An Un/Prepared Workplace? Rethinking the Social Relations of Work in Culturally and Racially Diverse Workplaces in Australia

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Virginia MAPEDZAHAMA, Western Sydney University, Australia
Kwamena KWANSAH-AIDOO, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia
The integration of highly skilled migrants into the Australian workforce continues to be perceived (from a government perspective) as largely unproblematic – for the migrant or the employing agency. Yet interestingly, current analyses of skilled migrant experiences are deficit-driven and preoccupied with issues such as English language competency, transferability of overseas education and labour force integration. In this paper we report findings from our study on how skilled black African migrants in Australia forge social and professional identities within their transnational, cross- cultural existences, which suggest a more complex contradiction: places of work that are not prepared for the black skilled African migrant’s contribution, knowledge and experience or for their colour. The findings not only revealed workplaces constituted as hostile to skilled black African migrants but one which also makes ineffective use of their skills and knowledge (obtained overseas), thus negating the economic investment in their initial recruitment. We argue therefore, that current analyses and theorisations of skilled migration deal with the migrant in abstraction, neglecting interrogations of the part that social relations of work play in the skilled migrants’ transition to work. Drawing on findings from our study, we propose that what needs to be theorised ontologically and epistemologically for culturally and racially diverse organisations, are the effects of everyday incivilities, everyday racism and ignorance of the effects of race and ethnicity on those who are othered, on all of the social relations of work in these organisations. In the end, the nuanced analyses presented in this paper are significant for informing a much-needed shift in focus; from migrant-focussed orientation and adaptation programs to workplace–focussed assessment and analyses. Such a focus will maximise workplace preparation for the inclusion of highly skilled migrants and the achievement of optimum productivity and skills utilisation from highly skilled migrant workers.