Condescending Integration: How Organizations Hinder the Potential of Skilled Migrants

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Miguel MORILLAS, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden
Migrant integration policies are geared towards the attraction of qualified workforce to compensate for labor market shortages (Cerna, 2014). At the same time, the skilled migrant workforce is less likely to be employed compared to skilled natives (OECD, 2014). This raises the question why the integration of skilled workers does not work. Most of the literature on migrant integration in organizations focuses on labor market access (mostly quantitative) and discrimination in the workplace (mostly qualitative). While the first emphasizes measurability, the second is thematically biased towards the plight of low-skilled workers. Relatively little is known of the structural barriers for skilled migrants inside organizations. In this context, Sweden boasts one of the most generous migrant integration policies across industrialized countries (Koopmans, 2010; MIPEX, 2017). Both at the level of political discourses and organizational practices, there is an active commitment to the labor integration of skilled migrant workers. Yet, labor integration outcomes of skilled migrants remains modest, unemployment among skilled workers born outside of Scandinavia being ten times higher than that of natives (Saco, 2017). This hints at a significant failure of integration leading to continued skill mismatch.

I explore the existing reproductive mechanisms inside organizations, that effectively prevent the full integration of skilled migrants. I am inspired by Bourdieu’s’ theory of practice (1977) to analyze an organization actively engaged in the integration of skilled migrants. I carry out in-depth qualitative interviews to analyze two types of practices: recruitment practices targeting skilled migrants, and the everyday interaction between skilled migrants and managers. Practices in and by organizations reveal that skilled migrants are often portrayed as passive and incomplete, shaping the conditions for possibilities of full labor integration.

This work uncovers a condescending regime of integration that reproduces inequalities, and contributes to explain the lack of integration of skilled migrants in organizations.