March 2023, a total of 14 experts were interviewed.6 This paper, however, focuses more on the analysis of the interviews with commuters to understand the role of quality of space in their motivations for choosing the destination for residence. These interviews are conducted by using the semi-structured interview method (Arthur, Nazroo, 2003) with a particular focus on motivations, expectations, and practices of the commuters. The topic guide of the semi-structured interviews included questions on: (a) demographic information; (b) biographical information, including work biographies; (c) commuting history (reasons for commuting); (d) commuting practices (personal motivations, advantages, obstacles, experiences with nation-states’ boundaries); (e) family relations, social networks and daily life practices; (f) division of domestic labor (intergenerational duties and expectations); (g) legal framework of commuting (taxation, social security regulations, pension rights, housing); (h) future plans; and (i) impacts of Covid-19 measures. First contacts with the interviewees are made through experts’ networks with commuter groups and by using the snowball technique, further respondents are reached out. In total, 23 commuters (12 female, 11 male, average age 40.8) were interviewed.7 Highest education level in the Polish region is high school, rest of the interviewees had university degrees. All interviewees in the Polish border region were employed in the manufacture sector at the time of the interviews. Except one interviewee in Luxembourg who was employed as a technician, interviewees commuting in the Dutch and Luxembourgian regions were employed in white-collar, managerial, and higher education positions.

11The interview data was analyzed by using a computer-based coding program, Atlas-Ti, according to the principles of thematic analysis (Braun, Clarke, 2006, 2012).

4. Spatial Quality and (Re-)appropriation

  • 8 A less practiced form of cross-border mobility is residential mobility. In this atypical cross-bord (...)

12Cross-border workers’ commuting motivations are usually explained based on typical pull and push factors, such as higher income levels in the destination country, attractive housing conditions, or financial insecurities and instabilities in the local labor market.8 The labor market-oriented approach focuses on the dynamics that attract workers in the destination country to practice commuting between two countries, since the commuting starts mostly upon employment in another country. However, commuting is practiced because cross-border commuters continue residing in a country other than the one they are employed in, instead of moving to their country of employment. It is this characteristic of residing in another destination that makes cross-border mobility a circular practice and differentiates it from the typical one-directional labor migration where migrants move to the host country upon their employment. Therefore, in addition to the impacts of labor market dynamics, spatial quality plays an important role in commuters’ decisions on their place of residence. Since the commuters are frequently mobile between two countries, they are able to compare the spatial quality of both and constantly review their decision about their place of residence. In the following, by referring to Carr et al. (2007) and Moreau (2020), I will discuss the role of needs, affordability, and mobility motivations in the interviewees’ spatial meaning-making and (re-) appropriation process. I will also argue how these dimensions differ among commuting typologies of lifestyle and livelihood commuters.

13A prominent characteristic of lifestyle-oriented commuters in their decision about place of residence is their motivation for “better living”, which consists of the availability of social cultural activities and social networks. Narrations of spatial appropriation are based on the advantages of place of residence in terms of socio-cultural events, commuters’ social networks, or “better housing” conditions (environmental and practical factors, as well as accessibility, such as having a kindergarten, playground, or shopping malls nearby). Similarly, commuters argue, even if the housing is more affordable in the place of employment, a lack of socio-cultural activities, and poor physical and environmental settings, function as push factors that make them seek another place of residence:

  • 9 Names used in this paper are pseudonyms. Following interviewees’ pseudonyms, information on age, ge (...)

If you go to the German side, if you are in rural areas, it’s much cheaper. So, from that aspect, it would be absolutely worth living in Germany. […] For me, I live here in Nijmegen because it’s actually a city. There’s urban life and it’s also a student city, with a lot of restaurants, a lot of culture, a lot of young people and so on. And that, yes, that is currently important to me […] yes, I’m prepared to live in a small apartment and pay more rent instead of living in a rural part of Germany [Miriam, 29, f., Nl-D]9.

[…] the landscape (northern France) depresses me too much. I find the whole area sad. I didn’t want to live in France anymore. I didn’t know any of Belgium. […] France, I find it ugly. I mean the landscape, how it looks. I think it’s a sad area; that there are so many courtyards, industrial areas, I just find sad. The houses too, everything is grey. So, it was clear to me that France wasn’t [an option]. And there was Trier, just the German way of life. It’s a pleasant small town and it’s very green. Luxembourg is just as depressing for me as living on the French side, because it’s actually the same thing. Everything in northern France and on the border, there are these old industrial areas, right? It’s an industrial landscape, like now in Dortmund and stuff, which doesn’t really appeal to me personally [Julia, 43, f., D-Lux].

So, for me it’s nice to have access to culture and to a city where you can find everything you need. For example, I like going to modern dance courses; it wouldn’t be possible here in a little small village. So, if you go to Nijmegen, you can find such things [social and cultural activities]. Nijmegen is at least one big city where you can find these things. When I started to study in Nijmegen again, it’s also nice that it’s kind of nearby. It’s just a 20-minute drive [from the German side of the border], so that feels very accessible. Whatever I want to do, like if I want to get a massage or whatever I can think of, I know they have it in Nijmegen [Anita, 38, f., D-Nl].

14Lifestyle commuters’ place attachment motivations are driven by their needs for an active social and cultural life. Affordability remains a secondary dimension in the spatial meaning-making processes. Rather, in their narrations of appropriation, lifestyle-oriented commuters refer to the socio-cultural needs, in order to maintain a “better life”, whereas livelihood-oriented commuters’ mobility across borders is driven by economic needs and financial well-being. Livelihood-oriented commuting has two subcategories, income-increasing and income-generating. Commuters in the first subgroup commute for better-paid positions in the destination country, although their incomes in the home country are above the average (for instance people employed in the financial sector, banks, and insurance companies). By commuting, income-increasing commuters not only take advantage of higher salaries in the country of employment, but also benefit from increased purchasing power, by residing in a low-cost country (choice). On the other hand, income-generating commuters practice cross-border mobility as a tactic to cope with financial risks, unemployment, and even poverty in the home country (necessity). The interviewees in the latter category are employed in precarious, low-skilled temporary positions, and usually hired through temporary staffing agencies. In general, material affordances and financial benefits play the most important role in livelihood-oriented commuters’ narrations of place attachment:

I don’t earn [in Poland] as much as I earn in Germany. The best deal for me is I live in Poland and work in Germany. Because, the rental costs, for example – I have an apartment – but the costs including electricity, water, mobile phone, Internet and so on, that costs me maybe 200, 220 euros. For example, around Görlitz [Germany], if I rented an apartment like my two rooms, I would have to pay 400, 500 euros plus the other costs. I have my apartment in Poland, and have really low costs. I earn money in Germany, my wife earns money in Germany, and now I can build a new house right away [Jan, 35, m., Pl-D].

Many of my friends who work in Luxembourg live in Trier or the surrounding area. Yes, and I don’t think anyone ever thought about moving to Luxembourg. That [house prices] is a huge difference, yes. It’s more expensive everywhere, but in Luxembourg, I don’t think you can afford it at all [Herbert, 39, m., D-Lux].

At one point it was an idea [to move to Luxembourg], because commuting three hours a day is exhausting. But in Luxembourg rents are just too expensive. So yes, I don’t want to pay this: basically spending 1,500 euros a month on housing is a no [Clara, 28, f., D-Lux].

15The apartment prices in Luxembourg are much higher, and in Trier you still lived in a more familiar environment, so to speak. Well, in Luxembourg you first have to get used to a different cultural environment, with a lot of French being spoken. But the main reason was actually that the apartment prices were almost twice as high as in Trier. I think it was very high compared to Germany and Trier. Today it has become very expensive in Trier too, but back then it was all on a completely different level than in Luxembourg [Matthias, 48, m., D-Lux].

16Despite all the compatibility efforts of the European Union, intra-European borders continue to exist, not only as boundaries of nation-states, but also as markers of inequalities, wealth and poverty, and history. As seen in the above-quoted interviews, border asymmetries have a great impact on the mobility practices of commuters. Particularly between Poland and Germany in the east and between Luxembourg and Germany in the west, commuters are attracted by the higher income levels in the commuted-to country. Workers from Poland are not only attracted by the higher income levels in Western countries, but also jobs abroad are seen as an alternative to insecure and low-paid jobs in the Polish labor market. According to Eurostat data, the minimum monthly wage in Poland increased in the last 13 years from 248.43 euros to 583.48 euros, whereas in Germany the minimum monthly wage in 2020 was about 1544 euros. Structural inequalities between Western European countries and the semi-peripheral post-communist Eastern European countries result in the former’s demand for cheap labor from the latter, as well as the increased interest of workers from Eastern European countries in better paid jobs in Western Europe (Janicka, Kaczmarczyk, 2016; Kajta, Opiłowska, 2021, 5; Mohino, Ureña, 2020). Polish workers are mostly hired in temporary and precarious jobs in Western European countries, particularly in the care sector, seasonal jobs in agriculture and tourism, construction, the meat sector, and the service sector (Eurostat Report, 2022).

17Border asymmetries impact the main motivations of the cross-border commuters and dynamics of spatial meaning-making. Affordability is an especially dominant characteristic for the people who commute across the Polish-German and Luxembourgian-German borders. The difference in living costs, real estate markets, and purchasing power in these two regions is much higher than the difference between Germany and the Netherlands. Although these two commuter typologies differ in terms of the motivation around material affordability and access to socio-cultural activities, and in the process of appropriation – in other words, in the process of “making a place one’s own” (Graumann, 2002) – narrations of familiarity with a place and having social networks or established contacts (familial/neighborhood) show commonality:

18And Kleve was also relatively new to me. I still had my whole circle of friends and many acquaintances in Nijmegen, and I already knew the city. And that’s why I decided to move to Nijmegen instead of Kleve [Emily, 29, f., Nl-D].

It’s better for me in Poland, because when all the letters come, whether it’s electricity suppliers, gas, etc., I can open them, and read them and understand them. The German side would cause me stress, and I don’t need stress in my life [Marek, 25, m., Pl-D].

I only lived in Luxembourg for a month because I really didn’t want to be a cross-border commuter. And then I moved to Trier because the housing situation for shared flats in Luxembourg is very tense, or rather, shared flats in Luxembourg are often very different from what we know in Germany. People work all day, are tired in the evenings, and yes, then of course the communal life that we are perhaps not familiar with in Germany either. And that’s why I moved to Germany [Rachel, 35, f., D-Lux].

I think it’s a personal perception now, I feel like it’s very difficult as a foreigner to connect with Luxembourgers because I feel like I’m always the foreigner, for which you then have to speak another language, or who will soon be gone anyway. And that’s why I preferred to stay in Trier. Also a bit because of my social environment – friends, acquaintances. Then maybe my sports club, that’s another pull factor for Trier. And I really enjoy the cultural life in the city. Due to Trier’s archaeological importance, I get a lot from it. And I find Trier a very pleasant city to live in. I’m not from here at all, I only came here to study, but I’ve really fallen in love with the city – it’s very nice [Carl, 28, m., D-Lux].

I’m socialized in Trier and I don’t even want to move to Luxembourg anymore. So now it’s out of the question. You have your environment here – friends, family, children – and there is no reason to move to Luxembourg [Matthias, 48, m., D-Lux].

19The process of appropriation of space is dynamic. Moreau (2020, 3) calls this reappropriation, in which people get involved in a “continuous negotiation between personal needs and the material affordances”, which can also be seen in the above interview quotations. Commuters’ spatial relations are directly impacted by their personal needs and material affordances, which are dependent on socio-economic and political changes at the macro level (global financial crisis, wars, new implemented policies, pandemic), as well as personal and familial changes at the micro level (loss of a partner, having children, ageing, changes in the degrees and skills). This dynamic characteristic of the process of appropriation is referred to by the interviewees in the case of changes in working life, ageing, or having a family and children. The needs of commuters alter significantly upon having children. In a few cases (6), interviewees expressed the change in their expectations of a place upon having a family with children; they became rather more concerned about living in a place where they could afford a big house and have better infrastructure in public space (playgrounds, availability of kindergartens, high-quality public schools), instead of a “city life” that offers various social and cultural activities. Similarly, one interviewee (Frank, m., 63, D-Nl) expressed the change in his needs and his expectations of public space upon ageing. According to him, a good public space is one with more green surroundings, a quiet neighborhood, and easy access to public transport.

20In short, people’s needs define their expectations of a public space, and their perception of spatial quality. Having familiarity with two different countries, commuters have the advantage of being able to constantly compare and revise their residential decisions, depending on the changes in their material affordability and needs. In this paper I demonstrated the heterogeneity of residents’ perceptions of the spatial quality depending on their needs and affordability, and hence on their economic and cultural capital. In cases of lifestyle-oriented commuting, socio-cultural needs are prioritized over financial benefits, whereas the livelihood-oriented commuters are more concerned with affordability. As long as the inequalities in income rates, living conditions, and purchase power between East and West continue, it is likely that seeking advantageous living and work situations abroad will remain the main dimension characterizing livelihood commuters’ expectations of a place.

5. Conclusion

21The multi-spatial characteristic of cross-border mobility, despite its challenges arising from the dual-frame legal settings of at least two nation-states, provides a flexibility for commuters to make strategic decisions depending on the most advantageous situation, according to their changing needs and expectations of a place. In this research I demonstrated the dynamic and interactive relation with space through two typologies: lifestyle- and livelihood-oriented commuters’ processes of spatial appropriation. Thus, the main dimension of quality of space is shaped by the socio-cultural needs and expectations of a participatory urban life for the interviewees in the first group, whereas for the latter group the priority is financial benefits and affordability.

22Quality of space cannot be reduced to its physical capacity and conditions; instead, it needs to be evaluated by including the social factor, i.e., how the people who make use of the place interact and change. This paper has focused on the importance of structure and agency in the perception of spatial quality and factors of spatial appropriation. People evaluate the quality of space depending on their needs and daily life practices, which are shaped through their material affordability. Their perception of spatial quality is a dynamic process that depends on both macro-level socio-economic changes and micro-level personal, biographical, and familial changes. People assign meanings to places and practice spatial appropriation according to this interactive relation between needs and affordability. However, the sample size of the research limits the generalizability of the findings to the border regions. Also, the field research was conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted difficulties reaching commuters, especially those working via home office and commuters employed in health and care sectors. As a result, sectoral diversity is limited. Further research with larger sample size and data may help understanding the regional characteristics, similarities, and differences better.

23Lastly, despite the discourses of fluidity and liquidity (the world as a global village without borders) in globalization theories, this research shows that even within the European Union, borders continue to exist, which relate and separate. This separation is not only about political and legal settings that regulate country entry procedures, taxation, residence conditions etc.; borders also continue to function as boundaries that draw the limits of the economic power and poverty of nation-states.

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1 This research is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a period of three years, from March 2021 to March 2024. Grant Number: 442292186.

2 The gross average monthly wage in Luxembourg was 6228.80 US dollars in 2020 (UNECE, 2022). In 2020, the average annual wage was 65,580 euros in Luxembourg and 42,500 euros in Germany (Statista, 2022a).

3 The 2021 report of the IBA shows that 93 per cent of the commuters from the Rhineland-Palatinate region have their residences in Trier (IBA, 2021, 65).

4 In 2020, the average annual wage in the Netherlands was 50,173 euros (Statista, 2022b).

5 For more information on the Freedom of Movement for Workers Agreement (Arbeitnehmerfreizügigkeit), see the 2011 report from the Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung (Baas, Brücker, 2011).

6 Except one interview in Luxembourg, expert interviews were conducted as online video meetings. Depending on the experts’ preferences, interviews were done in either German or English.

7 Interviews with commuters were conducted in English or German, depending on interviewees’ preferences, apart from in Saxony, where five interviews were conducted in Polish with the help of an interpreter. Additionally, two interviews were conducted with commuters who commute to Austria and Switzerland from Germany, to see if any counter situation or great differences exist in the motivations of these commuters compared to the regions being researched. Due to the pandemic restrictions, ten interviews with commuters were conducted via online video meetings.

8 A less practiced form of cross-border mobility is residential mobility. In this atypical cross-border commuting, commuters are attracted by the real-estate market (prices, housing, environmental attractions) in the destination country and continue to work in their home country.

9 Names used in this paper are pseudonyms. Following interviewees’ pseudonyms, information on age, gender (f: for female and m: for male) and country codes to define the direction of the commuting are provided: Nl for the Netherlands, Lux for Luxembourg, D for Germany, and Pl for Poland. The first-mentioned country is the country of residence, and the second is where the commuter is employed.

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Notizia bibliografica

Elifcan Karacan, «Quality of Space as Experienced: Impacts of Needs and Affordability on Spatial Appropriation of Cross-border Labor Commuters»Quaderni di Sociologia, 91 - LXVII | 2023, 47-59.

Notizia bibliografica digitale

Elifcan Karacan, «Quality of Space as Experienced: Impacts of Needs and Affordability on Spatial Appropriation of Cross-border Labor Commuters»Quaderni di Sociologia [Online], 91 - LXVII | 2023, online dal 01 avril 2024, consultato il 18 juin 2024. URL:; DOI:

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Elifcan Karacan

Faculty of Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences – Public Administration Department - University of Twente

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