Unequal Racialization and Divergent Career Outcomes of Skilled Migrants in Postcolonial Hong Kong

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Caroline SCHÖPF, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, Max Weber Foundation, Germany
Scholars have called for an increased focus on racialization processes that channel migrants towards divergent social positions in receiving societies, creating highly paid 'expats' on the one hand and de-skilled, discriminated 'immigrants' on the other.
  This study investigates the mechanisms that structure the career outcomes of differently racialized migrants in Hong Kong. 34 in-depth interviews were conducted with university educated migrants from South Asian and Western countries racialized as South Asian, Black and White as well as receiving society colleagues and superiors. Migrants were asked to provide detailed information on pre-and post-migration employment spells, including increased and decreased valuation and utilization of skills, and obstacles and facilitating factors to career success.
  Racialization as 'White,' Western nationality or possession of Western cultural capital is found to connect to career advantages and upward occupational mobility. Such migrants have the choice to utilize existing skill sets in well-paying jobs linking regional production sites with Western markets, in globalized industries following Western standards, or to convert their real or ascribed 'native' cultural capital into craved 'Western' goods or services. Their Whiteness is strategically displayed by employers to signify 'authentic Western' expertise and cosmopolitanism. Their career success is aided by the ease of networking with influential co-ethnics and by receiving society members' familiarity with and affinity to Western culture in racially stratified, postcolonial Hong Kong. Conversely, migrants who do not possess Whiteness, Western nationality or Western cultural capital face subsequently more career obstacles, devaluation and discounting of human and cultural capital, racial discrimination, networking difficulties and pressure to acculturate, and often experience downward occupational mobility. These mechanisms can channel individuals with same amounts of human capital towards substantially different careers. The findings show how ongoing coloniality, economic structures in the world system and global cultural stratification contribute to divergent socioeconomic outcomes for unequally racialized migrants.