IMDS Working Paper 55

IMDS Working Paper 55
The IMDS Working Paper Series is published by International Migration and
Diaspora Studies Project at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies,
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International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project, ZHCES, JNU, New Delhi.
ISSN 0976-271X
Professor Binod Khadria, Convener
Professor Deepak Kumar, Member
Professor Ajit K. Mohanty, Member
Professor P.M. Kulkarni, Member
Professor Sucheta Mahajan, Member
Professor Binod Khadria, Project Director
Rashmi Sharma
Perveen Kumar
Umesh L. Bharte
Nicky Naincy
International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project
Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi 110067, India
Tel: +91 11 26704417
Email: [email protected]
The views expressed in the papers are those of the author and do not
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IMDS Working Paper Series
December, 2008
WP 1 International Migration Policy: Issues and Perspectives
for India
Binod Khadria, Perveen Kumar, Shantanu Sarkar
and Rashmi Sharma
WP 2 India Recentred: The Role of Indian Diaspora in the
Globalisation Process
Eric Leclerc
WP 3 Return Migration as a Tool for Economic Development
in China and India
Anja Wiesbrock
March, 2009
WP 4 Highly-skilled Migrations in Canada and the U.S.: The
Tale of two Immigration Systems
Wei Li and Lucia Lo
WP 5 Pakistani Diaspora in the United States: An Economic
Hisaya Oda
WP 6 Future of Migration from South Asia to the OECD
Countries: Reflections on India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
Binod Khadria
May, 2009
WP 7 The Indian and Chinese Academic Diaspora in Australia:
A Comparison
Graeme Hugo
WP 8 Migration and Diaspora Formation: Mobility of Indian
Students to the Developed World
Perveen Kumar, Shantanu Sarkar and Rashmi Sharma
WP 9 Indian Overseas Migration, Marriage Markets and
Citizenship Issues
Gavin Jones
July 2009
WP 10 - Emigration Data: We Need a Change of Focus
Amal Sanyal
WP 11 - Indians in Britain
Stephen Castles
WP 12 - Indian Diaspora in International Relations: 'Tinker,
Tailor, Soldier, Spy', or
A Great Off-White Hope' of the New Century?
Binod Khadria
September, 2009
WP 13 - Economic, Political and Social Conditions of Indian
Migration to Germany
Beatrice Knerr
WP 14 - Bridging the Binaries of Skilled and Unskilled Migration
from India
Binod Khadria
WP 15 - From High Skill Migration to Cosmopolitan Service Class?
Irish Migration Policy in a European Context
James Wickham
November 2009
WP 16 - Being Indian in Post-Colonial Manila: Diasporic Ethnic
Identities, Class, and the Media
Jozon A. Lorenzana
WP 17 - The Gendered Political Economy of Migration
Nicola Piper
WP 18 - Struggle to Acculturate in the Namesake: A Comment on
Jhumpa Lahiri's Work as Diaspora Literature
Mahesh Bharatkumar Bhatt
March 2010
WP 19 - Root Causes and Implications of International Migration
for Sending and Destination Countries: Lessons from the
Mexican-U.S. Experience
Raul Delgado Wise
WP 20 WP 21 -
Health Transition of Indian and Chinese Immigrants in
the US
Lopamudra Ray Saraswati
Indian Immigration to the United Kingdom
William Somerville
June 2010
WP 22
Diaspora and Development: Lessons from the Chinese
of Southeast Asia and Pointers towards a Research
Ronald Skeldon
WP 23 - Indian Immigrant Labour in Malaya during the
Economic Crisis of the 1930s
K. Nadaraja
WP 24 - Indian Migration and "Temporary" Labour Programs:
Select Contrasts in Policies and Trends
in the European Union and the United States
Mary Breeding
September 2010
WP 25- Regional Migration Policy in Southern Africa: Bilateral
Hegemony, Regional Integration and Policy Transfers
Aurelia Wa Kabwe-Segatti
WP 26 - South-South Migration and the Rise of Xenophobia in
India and South Africa
Jonathan Crush and Sujata Ramachandran
WP 27 - Competition for Global Talent - A Comparative Study of
the European and the Canadian Immigration Policies with
Regards to Highly Skilled Migrants
Zdravka Zulj
December 2010
WP 28 - Latin American Skilled Migration: Historical Trends and
Recent Challenges
Lucas Luchilo
WP 29 - Trends and Characteristics of Latinoamerican Skilled
Migration to Spain and the United States (2000-2008)
Martin Koolhaas, Nicolas Fiori and Adela Pellegrino
WP 30 - Diaspora Inquiry: Search for a Method
Aditya Raj
March 2011
WP 31 - Migration and Morality: Sovereign Finance and
Dehumanized Immigrants
Amiya Kumar Bagchi
WP 32 - The Role of Migration in Re-structuring Innovation
Binod Khadria and Jean-Baptiste Meyer
WP 33 - Household Capabilities: A Different Approach for
Explaining International Migration from Rural Punjab
Puran Singh
June 2011 Special Issue
June 2011 Special Issue–-In lieu of WP 34-36
An Exploratory Study on Circular Migration from India
to European Union
Binod Khadria
September 2011
WP 37 - Understanding Migration in the Asia-Pacific Region
through a model of 'Hubs and Hinterlands'
Binod Khadria
WP 38 - The New Dalit Diaspora: A Sociological Analysis
Vivek Kumar
WP 39 - Widening Income gap and Economic Disparity among
South Asians in Canada
Sandeep Agrawal
December 2011
WP 40 - India Diaspora in the United States: Issues and
Manan Dwivedi
WP 41 - Middle-East Country Policies
Binod Khadria
WP 42 - Governing International Migration in the Global Age:
Challenges of the Divide between Immigration and
Emigration Policy
Perveen Kumar
March-December 2012
March-December 2012- Special Issue-In lieu of WP 43-54
Tapas Majumdar Memorabilia, In commemoration of the
second Death Aniversary of Late Professor Tapas Majumdar.
Available at -
IMDS Working Paper Series
Working Paper Nos. 55––57
March, 2013
International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project
Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies
School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi-110 067, India
Working Paper No. 55
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and
Social Inequalities
Thomas Faist
Working Paper No. 56
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers
and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
Paul Spoonley, Joanna Lewin, Carina Meares, Trudie Cain and Robin Peace
Working Paper No. 57
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good are Existing Regional
Institutions for Governance in Future?
Binod Khadria
Working Paper No. 55
The Transnational Social Question: CrossBorder Social Protection and Social
Thomas Faist
Bielefeld University
Given high and persistent levels of social inequalities on a global scale (Held and Kaya 2007) it is
important to ask how strategies of social protection address this issue. Social protection, that is, strategies
to cope with social risks arising in capitalist economies in fields such as employment, health, care and
education, clearly extends across the borders of national states. Take, for example, the social protection of
Dutch pensioners living in Spain, of former labour migrants from Morocco in France returning to the
region of origin, or of domestic care workers from Ukraine working in German households, and the
ensuing restructuration of care work in the regions of +origin. A closer look at these cases reveals that
social protection is not necessarily provided and consumed within the territory of a single national (welfare)
state. Rather, the increasing mobility of persons affects how social protection is organized, and, moreover,
the social protection of persons who are mobile across borders may have implications for more than one
state and for social groups across borders. Migrants and other categories of mobile persons, such as those
engaged circular mobility (e.g. seasonal workers), engage in and sustain dense and continuous ties across
borders, so-called transnational social spaces. Migration is taken as a strategic research site1 that
illustrates the challenges to the boundaries of social protection in national (welfare) states and the
emergence of new cross-border social spaces and boundaries along lines of ethnicity, citizenship, gender,
religion and class. Thus, the focus is on how social protection is organized in the context of cross-border
migrations and the impact it has on social inequalities.The argument pursued is that while social
protection is a response to global social inequalities it also, inadvertently, reproduces old inequalities and
creates new ones. The first part of this chapter sketches the transnational social question and the
perception by observers and activists –– social movements, governments, organizations and social scientists ––
of stark inequalities across borders. The second part introduces a transnational methodology and the
concept of transnational social spaces, namely dense, continuous and sustained patterns of social and
symbolic ties of persons, groups and organizations across the borders of national states. Transnational
spaces are shown to be scaled on levels ranging from families to international organizations, and embedded
in dimensions or principles of social order –– families (and household), civil society (and community),
market and state. Based upon these methodological considerations, the third part considers the mechanisms
that generate social inequalities in a transnational frame and raises questions about the implications of
existing and newly minted social inequalities for social protection and fo
1. Approaching the Transnationl Question
From a global perspective today immense social inequalities are pervasive. A sixth of the
world's population –– over 1 billion people –– live in absolute poverty (World Bank 2011).
For other strategic sites, such as multinational companies, see Macdonald and Marshall (2010).
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Malnutrition, insufficient medical care and low life expectancy, but also dequate social security
in formal employment or in the informal sector, threaten the lives of many, especially in
Africa and Southeast Asia. On a global scale, distress and social instability are reminiscent of
the living conditions that obtained in a large part of nineteenth-century Europe. At that time
the "social question" was the central subject of extremely volatile political conflicts between
the ruling classes and working-class movements (e.g. Grimmer-Solem 2003). Are we now on
the verge of a new social conflict, this time on a transnational scale, characterized by manifold
boundaries –– such as those between capital and labour, North and South, developed and
underdeveloped or developing countries? The protests of globalisation critics, for instance by
manifold social movement organizations at the World Social Forum over the past decade, can
certainly not be overlooked (cf. Carver and Bartelson 2011). There is also a proliferation of
political groupings and NGOs rallying across national borders in support of various
campaigns such as environmental, human rights and women's issues, Christian, Hindu or
Islamic fundamentalism, or "food sovereignty." The broader issue of concern is thus: Do
political decision-makers and activists today share the perception of a transnational social
question, and, if so, is there an evolution of global social norms enforceable by way of
transnational social rights and social citizenship beyond national state borders? Take, for
example, the declaration of the so-called Millennium Development Goals (MDG); these
comprise eight so-called development goals that all member states of the United Nations have
agreed to achieve by the year 2015. They include eliminating extreme poverty, reducing child
mortality, fighting disease epidemics, and developing a global partnership for development. In
other words, is a shift taking place from national social policies to global social policy in the
twenty-first century, implying a move from national to post-national solidarity and the
corresponding rights, obligations and policies?
Whether or not the transnational social question is being adequately addressed by global,
European or national social policies is the context in which the central problem of this
chapter is located, namely how social protection is actually organized by non-state actors
across borders and the consequences for social inequalities. This question thus takes as its
point of departure the now-classic discussion of social citizenship. T. H. Marshall
(1964[1950]) argued that national social citizenship as a way of addressing social protection
reduces risks emanating from market participation and exclusion and thus has the potential to
decrease social inequalities. He looked upon social citizenship as a means to counter the
inequalities produced by capitalism by granting individuals egalitarian status and a set of rights
attached to full membership in a national society. In his view social rights and social policies
stabilize welfare capitalism on the national level so that they may even be able to legitimize
social inequalities which continue to exist even after redistribution. The question posed here
takes the debate on social protection out of the container of the national welfare state and
places it in a social space beyond the national state. Yet this space is not simply an extension
of the national welfare state on another scale, such as supranational or even global social
citizenship or policy. Rather, the approach taken here moves the social question and issues of
social protection from the national into the transnational domain. ““Transnational”” here
connotes a focus on cross-border transactions involving non-state agents. Such an analysis
focuses on social protection organized by states and international organizations but also by
non-state agents, such as families, networks and groups. Two of the issues arising in this
context relate, first, to the (de-)commodification of labour power in ““sharing spaces”” (Ferrera
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
2008; cf. Alber 2009) such as welfare states and supranational structures, and, second, to
questions of membership (cf. Mau and Burkhardt 2005).
The first issue concerns the changing relationship between the principles of social order ––
namely, state, market, community and family. As the examples introduced above suggest,
certain spheres of work, such as long-term care of the elderly, have been re-commodified or
not yet commodified in certain EU member states and other wealthy countries. Domestic
work, for example, has become a site of commodification and thus employment of mainly
migrant women with the increased labour force participation of native-born women in
European welfare states. And nursing work has expanded as a field with both changing
patterns of labour force participation and an increasing share of elderly who require such care
(see, e.g. Yeates 2008 and Williams 2011). Underlying these developments is the question
about the relationship between these four principles of social organization. Commodification
would suggest an increased role of market principles but also stronger involvement of civil
society or community and family which have to make up for the lack of rights provided by
states. Also, in many emigration countries certain social rights have not (yet) been
institutionalized for the majority of the population. Moreover, commodification does entail a
clearly regulatory (but not redistributive) role of the state (cf. Polanyi 1957). Such regulations
can be found not only in welfare stateness but also in immigration regime(s). After all,
migration regimes determine access to formal social entitlements through border control and
through the regulations of migrants inside welfare states; for example, there is a gradation of
access depending on the kind of residence and work permit (Faist and Dörr 1997).
The second issue, concerning membership, also exemplifies the cross-border challenges
to national welfare state regulations. From a transnational perspective, migration is about the
boundedness of social protection with respect not primarily to territory but to formal
membership such as citizenship. The question at stake is which rights and resources for whom?
This is crucial because formal social protection in the form of insurance and assistance has
evolved over the past 150 years in European welfare states as a matter of nationally bounded
collectives of regulation and redistribution, reciprocity and solidarity. Some of these rights
have moved to the European Union (EU) level and apply to citizens of individual member
states in a new scalar system of citizenship, that is, nested membership (Faist 2001). In the
EU, the free mobility of workers who are citizens of EU member states is also cushioned by
the portability of social insurance benefits through coordination rules (essentially, Regulation
1408/71) and competition rules. Many of the regulations, both nationally and supranationally,
apply not only to citizens of member states but often to all those who have been legally
resident for a considerable time as well. The latter may also be citizens of third countries,
extracommunitari. It is not only ‘‘rights of individuals via citizenship’’ but also ‘‘rights of
individuals via personhood’’ –– a development that is not unique to the EU but can also be
found in other contexts such as North America (Soysal 1994). The substantive issue is access
to protection and thus to rights, entitlements and the fulfilment of duties. A crucial issue for
migrants in particular is the portability of social rights and thus benefits.
While these considerations are undoubtedly important for understanding the legalpolitical aspects of social rights and access to social provision, they are insufficient for
capturing social protection and social inequalities as transnational phenomena which are also
produced on the level of families and communities across borders of national states. The
boundedness of rights derives from a national view and pertains to the immigration side only.
What about the countries of emigration, most of which are not welfare states, and the
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implications of systems of social protection in those locations? Does migration lead to a
hollowing out of crucial sectors providing social protection (e.g. brain drain in the health care
sector, care drain in families left behind), or to much-needed supplementary income
increasing the likelihood of adequate social protection via remittances? And what about the
manifold non-state linkages of protection across borders?
Methodologically, this chapter offers an effort to develop and apply a transnational
approach. Studies in a transnational vein are critical of methodological nationalism, that is, the
often unstated assumption that national society or the national state is the ““natural”” unit of
analysis and of data collection. Yet there is a need to go beyond criticism and explicitly name
the reference points for transnational analysis (see Faist 2012). The hallmark of a
transnational approach is that several levels and dimensions of analysis are considered, and
the notion of scale is centrally important: first, levels of analysis such as the local, the national
state, the European and the global; and second, the principles of social organization, such as
family/household, community/civil society, state and market. No single level or dimension of
analysis should be privileged a priori.
2. Toward a Transnational Approach
Social rights have underpinned the rise of national welfare states for over a century, and since
World War Two have been enshrined as human rights in international conventions such as
the General Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966). Yet social rights cannot necessarily be enforced
as individual human rights beyond welfare states. In fact, beyond national (welfare) states
there is mostly ““soft law,”” such as social standards and the convenants of international
organizations. Moreover, social rights are distributed very unevenly across various parts of the
world (Faist 2009). In short, the shifting of justifications for social norms from social rights to
more general human rights and above all to voluntary self-regulatory measures have not (yet)
resulted in the establishment of enforceable global social norms. How, then, is social
protection actually provided and with what consequences?
Analyses of national welfare states –– including international comparisons –– are often
concerned with the integration of migrants in crucial spheres of the distribution of life
chances, such as schooling and employment. They also focus upon such issues as the effects
of mobility on demography and ramifications for pension schemes. Complementing empirical
studies of the social integration of immigrants is the broader question of how solidarity in
national (welfare) states is organized. One of the challenges visible in international migration
processes for immigration states, for example, is how solidarity can be made possible. Welfare
state solidarity has evolved historically since the nineteenth century within bounded national
collectives out of smaller pools of risk organization (Baldwin 1993). Inherent in the operation
of state-organized social protection is the congruence of state authority, territory and people,
that is, the overlap of territory and membership, which means that only full members of the
polity have full access to social rights and social provisions.
International migration has made visible the partial unbundling of territory and
membership. In between the clear distinction between full members –– citizens –– and nonmembers –– aliens –– fall those who are permanent residents who do have close to the full
modicum of social rights. These are the so-called denizens. This phenomenon has been
stimulated and made visible by international migration to countries of the European Union.
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
Movement and legal settlement imply reference to migrants who are partial or even quasi-full
members of the respective welfare state when it comes to social rights. While social rights are
an expression of citizenship, denizens may partake in such citizenship rights without being
full members, lacking, for example, the full political rights such as the right to vote and stand
for office in national elections.
But an important caveat should be added: Not all international migrants are denizens;
quite a few are undocumented with respect to residence and/or employment with only
emergency rights, or are legal immigrants who have not achieved full residency status.
Nonetheless, this state of affairs implies a decoupling of full membership in a (national)
polity, on the one hand, and access to social rights, on the other hand. This decoupling, in
turn, puts into question the full congruence of membership, rights and duties and the
resource called solidarity, or –– somewhat less demanding but equally important for welfare
states –– reciprocity (e.g. between generations in pension schemes). Such considerations,
however, view social protection exclusively within the frame of welfare states as immigration
states. They do not take into account the cross-border elements of social protection, both at
the level of states through instruments such as bilateral treaties, and at the level of the
community or civil society, for example through social support mechanisms among migrants
and significant others. In addition, there is the wider context of the assemblage of state and
non-state social protection mechanisms.
Included among the highly formalized and systemic arrangements are not only various
international organizations and NGOs but also the state-sponsored and state-run schemes
mentioned earlier, such as bilateral treaties, international conventions pertaining to social
rights and supranational arrangements such as EU social policy.
Social protection assemblages contain formal and informal, state and non-state
dimensions. On a small scale, there are informal friendship networks and highly
institutionalized kinship, e.g. family, arrangements. In kinship groups, migration decisions can
be seen as informal insurance arrangements, for example, providing for supplementary
income in case of crop failure. Migration often involves intra-kinship transfers, for instance
when an aunt sends remittances to be used to pay school fees for nieces and nephews, or for
relatives’’ health services. Also of great interest are collective arrangements beyond kinship,
such as those found in voluntary associations like hometown associations, cultural
associations and funeral societies. The latter, for example among African migrants in Europe,
not only fulfil essential functions with respect to ensuring burials in the homeland but also
serve as arenas in which political and economic bargains are struck.
Overall, the assemblages for social protection not only crisscross national borders but also
intermingle state and non-state arrangements. For example, child care in immigration
countries is often provided not only by official child care facilities but also by relatives coming
in from abroad to look after young children so their mothers can work, thereby
complementing in situ child care programs, or in some cases filling in if such programs are
absent or too costly. In some cases elderly relatives who cannot be cared for in the sending
countries are also brought in (cf. Righard 2008). In short, sometimes migrants import their
care needs or bring them along in the absence of formal arrangements or to complement
formal social provision. There are also arrangements beyond families and households. Typical
migrant associations providing social protection are funeral societies but also hometown
associations. In addition, there are active non-migrant organizations such as religious
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communities and NGOs. Quite often, welfare states on the local or national scale interact
with migrant associations or other civil society agents to provide social protection. A
Prominent example can be found in the Southern European states such as Spain (Fauser
This short sketch of social protection assemblages across borders suggests that both state
and non-state actors and institutions interact in addressing social risks and social inequalities.
Two realms can be analytically distinguished in order to discuss social inequalities in the
context of cross-border social protection. The first, on a primarily discursive level, is the
debate on what has been called ““development”” of regions and ““developing countries””. In this
discussion it becomes clear that non-state principles of social order such as civil society,
market and family have gained more prominence over state principles in policy and public
debates during the past few decades. This debate suggests that since the late 1990s migrants
have been conceptualized by international organizations and state governments as
development agents and providers of social protection. Second, we need to unearth the social
processes operative in efforts at social protection –– and this can be done fruitfully by
identifying the social mechanisms which result in the (re)production of inequalities.
3. Migrants as Development Agents and Providers of Social Protection
For cross-border and mostly informal social protection, the example of migrants and migrant
associations, hailed as ““development agents”” since the early 2000s, is illustrative. Since an
overwhelming share of financial remittances is used for purposes at the heart of social
protection –– namely education costs (e.g. school fees) or health expenses –– the renewed policy
emphasis of international organizations and national governments, the ‘‘new mantra’’ (Kapur
2004) of linking migration and development, serves well to highlight the problems involved.
Over the past few years, migrants have been constituted as new development agents in
cooperative schemes between immigration and emigration countries. The fundamental idea is
that migrants are important mediators for initiating development or conflict mediation
because of their bi-lateral loyalties and ties as well as their local knowledge of the needs of socalled developing countries. Financial remittances back home, complemented by social
remittances –– that is, the transfer of ideas such as democracy or gender equality; the transfer
of knowledge, capabilities and competencies; insider advantages that migrants might have
such as linguistic competences, social contacts, familiarity with bureaucratic processes –– are
thought to benefit development in the migrants’’ countries of origin (Faist 2008).
There is nothing new about the fact that migrants often remain in contact with, and
continue to send resources to, those back home. What is truly novel is the greater incentive
for civil society or community agents to replace the old, state-centred, development policy
paradigm of the 1960s and to build on and fuse into the market and civil society paradigms of
the 1980s and the 1990s. Programs based on such approaches have been pushed by
international organizations such as the World Bank, by development cooperation
organizations and by national states. European immigration countries concentrate their
development cooperation policies on countries bordering the EU in the south and the east,
such as the Joint EU-Africa Strategy. EU policies and public policies of member states
increasingly link development cooperation with migration control, putting more emphasis on
the legitimacy of national economic interests in highly qualified workers (Glick Schiller and
Faist 2010). In emigration countries, the image of migrants has changed from that of
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
““turncoats”” to ““heroes””. Many states, for instance Russia, Ghana, Mali, Mexico and the
Philippines, have meanwhile established diaspora ministries. Measures taken include tax relief
for emigrants who, for example, live and work in Silicon Valley and invest in India, while
both symbolic and practical policies such as the tolerance of dual citizenship help to uphold
the loyalty of emigrants.
The deployment of migrants as development agents, along with increased endeavours by
international organizations, states and NGOs to create incentives for migrants to become
involved in promoting development, can be observed on two levels. On one level,individual
migrants, vested with economic skills and social ties, are the focus: diasporic migrants return
as highly qualified workers for brief assignments to their countries of origin or develop smallscale projects on their own initiative –– for example medical doctors in the health sector. On a
second, collective level, the focus is on families and above all migrant self-organizations that
not only support relatives and friends in their countries of origin but also become involved in
activities such as building wells or schools; key terms are diasporas and transnational
communities. In some European countries, sometimes in cooperation with international
organizations, there are now state programs that combine the periodic return of migrants and
their involvement with development cooperation (de Haas 2006). It should be noted,
however, that such programs –– the co-développement scheme in France for instance –– were
originally created to encourage the return of migrants to their home countries, and are built
on close and politically asymmetric ties from colonial times. The French case, for example, is
a cross-border, translocal scheme with bilateral elements. Today, such schemes combine
incorporation, development and migration control policies by supporting local projects run
by migrants. The international level has become more important, given the involvement of
international organizations such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the
International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), and international non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam.
In light of these new policy measures for promoting migrants as development brokers,
certain attributes of migrants that were hitherto regarded as drawbacks –– such as ““fence
sitting””, that is, sitting in between emigration and immigration countries, for example –– are reinterpreted as mobility competencies and thus assets; in this case as bridge builders and
brokers. In short, cross-border ties and associated resources, indeed the very transnationality
of migrants, has become a characteristic of development and thus also social protection.
Transnationality refers, for instance, to commitments in migrants’’ regions of origin, which
were formerly seen as an indicator of non-integration or a failure of integration by
immigration states. From the perspective of the new policies, incorporation in the country of
immigration is seen as being entirely compatible with transnational involvement and
commitments in the country of origin. Indeed, empirical studies show that incorporation in
the country of immigration is virtually a pre-requisite for meaningful involvement in
development policy activities. Transnational activists as a rule still have their local roots in
their regions of origin and use them as a basis for transboundary involvement. This is
confirmed, for example, by the activities of African organizations in Germany that are
involved in development cooperation and help with the building of schools or water systems
(Sieveking 2011).
This short sketch of the scales and therefore the levels and dimensions of cross-border
interchange indicates that transnationalization is itself embedded in changing principles of
social order –– namely state, market, civil society and family. Social policy and development
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thinking has moved from a focus on the national state to more of an emphasis on local
government and international institutions (Mkandawire 2004).Two kinds of social
transformations have fostered this focus on the emergence of migrants as development and
social protection agents: statehood and civil society; and market and transnationalized civil
society. Notably, family and kinship usually does not figure prominently within discussions of
principles of social order; it is mostly relegated to studies on care. Nonetheless, family needs
to be brought into the discussion, and these social transformations must be discussed with
respect to all four principles of social organization. Civil society in its relationships to market,
state and family is used as a lens to gauge the changes in social protection across the borders
of states.
(1) Statehood and Civil Society: While in modernization theory we found a strong belief in the
crucial role of the national state, this belief was called into question after the 1960s and 1970s.
A sea change took place as international development organizations focused more on market
as a principle, and as notions such as community and civil society emerged as the lodestars of
development –– hence also the current mantra of the importance of migrants and migrant
associations for development and social protection. The epitome of the market focus was the
““Washington Consensus””.2 Around the same time community and civil society entered
discussions in the context of strategies in the service of basic needs. It has been in this
context that migrants were re-invented in the early 2000s as a civil society or community
actor, either as individuals remitting funds or as migrant associations in the form of diaspora
or transnational communities. It is therefore no coincidence that organised groups such as
hometown associations in Mexico, returnee associations in Jamaica, or charitable foundations
in Egypt have gained importance in political discourse and sometimes in policy making. In
short, over the past decades, the central role of the national state has become de-emphasized
in favour not only of the market but also of civil society and community. Equally noteworthy
is the now frequently made distinction between the central and local state. In the face of
decentralization and attendant slogans such as ownership and stakeholdership, local
governments, along with civil society and community, have assumed a greater role. The
migration-development nexus proves an exemplary case in point. In immigration states such
as France vis-à-vis North and West African states, such as Morocco and Mali, the
aforementioned idea of co-développement sees migrants as their own development agents with
respect to the sending countries. According to this view migrants and their diasporas alleviate
poverty, help to solve (violent) conflicts, especially if local governments work with diaspora
groups, and deliver better results. In general, the focus on local governments and diasporas
has come to be especially relevant in cases where national states in developing countries have
failed to assert territorial domination, establish rule of law, institutionalize democracy and
launch ““sustained”” economic development (reflected in, for example, consistent economic
growth rates). States invest hope in non-governmental organizations and local government in
a synergistic collaboration with diasporas. Not surprisingly, migrants’’ collectives in all forms,
hometown associations, diaspora knowledge networks, businesspersons’’ networks and even
The term ‘‘Washington Consensus’’ was initially coined in 1989 by economist John Williamson to describe a set of 10 specific economic
policy prescriptions (e.g., fiscal policy discipline, redirection of public spending, trade liberalization) that he considered should constitute the
‘‘standard’’ reform package promoted for crisis-wracked developing countries by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF),
the World Bank, and the US Treasury Department. Subsequently, the term has come to be used in a different and broader sense, as a
synonym for market fundamentalism. In this way, the term has been associated with neo-liberal policies in general and has entered the wider
debate over the expanding role of the free market and constraints upon state social and economic policies.
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
religious congregations, are now sought after by governments seeking to entrench their own
(2) Market and Civil Society: Not only have state-civil society relations changed but so too
has the linkage between market and civil society. Communities or civil society are becoming
more and more a complement to liberal economic approaches in the era of the postWashington consensus. Two elements work together: liberal economic thought on the one
hand, and participatory approaches on the other. Liberal economic thought would suggest
that migrants are their own best development agents, recalling John Kenneth Galbraith’’s
dictum on migration as ““the oldest action against poverty”” (Galbraith, 1979, p. 7). While the
second element,participatory and grassroots approaches, does not suggest a ““market citizen,””
it has nevertheless been conducive to conceptualizing migrants as development agents and
developers of social protection, and it expresses altered state-civil society relations. In
participatory approaches, voice in combination with exit and continued loyalty, that is, a
commitment of transnational migrants to regions of origin, stand at the core. Participatory
approaches as expressed, for example, by reports of the United Nations Development
Organization, focus on collective remittances (UNDP 2009).
(3) Family and Civil Society: International migration today has resulted in the increased
prevalence of what have been called transnational families –– families with members living in
different national states. Research on these families has been spurred by the understanding of
the gendered nature of mobility, in particular the ““feminization of migration””, that is, the fact
that there has been an increasing share of women moving as independent migrants and not as
spouses joining their husbands or remaining separated. The decentralization and deregulation
of manufacturing production and the demand for professional services which require service
labour, such as care work in the health, domestic and other sectors, have contributed to
consistently increasing cross-border mobilities and concomitant ties. Of special interest is that
more and more transnational families must remain spatially separated, whether due to newer
types and patterns of migration or restrictive immigration laws. At the same time we see that
migrants can now more easily stay in touch with loved ones owing to easier travel conditions,
the Internet and other forms of telecommunication, previously unavailable. There are thus
not only local communities without geographical propinquity, but also families without
propinquity. Therefore, the issues raised concerning transnational families, such as
transnational motherhood and the involvement of families in transnational social movements,
need to be seen against the backdrop of the life course in and of families. In connecting
transnational families to civil society, two issues arise. First, transnational families may assume
new forms, challenging sedentary concepts of families. Second, transnational families raise
new questions about involvement of individual migrants in larger communities.
First, family studies in the past have emphasized geographical proximity as a prerequisite
for interaction and exchange within families. As a result, transnational families and family
practices across borders have often been treated as temporary phenomena, with family
reunification in the host society as the preferred outcome for all family members. Yet
transnational family life may not necessarily lead to family disintegration and may be part of a
strategy for social mobility for all members. Partly owing to the fundamental restructuring of
labour markets, there are proportionally more positions for women in the service sector
abroad, and there are fewer opportunities for legal labour migration which normally includes
the right to family unification in one place. In recent years, family reunification has become
more difficult, expensive and time-consuming for immigrants from non-EU countries in
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European countries (cf. Betts 2011). This constellation makes care within families difficult,
e.g. providing care for the young and the elderly due to, for example, visa restrictions.
Second, it is likely that all kin and peer relations, not just relations between partners,
parents and children, are reconfigured by transnational life courses, if we consider that
domestic life and private life are not insulated from their wider social sphere, and that families
play roles in public life.An obvious instance is migrant associations or religious congregations,
whose membership often consists of families. Religious associations of African migrants in
Germany, for example, fulfil manifold spiritual but also social support functions. In some
cases, women are very active, not in public roles but in providing support for community
services in emigration locales behind the scenes (Sieveking 2011). Changing gender relations
within families are mirrored in civil society activities in other ways. There are also instances
where women take their activities into the streets. The Mexican women farmworkers’’
organization ““Líderes Campesinas”” has taken its protest into the public by marching in the
streets of California cities and protesting domestic violence (cf. Hondagneu-Sotelo 2000).
Overall, a transnational approach does not presume prematurely a truly global
consciousness and a global circulation of resources. A useful heuristic concept is transnational
social spaces, which refer to cross-border social spaces with dense, continuous and sustained
transnational ties that concatenate into social structures. Transnational spaces refer to
relatively stable, lasting and dense sets of ties reaching beyond and across the borders of
sovereign states. They consist of combinations of ties and their contents, positions in
networks and organizations, and networks or organizations that cut across the borders of at
least two nation-states. Social and symbolic ties, the smallest elements in such spaces, refer
not only to one locale but to several. Thus transnational structures point to
connectivitybeyond national containers and to the simultaneity of sociality in various locales
(Faist 2000).
4. Social Protection and Social Inequalities
Having established the ‘‘new’’ discourse on the relative importance of the relevance of the
principles of state, market, civil society and family we now move to identify the social
mechanisms operative in this context. Returning to the two examples introduced before, care
work and pensions, we get a clearer sense of inequalities arising in transnational spaces. Of
particular relevance is the way in which we disaggregate monolithic conceptions of family or
households, distinguishing not only between migrant households and those who purchase
care work but also between migrant households in the emigration and immigration context.
To identify the (re)production of inequalities, the underlying proposition here is that it is
useful to look for the social mechanisms rather than simply the universal theories trying to
explain everything. A social mechanism aims toward causal reconstruction of processes
leading to defined outcomes. The term social mechanism refers to recurrent processes or
pathways, linking specified initial conditions and specific outcomes, the latter of which can be
effects produced or purposes achieved. Mechanism-based explanations seek to explain a
given social phenomenon –– an event, structure or development –– by identifying the processes
through which it is generated (McAdam et al. 2001: 24).
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
The (Re-)Production of Social Inequalities (1): Transnational Care
The first example, dealing with care work, illustrates the usefulness of a social mechanism
analysis in understanding the processes involving changing boundaries from a transnational
optic. The example outlines the process of emergent new boundaries by drawing on a detailed
study of East European women originating in Ukraine and Romania and working as domestic
and care workers in households in Italy (Piperno 2007). This is a case of transnational
personal care services chains linking social protection in regions of origin and destination,
Romania and Ukraine –– Italy.
To articulate a mechanism-based approach in transnational studies, one can distinguish
between types of social mechanisms and scales of sociality (Figure 1). The first dimension
refers to types of social mechanisms –– here: inclusion and exclusion; opportunity hoarding; and
exploitation. The second dimension concerns dimensions of mechanisms. Out of various
possibilities this short sketch distinguishes between relational and systemic mechanisms.
Relational mechanisms alter the ““connections among people, groups, and interpersonal
networks”” (McAdam et al. 2001: 26). They emphasize relations among and between individual
and collective agents, such as persons, small groups and associations. The systemic realm
concerns the impact of structures and their emergent properties for social protection.
In the relational realm, public and academic discussions of the effects of care chains have
emphasized the problems raised for those ‘‘left behind’’ in the regions of origin. Akin to global
commodity chains, i.e. successive links in the production of goods, ““care chains”” comprise
patterns of personal links to provide care across the globe (Hochschild 2000: 172). Mass
media have focused on the elderly and the children who are left to fend for themselves
following the migration of women to Western Europe. Some media have dramatized these
consequences as ““social orphans““, or in the case of Poland, ““Euro orphans””. Certainly, the
picture is much more complex than the one painted by mass media, namely abandonment of
the aged and the young who are left without care. Ethnographic evidence from different parts
of the world, such as Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, suggests that migrant
women often leave children in the care of substitute mothers, their fathers and the extended
family (Parreñas 2005). Nonetheless, we do not know how the inequality effects of care work
function in both emigration and immigration regions. It is useful therefore to move beyond
the issue of ““transnational motherhood”” and look in detail at the mechanisms underlying
displacement and substitution of care. On a systemic level, it is also necessary to understand
the reorganization of care in immigration regions (““care gap””) and the consequences for both
emigration regions (““care drain““) and immigration countries (cf. Lutz 2008).
Figure 1: Social Mechanisms Generating Inequalities –– The Example of Care
Social Formation/
General Social Mechanisms
Small Groups &Networks
- Relational -
Belonging (e.g. access to networks and jobs)
Networks of referral; remittances
Working conditions
(e.g. household work)
Societal institutions
- Systemic Immigration policies & citizenship (e.g.
irregular status; visa free circulation; family
Concentration in certain sectors
Adverse Redistribution: skills and care drain;
cf. brain drain / reverse remittances
In the broadest sense social closure as inclusion and exclusion speaks to the aspect of
belonging. In the relational realm this implies membership in groups and participation in
networks, which are important, for example, for entry to social collectives providing access to
jobs, housing and child care. Participation in networks, cliques and groups is crucial for
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women both to get access to jobs in Italy, often to irregular work, but also to find child care,
to engage in long-distance parenting, and, in cases where older relatives are left behind, to
care for the elderly in Ukraine or Romania. Institutionally, inclusion/exclusion is epitomized
in citizenship, of which the legal aspect of belonging to polities is decisive because it facilitates
opportunities for border-crossing travel. Romania has been a member state of the EU since
2002 when the visa requirement for short term stays was abolished, reducing travel costs and
other hurdles, while Ukraine is still a third country. Citizenship and thus freedom of travel
make a difference. For instance, Romanian minors visit their mothers in Italy more often than
do their Ukrainian counterparts –– probably with far reaching implications for child care and
parent-child trust and interactions. Moreover, the employment status of Romanian women
workers as EU citizens is more advantageous compared to Ukrainian women, and thus legal
security is greater.
In essence, social closure as opportunity hoarding refers to a particular group occupying
niches in, for example, the economic sector, such as an immigrant group in the local
restaurant business of a city (Tilly 2005: chapter 10), and drawing benefits from this niche
monopoly. In contrast to inclusion and exclusion, this mechanism does not necessarily entail
direct competition with other groups. Relationally, a group of nurses from Romania may
occupy a territorial and occupational niche such as care for the elderly in an Italian city or a
neighbourhood thereof. Through strong and weak ties, newly migrant women may get
recruited for other families or may take the place of those who move back to Eastern Europe
or onward. In this case, opportunity hoarding ensures that members of a group (e.g.
hometown) or a network (e.g. friendship) benefit from referrals. One may surmise that there
are reciprocal relationships. Institutionally, informal hiring in the Italian social security system
functions as a prerequisite enabling women from the two East European countries to engage
in opportunity hoarding. The Italian social security system does not, unlike the German one,
provide for formal pathways for care through instruments such as elder care insurance, and
thus necessitates or at least gives stronger incentives for informal care arrangements (Bettio et
al. 2006). It is in this way that we can observe the evolution of new assemblages of social
protection, which do not have the high level of formal differentiation characteristic of
national security systems.
Exploitation is the use of an economic resource, in this case labour power, for ethically
unacceptable purposes. It thus presupposes clear normative standards of what is acceptable
and fair in employer-employee relations (cf. ILO 2010). Relationally, informal work or
irregular work in households, sometimes even without a legal residence permit, entails
practically no legal recourse because the worker has to fear expulsion on the grounds of
irregularity –– even though courts may fine the employer. On an institutional level, exploitation
here refers to redistribution across regions, in two ways.
First, one can observe a ““care drain”” from Eastern Europe to Italy, that is, in Italy, some
of the domestic workers are skilled nurses trained in the countries of origin. As a
consequence, the investment in training is lost, and shortages of labour in the care sector of
the locales of origin may arise. It is certainly difficult to arrive at conclusive evidence
regarding the whole process –– one would need to factor in incentives for young persons who
may be enticed to train as nurses because of the role models provided by successful
professionals abroad (Stark 2004), and also the effects of return migration. Nonetheless, it
stands to reason that there may be losses for the sending regions involved, especially for those
that cannot replenish the workers or skilled personnel lost through their own training
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
institutions or from exporting labour from abroad (cf. the notion of ““brain cascades””, Faist
Second, though not necessarily offsetting the losses just mentioned, there are remittances
from destination to origin –– above all financial –– by women who work as domestic helpers or
care givers. While one may engage in endless calculations and debates over the amounts
transferred back and forth and even enrich the analysis by non-monetary transfers such as
““social remittances””, the implications for social inequality are probably significant. More
concretely, there is growing inequality on the household level in both sending and receiving
regions. In the regions of origin not all households participate in international migration ––
those participating are mostly the relatively privileged ones, and not all benefit equally from
remittances (Robles-Silva 2011). In Italy and other European countries in which care workers
from Eastern Europe are active, the employment of often irregular domestic workers adds
another layer of inequality into households and families.
This observation leads to another question, namely, the implications for social inequalities
on other scales, for example, regions of origin/return and destination. On a regional level,
there is the risk of adverse redistribution of resources from origin to immigration regions.
Not only is there a ““care drain””, but there are also reverse remittances. We know from studies
that migrants often need to invest considerable sums in order to establish themselves in the
destination regions, e.g. for obtaining papers to work legally (e.g. Berggren et al. 2007), and
they do not always recoup these investments through they wages they earn subsequently.
A transnational optic may also help to disaggregate monolithic terms, such as household,
and to thus arrive at a nuanced understanding of the generation and reproduction of social
inequalities. Households encompass three units of ““cooperative conflict”” (Sen 1987) involved
in care chains: the household of the employer, the migrant transnational household in the
immigration region, and the (relatively) immobile transnational household in the region of
origin. It stands to reason that the employer household obviously gains from the employment
of (illegal) care workers. The size of that gain depends on how (old age) care work is
organized in welfare states of immigration regions. Often, migrants can provide care at a
comparatively more affordable price.
The effects on the migrant household in the region of origin are ambiguous. On the one
hand, these households may gain from financial remittances to cover education and health
expenses. On the other hand, because of the temporary or long-term absence of the main
care giver, other household or kinship members have to take over this function –– usually
other female household members, less often fathers (cf. Dreby and Adkins 2010). As
numerous accounts indicate, the new care givers themselves may be overburdened (Pérez
Orozco 2009). The care situation of the migrant family in the immigration context is usually
the most precarious: while migrant women provide care for the employer household, often
working long hours, care of their own children is uncertain (Hochschild 2000).
The (Re-)Production of Social Inequalities (2): Transnational Pensions
A second exemplary case of transnational social protection and inequalities is pensions.
Already 10 percent of Swedish public old-age pensions, for example, are paid to recipients
who are living outside Sweden (cf. Gustafson 2008). These pensions are paid to Swedish
citizens migrating within the EU, for example, to Spain or Turkey, or former ““guestworkers””
moving between immigration countries and their countries of origin (King et al. 2000). In the
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relational dimension, in addition to the usual markers of class, gender and ethnicity, there is
also transnationality –– that is, leading a cross-border life –– which is a marker connected to the
production of inequality. The opportunities for leading a transnational life-style are not only
connected to financial means and social resources, such as networks of friends and kin, but
also to the macro-political regulation of mobility and settlement. In an institutional
dimension, it is the quasi-global commodification of care which is one of the driving forces of
transnational social protection (Figure 2). The two fields of care and pensions are thus
inextricably related.
Figure 2: Social Mechanisms Generating Inequalities –– The Example of Pensions
Social Formation/
General Social Mechanisms
Small Groups &
- Relational -
Societal institutions
- Systemic -
Inclusion / Exclusion
Belonging (e.g. class differentiated patterns)
Citizenship (e.g. EU citizens vs. former
labour migrants)
Opportunity hoarding
(e.g. opportunities for a cross-border
Transnational coupling(e.g. enjoying health
insurance; cp. East Asia)
Patterns of inclusion and exclusion with respect to class differentiation are strongly associated
with patterns of belonging, that is, exclusion from and inclusion in communities of cocitizens, co-ethnics or co-religionists abroad. EU citizens moving within the EU and countries
associated with the EU, for example, either congregate within enclaves that are fairly
homogeneous in terms of ethnicity and nationality in countries such as Spain or Turkey, or
they blend in on a more individual basis with the local resident population. The former
pattern can be discerned among middle- or working-class pensioners with little knowledge of
the language of the destination country; the latter among higher-class pensioners who
consciously choose to settle outside pensioners’’ enclave communities, having at their disposal
not only sufficient financial means but also linguistic and cultural skills, such as knowledge of
the language(s) in the country of settlement, for example. In a very crude way, many
pensioners’’ colonies in Spain and Turkey made up of British, Nordic or Dutch citizens
correspond to the former; individualistic pensioners in selected Greek islands to the latter
Again, as in the case of care workers, citizenship makes a notable difference. This is
obvious in the differences between intra-EU mobility of citizens of member states vs. those
from emigration countries, such as ““guestworkers””, who have not naturalized in immigration
countries and return to the countries of origin. For manypensioners of this latter category
who worked as labour migrants, it is important to be able to move back and forth because of
health services. Yet for former labour migrants from ““third countries”” this is not self-evident.
In order to be eligible for public health care schemes in The Netherlands or Germany, retired
Moroccan or Turkish migrants, for example, need to maintain permanent residence in the
immigration countries. If they fail to do so, they are often simply cut off from the health care
standards they are used to (Böcker 1993). In contrast, free mobility to partake in social
insurance schemes across borders of member states is usually not an insurmountable obstacle
for EU citizens moving inside the common European sphere.
A typical opportunity hoarding mechanism in cross-border movements is transnationality,
which connotes a cross-border life-style, either individually or more often in family contexts.
In both Europe and Asia, pensioners’’ migration was initially an option only for high-income
groups, yet this has changed over the past decades. Nowadays, middle-income pensioners can
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
also afford to relocate abroad. This means that a growing percentage of persons engage in a
transnational life-style, not only the so-called highly-skilled and professionals, merchants and
businesspeople, but also groups not active in (transnational) labour markets but living off
transfer income. Transnationality is thus partly enabled by national welfare state policies. For
example, pensioners can afford to hoard opportunities by selecting appropriate climate zones
throughout the year and choosing the services most important to them, such as health and
care, appropriate to life-course-specific needs. As evidenced by the varying legal status and
socio-economic conditions of pensioners, the exact means of opportunity hoarding is highly
context-specific. It is important to note that opportunity hoarding –– in this case choosing
particular locales or services –– does not necessarily result in denying them to others (cf. Tilly
Transnational coupling as a social mechanism refers to formal linkages between
organizations in different national social security systems. In this regard it is instructive to
compare the movement of pensioners within the EU to movements in East Asia along the
lines of demographic resemblances and legal differences. As in Europe, in Japan the
population aged 65 and older is projected to rise from 19 percent in 2005 to 30 percent in
2025 (Toyota et al. 2006).In addition, East Asian populations have undergone significant lifestyle changes: pensioners today have fewer children, and fewer daughters-in-law see it as an
obligation to look after the elderly. As well, state pension schemes make it possible for the
elderly to live independently. Often, differences in income levels and purchasing power
between their own and other regions function as an incentive to move. All these factors have
created more potentially mobile pensioners. While these factors are fairly standard in the
OECD world, the legal conditions under which movement occurs are different. In the EU
increasingly unified laws have facilitated mobility, and while pensioners can move freely
between member states, considerable legal and policy gaps still remain. In an ongoing process,
demands are being made for further changes in regulations. In East and Southeast Asia, by
comparison, national borders are much less permeable, even though both emigration and
immigration countries have been active in promoting the movement of pensioners. For
example, Japan has advocated ““long-stay”” tourism abroad, modelled on the ““Malaysia My
Second Home”” program. In this particular case, the program was driven largely by the overcapacity of private hospitals following the Asian financial crisis. This comparison
demonstrates that the movement of pensioners does not occur in isolation. It is embedded in
and complemented by the activities of transnational organizations, such as health service
providers who engage in the delivery of services across borders. In this case it is organizations
in the tourism industry and health services, for example, which couple across borders.
5. Nullius in Verba: The Transnational Social Question and Social
A transnational analysis that goes beyond national protection systems is able to capture the
complex processes of inequalities unfolding in social spaces across borders. Three
observations can be made about how the analytical viewpoint foregrounds the perception of
First, a transnational optic does not look at resource flows as one-way streets. It takes into account
the two-way flows of resources, and does not stop at a consideration of financial remittances
flowing from destination to origin, and skill or care or brain drain from origin to destination
IMDS Working Paper Series
regions. It allows for a more fine-grained analysis. Take the example of financial remittances.
The claim that financial remittances have increased dramatically over the past decade should
be viewed with caution. Abundant research has established that migrants often need to invest
considerable sums in order to get a foothold in the destination country, encompassing
expenses for travel and securing legal status, a trend which is growing. As migration policies
become ever more selective and restrictive, irregular migrants have to invest ever more
resources to legalize their status. The figures presented by international organizations usually
reflect only one-way streets and officially transferred money flows. One would need to take a
comprehensive look at the two-way flows of investment in migrants and remittances in order
to gauge the economic potential of migrant transfers (Khadria 2009).
Second, scale matters, that is, it matters significantly whether we employ a relational or a systemic
dimension of social protection and inequalities across the borders of national states. Cross-border migration
may involve processes of declassing (e.g. skills not transferable officially) or engendering (e.g.
women slotted into irregular domestic and care work and men into agricultural work). Yet
this is only one side of the coin. Ethnicity is one of the markers which are often used to slot
migrants into certain occupational niches, thus (re)producing a structure of labour market
inequality. At the same time, and this constitutes the other side of the coin, ethnicity can
function as a basis of self-ethnicization by migrants who identify hemselves as belonging to
group X or Y as the case may be in order to gain access to positions they desire, or to make
successful referrals for friends, relatives and acquaintances. For example, some migrant men
from East European countries refer to their ethnicity to gain access to agricultural jobs in
Germany, while migrant women from similar regions do the same to find work in the
domestic service sector (Amelina 2009). While from a systemic or institutional perspective
ethnicization serves to uphold and create structures of occupational inequality through
exclusion, from a relational perspective –– in this case from the view of migrants themselves ––
it serves as a mechanism of opportunity hoarding.
Third, social inequalities have more than one dimension. This analytical sketch has dealt with
inequalities between migrants and non-migrants, and migrants and their relatively immobile
significant others. The underlying question is: inequality between whom? In households, for
example, inequality increases because migrant domestic labour is injected. It stands to reason
that the employment of migrant labour may yield different effects for households and labour
markets. Through the employment of migrants, gender inequalities in households may not
decrease because the division of labour between men and women remains unchanged due to
the presence of exploited labour. Yet domestic labour may enable middle-class women
employers to pursue careers more rigorously than before and thus change gendered patterns
of participation in formal labour markets. Needless to say, the effects also depend on welfare
state arrangements –– and these are in need of further research. In welfare regimes with a high
degree of de-commodification of care, we would expect families to be somewhat less likely to
rely on migrants to care for children or elders.
In sum, this analysis has suggested that an approach to the transnational social question,
as seen through the ways in which social protection is organized across borders among
migrants and relatively immobile persons, has to start by acknowledging the connectivities of
persons, collectives and institutions between different locations and states. Migration is
indeed a suitable research site because it shows the ties across largely disparate worlds of
institutional social protection which range from highly advanced welfare states, through newly
The Transnational Social Question: Cross-Border Social Protection and Social Inequalities
industrializing countries in Asia, the transition countries of Eastern Europe, developing
countries, and to the economically least developed world.
A close analysis of social protection in transnational social spaces reveals that the efforts
of migrants and their significant others quite often reinforce old inequalities and produce new
inequalities. While transnational social protection strategies may indeed affect livelihoods and
improve them significantly (e.g. via remittances used for education, health care or
consumption), the basic inequalities between regions of origin and destination are more or
less reinforced. Institutional forms of social protection in both types of regions do not change
as a result of migration but are often –– as in some emigration countries –– put under additional
strain, for example, by the care drain. The hopes invested in migrants as development actors
and social protection providers are therefore usually overblown, even though there seems to
be some evidence for poverty-alleviating effects of remittances on the family level for some
world regions (Adams and Page 2005). Instead, new inequalities arise in the course of
migration, such as differences between households with or without remittances, and the
gendered division of labour in the productive and reproductive spheres. The consequences
for protection and inequalities may be different for transnational households in the region of
origin and destination, and between these and the households in countries of destinations.
The most distinctive feature of the transnational optic is the move away from an
externalist perspective. Most globalization approaches suggest that it is mainly globalization
itself which produces inequalities. Yet the problem is not only one in which external forces
(e.g. flows of capital and resulting migration flows or failing states and refugee migration) may
result in migration and new inequalities. Rather, it is inequalities between world regions, and
within and across them, in terms of categories such as class, ethnicity, religion and gender,
which are constitutive of the schemas and resources involved in transnational livelihoods and
the implications for inequalities. And it is precisely these inequalities which are also driving
processes of transnationalization on various scales.
On a systemic level, the disparities between countries of origin and immigration provide a
context in which cross-border chains develop, which may result in brain drain and care drain.
The position of countries and regions within an economic hierarchy matters. On a relational
level, this patterned context of inequalities provides room for migrants to manoeuvre in
transnational spaces. The position in social –– e.g. occupational –– hierarchies gives strong clues
as to whether and how persons, groups and organizations are able to partake of transnational
opportunities. For example, the professionally educated may be better able to transfer
occupational skills than so-called semi-skilled or unskilled labour. And even within
professional categories differences abound. While some may be able to transfer their degrees
and skills without much devaluation and declassing, like the many scientists working in
research institutions, others may have to retrain or work in low-skilled service positions (Betts
2011: 60-77).
This leaves us with the issue of legitimating social inequalities. Obviously, social
inequalities in transnational social spaces cannot be dealt with solely in a national frame. On
the national level, as T.H. Marshall pointed out long ago, social rights and, above all, social
citizenship are important for legitimating social inequalities arising out of capitalist markets.
For transnational social spaces there is no similar normative reference frame. Thus, it does
not make sense to speak of ““transnational (social) citizenship””–– except in the sense of
overlapping national citizenships, namely dual citizenship. Nor is it meaningful to speak of
IMDS Working Paper Series
““global”” or ““world”” citizenship in an institutional sense. World citizenship is simply nonexistent de facto or de jure because, apart from exceptions such as claims to compensation
for land loss in the case of development projects like dam building, there is only soft law or
social rights in international conventions which cannot be claimed successfully by individuals.
Also, it is still an open question to what degree national citizenship has been changed by
incorporating global standards such as human rights and has thus evolved toward ““postnational membership”” (Soysal 1994). Transnational social protection and concomitant social
inequalities are dealt with on various levels, with national states as well as international
organizations or local municipalities playing a role –– in addition to the other dimensions of
social organization, namely market, community and family/household. Global criteria and
norms such as international conventions, and a global horizon of thinking as a cognitive
schema, serve as reference points for agents who strive for political change in this area.
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think about instruments for global social policy (e.g. Alam et al. 2011, Cabrera 2011, Mahon
and Robinson 2011). Yet the loci of struggles remain very local and national, albeit
intertwined across borders and within an emerging global horizon of what are appropriate
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Working Paper No. 56
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of
Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees
in Auckland, New Zealand1
Paul Spoonley, 2Joanna Lewin, 3Carina Meares, 4Trudie Cain and 5Robin Peace
Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand
Ministry of Social Development, New Zealand
Research, Investigations and Monitoring Unit, Auckland Council, New Zealand
Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
There has been a significant increase in recent decades in the arrival of Indian migrants in New Zealand,
and especially the major destination city, Auckland. This article explores the experiences of these
immigrants, both as employers and as employees, as they settle in Auckland. It is based on a much larger
empirical study that has collected survey and other information since 2007. The material presented here
reveals diverse and sometimes contradictory experiences, as these Indian immigrants seek to improve their
children’’s educational opportunities and to live in a safe, clean environment. In terms of pre and postmigration experiences, there are a number of difficulties encountered and there is a strong gendered
character to settlement outcomes.
Keywords:Indian immigrants, employment, business establishment, Auckland, New Zealand
1. Introduction
The latest period of diverse migration flows to New Zealand (post 1986/87) has seen a
significant increase in the number of Indian migrants arriving from a range of origins but
more recently (post 2000), especially from India. This article is based on empirical work
carried out on the migration motivations, experiences and outcomes of Indian employers and
employees who had typically been in New Zealand for 6-9 years and are part of a series of
studies on major immigrant groups arriving in New Zealand (see Meares, et al 2010). Migrants
from India now constitute one of the largest inflows of any migrant group to a country where
a quarter of all residents are migrants while in Auckland, 40 percent of the city’’s residents
have been born in another country. Indeed, India has recently overtaken the United Kingdom
to become the largest source country of skilled migrants to New Zealand (Ministry of
Business, Innovation and Employment, 2013). The settlement experiences of such an
important group are critical to positive economic and social outcomes for both immigrant
and host communities.
This paper is based on an earlier report, Namaste New Zealand: Indian Employers and Employees in Auckland, J. Lewin, C. Meares, T. Cain, P.
Spoonley, R. Peace and E. Ho, Research Report No5/2011, Integration of Immigrants Programme, Massey University/University of
Waikato, 2011. This research is part of the Integration of Immigrants Programme (see which
researches the settlement outcomes of five major immigrant groups to New Zealand: migrants from India, China, South Korea, South Africa
and Britain.
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Historical records show that Indians have been living in New Zealand since the mid1800s, albeit in very small numbers. The 1881 census recorded six Indian men living across
the country and, by 1886, this number had reached 46. However, it was not until the turn of
the twentieth century that larger groups of Indians began arriving on New Zealand shores.
Most of these early immigrants came from the western Indian states of Gujarat and the
Punjab, forced out by increasing rural poverty, under-employment and land shortages. Many
came via other British colonies, such as Australia, Fiji and South Africa, having heard tales of
economic opportunities and New Zealand’’s relatively relaxed immigration laws (Leckie,
2007). By 1920, the Indian population in New Zealand had reached 671, mostly men who
found employment as hawkers, rural labourers and domestic workers (O’’Connor, 1990;
Leckie, 2007). While the 1920 Immigration Restriction Amendment Act stemmed the
migration flow between India and New Zealand, those who stayed in New Zealand began to
put down more permanent roots (Bernau, 2005). Families became established and, by 1956,
the Indian population had reached 4,500 (Statistics New Zealand, 2011). Employment
diversified, with many Gujaratis engaged in market gardening and shop keeping while
Punjabis found work as dairy farmers or as labourers in agricultural areas (Roy, 1978).
Despite these early arrivals, the numbers of Indian immigrants remained relatively low
until the mid-1980s. The removal of the traditional source-country preference from
immigration policy in 1986 enabled immigrants to be selected on their own merit, rather than
by country of origin. The policy changes placed emphasis on immigrants’’ education, and
professional, business and entrepreneurial skills. As a result, non-European immigrants began
to flow into New Zealand and, in the five years between 1986 and 1991, the ethnic Indian
population doubled in size. Since then, the population has continued to expand. By 2006,
there were 104,600 people who identified as Indian living in New Zealand, making it the
second largest Asian ethnicity behind Chinese (147,600) (Statistics New Zealand, 2011).
Post-2006, Indian immigrants arrived in New Zealand from various countries, including
the United Kingdom, South Africa and Malaysia. The main immigration streams, however,
continue to be from the Indian subcontinent and the island nation of Fiji. The Fijian Indian
population has a long history in Fiji, arriving in the late nineteenth century to work on sugar
cane plantations of the then British colony (Friesen, Murphy & Kearns, 2005). Much of the
Fijian migration to New Zealand took place after the 1987 military coup in Fiji and, until the
late 1990s, Indian immigrants of Fijian origin outnumbered those from India (Johnston,
Poulsen & Forrest, 2008). However, since then, immigrants from India have increased in
number, more than doubling in size in the five years between 2001 and 2006 (see Table 1).
Just over half of the India-born population had arrived in New Zealand between 2001 and
Table 1: India-born Population in New Zealand, 1986-2006
Source:New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006
It is these recent India-born immigrants who are the subject of this research. Our report
concentrates on the experiences of immigrants who were born in India and arrived in New
Zealand after 2000.
In Auckland, the Indian community is now a sizable one, meaning that the impacts of
New Zealand’’s immigration and settlement policies on this community can begin to be
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
researched in more systematic ways. This report highlights both the positive and negative
aspects of the migration process for India-born migrants and what can be learnt from their
experiences. Despite the fact that most Indian immigrants speak fluent English, they face
significant settlement challenges, such as finding employment, adjusting to different work and
home environments, and learning the intricacies of New Zealand’’s socio-cultural norms.
i. Indians in Auckland
Indians have been living in Auckland for over 150 years and New Zealand’’s first notable
Indian association was founded in Auckland in 1938. By this time, many Indians had found
work as self-employed greengrocers and began opening businesses in and around the central
city (Leckie, 2007). In the 1940s and 1950s, shops also began to appear on particular roads,
notably Great North, New North, Sandringham, Dominion, Manukau and Mt Eden roads.
Fifty years on, these dairies (a local corner store) and fruit shops now sit alongside spice
shops, Bollywood video stores and cinemas, and other specialist Indian merchandisers.
Temples, such as the large mandirs in Balmoral and Eden Terrace and the three Sikh
gurdwaras in South Auckland, punctuate Auckland’’s skyline. In 1993, the ornate Mahatma
Gandhi Centre opened its doors for the first time, providing a centre point for the Auckland
Indian community and a venue for its most important social, cultural and religious events.
Indian newcomers continue to settle in Auckland. At the time of the 2006 census, 71
percent of people of Indian ethnicity in New Zealand were residing in Auckland, a total of
74,442 people. It is important to note that the Indian population in Auckland is diverse, in
terms of ethnicity, birthplace,2 religion and language, as well as employment. While many are
still engaged in occupations made so familiar by their predecessors, Indians are also now
employed across a wide range of industries, from manufacturing and information technology,
to engineering and medicine. The wave of migration after the 1980s has also seen arrivals
from all over India, not just the western states. Recent arrivals are well-educated and
urbanised, arriving primarily from metropolitan locales such as Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai
(Pio, 2005b).
Indians now form a distinctive part of Auckland’’s cultural, economic, ethnic and
residential make-up. The following maps illustrate the distribution of India-born migrants
across the Auckland3 area based on 2006 census data. Figure 1 shows the percentage of a
particular Census Area Unit (CAU)4 born in India while Figure 2 indicates the actual
headcount. It is important to note that the flows illustrated here encompass both temporary
residents, such as those on student visas, as well as permanent residents. The most significant
populations are found in the Avondale/Roskill Ward and the Eden/Albert Ward (Nayar,
2005). Sandringham and the adjacent suburbs of Mount Albert and Mount Roskill have the
highest concentration of Hindu and Gujarati speakers in the whole of New Zealand (Holt,
1999). Indians make up 17.62 percent of residents in Hillsborough West, 13.4 percent of
Lynfield North, 12.9 percent of Akarana, 11.84 percent of Onehunga North West and 11.51
percent of Sandringham East. In addition, there are also residential concentrations of Indians
in Papatoetoe and Manurewa.
Census data often fails to reflect this diversity and, consequently, all census data cited in this report reflects those of Indian ethnicity in its
broadest sense.
3 Auckland includes the four previous Local Territorial Authorities: North Shore City, Auckland City, Manukau City and Waitakere City.
4 Census Area Units are small geographical areas which together make up territorial authorities. They usually contain 3,000-5,000 people.
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Figure1: Distribution of the India-born in Auckland as a Percentage of the Total Population
Figure 2: Distribution of the India-born Population in Auckland by Number
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
ii. Methodology
The broad aim of the Integration of Immigrants Programme (IIP) research is to better
understand the experiences of immigrants, both employers and employees, as they settle in
Auckland, New Zealand.5 The IIP focuses on five immigrant groups, namely those migrants
born in China, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Korea and India. The latter is the focus of
this report. In order to achieve this objective, employer and employee-specific surveys were
developed. These sought information about the nature of immigrants’’ transitions into new
lives in New Zealand. This information was gathered through in-depth, face-to-face
interviews with participants that lasted between 60 and 90 minutes. The interview schedule
included a range of closed questions such as age, marital status, previous education and
employment as well as a number of more open questions where the participants were
encouraged to respond in greater detail. Although the key focus was the economic integration
of participants, we were also interested in a number of inter-related issues around social
The interviews with India-born participants were undertaken in 2009 and early 2010 with
seven employers and 20 employees from India. Participants were selected using the following
criteria: currently resident in any one of Auckland’’s then four main cities, Manukau, North
Shore, Auckland or Waitakere; born in India; and granted permanent residence in New
Zealand in 2000 or later. Further criteria for employers were that they were Goods and
Services Tax registered and had at least one employee (paid or unpaid). Employees could be
employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis.
Participants were recruited using the snowball technique. The interviewer relied on her
personal networks of friends and contacts within the Indian community in order to find
suitable interviewees for the study. This proved to be a key factor in the recruitment of
participants: the interviewer noted that new immigrants were more willing to take part once
they knew the interviews were being conducted by a friend, or a friend of a friend. The
interviewer’’s facility with both English and Hindi was crucial in recruiting participants and
many chose to be interviewed in both languages.
Recruiting 20 suitable Indian employers for this study proved challenging. After extensive
searching, only seven were willing to be involved. The interviewer cited several reasons for
this response. Firstly, many employers had immigrated to New Zealand some time ago,
making them ineligible for the study. Secondly, Indians do not usually start a business
immediately after emigrating –– they often work as employees for a number of years before
deciding to start up their own business. Thirdly, many employers were reluctant to be
interviewed due to the concern that personal and business information might be misused.
And lastly, it proved challenging for the interviewer to convince business owners to take part
in a one hour interview given pressures on their time. Given that only seven employers agreed
to take part in the study, it is more difficult to compare the results produced from these
interviews with the results from the 20 employee interviews.
Despite these concerns, however, the predominantly qualitative nature of the study did
not depend on having a representative sample as the aim was to highlight some descriptive
elements of the integration experience of recent India-born immigrants. In the report, we
further contextualise our interview data by referring, where appropriate, to results for those of
And Hamilton in the case of the United Kingdom and South Africa.
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Indian nationality from Waves One, Two and Three of the Longitudinal Immigration Survey:
New Zealand (hereafter LisNZ).6 This comprehensive survey tracks 7,000 permanent
residents for the first three years of their settlement in New Zealand (for more information
on this survey, see Department of Labour, 2009b). Interview notes and transcripts were
translated, where necessary, into English for analysis, which was undertaken using SPSS and
Key Characteristics
The employer and employee groups are similar with respect to age. Employees range from 24
to 51 years old and have an average age of 38, while employers range from 29 to 46 and have
a mean age of 39.7Looking at the length of time participants had been in New Zealand since
obtaining permanent residence, employees have a mean of 6.8 years while employers have a
longer average residence at 9.5 years. However, participants may have been in New Zealand
for considerably longer than this. As discussed later in this section, interviewees may have
studied or worked in the country temporarily before applying for permanent residence. In
terms of gender,71 percent of employers are male and 29 percent female; for the employee
group, the proportions are reversed with 25 percent male and 75 percent female.
With respect to industry, the majority of employers are found in two groups –– retail trade,
and accommodation and food. Retail is also the most common industry for employees, with
nearly half engaged in this sector. The remainder of employees are spread across a range of
industries including: manufacturing; accommodation and food; health care and social
assistance; construction; education; agriculture, forestry and fishing; and financial services.
According to the 2006 census, the industry sectors in which most recent Indian immigrants in
Auckland are employed are retail trade and manufacturing, followed closely by
accommodation and food.
The most common category in which employers (57.1%) and employees (40.0%) were
granted permanent residence was the skilled principal migrant category. This was followed
closely by the skilled secondary category (42.9%). A small percentage of employees (15.0%)
also entered through family sponsorship and five percent through other categories.
Table 2: Category of Permanent Residence
Skilled Principal
Skilled Secondary
Family Sponsored
Interestingly, none of the participant employers entered New Zealand through the
business category. This is also the case for participants of Indian nationality in Wave One of
the LisNZ. Unlike participants from Korea and, to a lesser degree China, very few Indian
participants in the survey entered New Zealand using investor, entrepreneur and long-term
business visas. This may reflect the fact that Indian immigrants are able to capitalise on their
English language skills, employment and educational credentials to earn the required points to
enter New Zealand as a skilled immigrant. By contrast, immigrants entering under the
In the Longitudinal Immigration Survey, New Zealand migrants were interviewed at 6 months (Wave One), 18 months (Wave Two) and 36
months (Wave Three) after they had taken up permanent residence in New Zealand.
7 Three employees and one employer did not wish to disclose their birth date.
8 Total does not add up to 100 percent because of missing responses to this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
business category were able to invest their capital in a business and operate it for two years
without having to sit the English language test.
Table 3: Category of Permanent Residence for Participants of Indian Nationality in the LisNZ
Skilled Principal
Skilled Secondary
Family Sponsored
*Suppressed for reasons of confidentiality
Around a third of employers (28.6%) and employees (35%) had entered New Zealand
prior to obtaining permanent residence. Some came as tourists (one employer and one
employee) while others came on a temporary work visa (one employer and three employees)
or as students (two employees). When the employees in our study were asked how long they
had spent working in New Zealand prior to obtaining their permanent residence, the average
response was just over 12 months.
Table 4: Temporary Visas to New Zealand
Entered New Zealand on temporary visa:
Turning now to education levels, just over 60 per cent of all the participants in the study
had Bachelor’’s degrees or higher qualifications, significantly greater than the 16 percent of
Auckland’’s New Zealand-born population. According to the 2006 census, recent Indian
immigrants are the most highly qualified of the five main immigrant groups in New Zealand;
nearly half had a Bachelor’’s degree or higher qualification. This is compared to 34 percent of
recent British immigrants and 22 percent of recent Korean immigrants.
The majority of participants were married. In terms of religion, most participants were
Parsee or Hindu. Ten percent of employees were Muslim and 15 percent said they held other
religious beliefs. With respect to ethnicity, many participants described themselves as Indian,
although a significant number identified themselves by their religious faith or by their specific
Indian ethnicities such as Parsee, Zoroastrian, Maharashtrian, Punjabi and Gujarati.
Table 5: Religious Affiliation
There is a minimum standard of English required for most immigrants entering New Zealand
through the skilled or business visa categories (Department of Labour, 2009b), reflecting the
general consensus in the literature that English language proficiency is an important predictor
of employment post-migration (Chiswick, Lee, & Miller, 2006; Foroutan, 2008; Winkelmann,
IMDS Working Paper Series
Overall, Indian immigrants are competent English language communicators. All of the
participants who answered the question on language said they could read a newspaper, write a
letter and hold an everyday conversation in English. In contrast to other Asian immigrants
such as those from China and Korea, many also said that English was one of the languages
they spoke best and that it was often spoken at home. When asked to rate their English
language proficiency, over half of all participants said that they spoke, read and understood
English ‘‘very well’’.9 Nearly 60 percent of employers and 55 percent of employees reported
that they could speak English very well while the remainder said they could speak it well or
quite well. None of the participants said that they were poor or very poor communicators in
the English language.
2. Home Country Employment
Participants were asked about the last job they had before they migrated to New Zealand.
From the information supplied, it appears that only two of the employers owned their own
businesses in India before migrating to New Zealand while others were executives, managers,
housewives and students. Male employees were scientists, accountants, engineers and
managers while female employees were lecturers, administrators and secretaries, web
programmers, students and housewives.
Only five percent of employees were managers prior to migration, while a significant
proportion were professionals (25%) and clerical or administration workers (30%). Nearly 30
percent of employees who were in paid employment prior to arrival in New Zealand were
managing other workers as part of their job. Another 28.6 percent of employers and 25
percent of employees were not involved in paid work in India –– they were either students or
housewives. All of these participants were women. Employers worked longer hours in their
pre-migration job compared to employees: employers worked an average of 56.7 hours while
employees worked an average of 40.4 hours.
3. Assets and Income
Overall, the results from the ‘‘Assets and Income’’ section of the survey paint a picture of
relatively low to middle incomes and varying degrees of financial hardship after the
participants’’ arrival in New Zealand. Employers had higher rates of home ownership than
employees –– 71.4 percent compared to 55 percent. All of the employers who owned their
own home had mortgages while, for employees, this figure sat at 91.7 percent. Only 28.6
percent of employers and 35 percent of employees contributed to a superannuation scheme.
While only 14.3 percent of employers owned assets (other than their own home) in New
Zealand and overseas, the figure for employees was considerably higher. Some 50 percent of
employees owned other assets in New Zealand and 35 percent owned assets overseas.10
We also asked participants how well their total income met their everyday needs and
found that there were significant differences between the groups. While 71.4 percent of
employers said their income met their needs ‘‘very well’’ or ‘‘quite well’’, only 30 percent of
employees replied in the same way. Employees were more likely to say that their income
adequately met their everyday needs (65%). Encouragingly, only 3.7 percent of all participants
Participants were asked to assess their level of spoken English on a scale of one to five, where one is ‘‘I speak English very well’’ and five is
‘‘I speak English very poorly’’.
10 One participant did not answer this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
said their income ‘‘quite poorly’’ met their needs, while no one stated that the lowest scale of
‘‘very poorly’’ applied.
When asked whether they were financially better or worse off in New Zealand than
immediately prior to their migration, however, more employees (70%) than employers
(42.9%) responded ‘‘much better off’’ or ‘‘a little better off’’’’. This indicates that although
employers felt that their income better met their everyday needs than it did for employees,
employees felt better off in New Zealand than in India. Only five percent of employees stated
that they were ‘‘a little worse off’’ and 14.3 percent of employers felt ‘‘much worse off’’. Nearly
a third of employers and 20 percent of employees said that they regularly used their savings,
or interest from savings, to meet their everyday needs for things like housing, food, clothing
and other necessities.
The information presented so far in the report has been drawn from the closed questions
in the interview schedule. Overall, our data shows that participants are predominantly
married, well-educated and skilled immigrants who are employed across a range of
occupational groups but concentrated mostly in retail. The research also points to the
residential clustering of the Indian community and the survey findings highlight good fluency
in English, relatively low to middle levels of income, and evidence of downward shifts in
occupational status since arrival in New Zealand. The following sections discuss the findings
from the more detailed open-ended questions where participants were encouraged to talk
more freely with the interviewer. Three broad areas are covered under these findings: hopes
and dreams; experiences of discrimination; and relationships, home life and leisure.
4. Hopes and Dreams
Participants were asked about the hopes and dreams they had for their migration to New
Zealand. Our interviewees’’ most common responses were lifestyle,11 wanting a better future
for their children, and to live in a clean, pollution-free environment. These migration motives
also appear on the list of the most common reasons given by participants in the LisNZ
(Department of Labour, 2009b). Participants also talked about wanting to live in a safe
country that was free from corruption while others thought New Zealand would provide
employment and educational opportunities.
References to lifestyle were primarily focused on having a better quality of life, with more
access to amenities and facilities, less stress and being able to spend time with their families.
Participant responses included statements such as:
A much better standard of life –– [New Zealand has] got a lot of facilities such as public swimming pools,
tennis courts.
Better lifestyle –– we wanted to live in a developed country. For example, water is available here 24 hours;
it’’s a luxury in India. It’’s hassle-free in New Zealand. (Employee, female)
11 Migrants who move for lifestyle reasons are being increasingly defined in the academic literature as ‘‘lifestyle migrants’’ (see, for example,
Benson & O'Reilly, 2009). The phrase has been used to describe retirement migration (to warmer, sunnier destinations) and urban to rural
migration. However, more recently the definition is being enlarged to include those who seek better opportunities for themselves and their
children in terms of escape from heavily industrialised or urbanised cityscapes or a search for residential, educational or recreational
opportunities that may not be available in the source country.
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Away from the rat race, Indians are very competitive. Because of the over-population you have to fight to
get good jobs.
Better living standards. Back home we did not have a house, we lived in a sanatorium. Since me and my
husband were working, my husband worked in Bombay at [a hotel] whereas I had to live with my in-laws in
Ahmedabad. I worked there and my son was looked after by my in-laws. My husband would come and visit
once a month.
Children’s Education
Many participants said that improving their children’’s educational opportunities was a key
motivation in their decision to migrate to New Zealand. Some commented that the
educational opportunities were better in New Zealand, especially when compared to the
‘‘quota’’ system in India. The quotes below illustrate these sentiments.
Good education for my daughter. I don’’t have to pay a hefty sum in donations. She will get world class
education. Auckland University is very famous; she can then explore the world. My son would have a wider
choice of fields he can specialise in.
I came for the better life and future prospects of my children. In India, there are quotas for the scheduled
caste and tribes - thus even if a person has got 50 percent he will get admission into engineering because he is a
scheduled caste and the boy who has scored 90 percent won’’t get admission …… so admission is not on merit
which is very frustrating for parents.
A Clean Environment
Part of wanting a better quality of life also included a desire to live in a clean and pollutionfree environment. Many participants felt that New Zealand offered this lifestyle.
New Zealand is clean, pollution-free country.
New Zealand has no pollution and is a safer environment than India, no corruption, riots, no water
shortage in New Zealand.
A Safer Environment
Participants also spoke of wanting to live in a safe place, free not only from crime but also
from corruption. In this sense, safety also extended to wanting to live in a democratic country
where the government looks after people and where there is less greed and bureaucracy.
Corruption is very high in India.
Crime-free society.
Educational and Employment Opportunities
In addition to hopes for improving their children’’s education and employment prospects,
participants also wanted to improve their own levels of education and work through their
migration to New Zealand. Not surprisingly, these comments were more marked for younger
migrants or for those who were students in India.
Better opportunity for higher studies.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
I would have the opportunity to do further studies in my field as there is no reservation of seats system in
New Zealand. In India, there is a system of certain quota of reserved seats for the scheduled caste thus we
common people have to get very high marks to get admission to college.
5. Discrimination
We asked the participants about their perceptions and experiences of discrimination since
arriving in New Zealand. The overall results suggest that the majority of our participants have
experienced some form of discrimination since they arrived in New Zealand. For our
respondents, most of these experiences happened in the workplace. Some interviewees felt
that despite their qualifications and experience, they were overlooked for positions and
treated unfairly by managers and staff at their workplace. The quotes below illustrate these
I know I have a very high education and degrees but I still have to prove myself because I come from a
developing country. They don’’t think I will fit into the office environment. Sometimes they have never had
Indian clients. Their clients may want a fair skinned person.
At work, my colleague who is British, gets paid much more than me even though I am performing much
higher than him.
These perceptions and experiences of discrimination extended beyond staff and work
colleagues. Some participants felt that clients would not give them business due to their
immigrant status, while others experienced verbal abuse or felt ignored by customers.
I feel at work some clients don’’t give me a lot of business because I am an Indian and I am an immigrant.
They don’’t trust I can deliver the goods.
When I started in the real estate business, [someone] who I knew wanted to sell a house. The Kiwi
woman wrinkled her nose at me and said, ““I wouldn’’t list it with you””. This was very insulting to me.
Many participants also expressed their frustration with trying to find employment and felt
that they were discriminated against because they were Indian.
When the resumé says I am from India, I won’’t get a job. I see the same ads coming up after a few days
even though I have the qualifications and I was rejected.
Given the nature of these comments, it is not surprising to learn that when participants
were asked about their perception of the level of discrimination in a range of different
circumstances, the workplace topped the list. Sixty percent of employees believed that
immigrants faced some discrimination at work, while the rate for employers was similar at
57.1 percent.12 However, a further 15 percent of employees felt there was ‘‘a lot’’ of
discrimination at work, bringing the total percentage of employees who thought that
immigrants face some or a lot of discrimination at work to 75 percent. These results, coupled
with the experiences expressed in the quotes above, warrant concern and are supported by
research conducted by TheGlobal Indian, a leading Indian magazine in New Zealand. Their
survey found that almost two in three Indians felt they had been discriminated against during
the recruitment process or at work (The Global Indian, 2006).
Results differed, however, with regard to participants’’ beliefs about the discrimination
immigrants experience on the street. Only 14.3 percent of employers believed that immigrants
One employer did not answer any of the questions regarding discrimination.
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experienced some discrimination on the street while 40 percent of employees13 felt that
immigrants experienced some or a lot of discrimination in this area. While this result is much
lower than for the Korean immigrants in our previous study, it is still concerning.
Furthermore, 42.9 percent of employers and 40 percent of employees14 felt they had
experienced some form of discrimination because of their immigrant status.
6. Relationships and Home Life
Although the Integration of Immigrants Programme focused largely on the labour market
experiences of immigrant employers and employees, we were also very interested in other
aspects of our respondents’’ lives. For example, we asked several questions about participants’’
home lives and the way they spend their leisure time and, in this section, we discuss a number
of common themes that emerged from interviewees’’ responses to these questions.
a) Relationships
While two-thirds of all of the participants migrated with family members, the survey results
suggest that it was not unusual for the husband to arrive first, get a job, and be followed at a
later date by his wife and children. This happened in nearly 30 percent of cases in this study.
In the years following migration, 42.9 percent of employers and 60 percent of employees
had other family members migrate and join them in New Zealand. As discussed above, many
of these newcomers were participants’’ wives and children, while others were siblings, in-laws,
uncles, aunties and cousins. Only 10 percent of participants assisted people outside the family
to migrate, including family friends and very distant relatives.
Interviewees were asked what friendships and relationships were important to them in
New Zealand. The majority spoke about the significance of friends and family although a few
said that they had few relatives or friends in New Zealand.
Friends are very important and they are now family. We help each other out in difficult situations.
Friends circle –– they are helpful. Social get-togethers are very important.
When asked what friendships and relationships were important to them overseas, most
interviewees talked about their family members and friends who were still living in India.
Later in the interviews, many commented that they missed these family and friends.
I miss meeting up with my family and friends.
No emotional support and guidance from elderly family members.
We were also interested in the ways in which interviewees kept in touch with friends and
family, both in New Zealand and overseas. The majority of participants said that they
maintained their New Zealand relationships face-to-face or on the telephone. Only a small
percentage of participants (7.4%) used email to maintain their New Zealand relationships.
Looking at respondents’’ overseas relationships, the most common way of communicating
with friends and family was the telephone (90% of employees and 100% of employers),
Two employees did not answer this question.
Three employees did not answer this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
followed by email (70% of employees and 42.9% of employers) and Skype®15 (15% of
employees and 14.3% of employers).
(b) Home Life
We asked interviewees to tell us about their daily lives, firstly in India and then in New
Zealand. The common themes that emerged from an analysis of employers’’ and employees’’
responses were strongly gendered. Men’’s lives in India and New Zealand tended to revolve
around their paid work. In India, men often worked long hours. Despite this, many spoke of
enjoyable social lives and less pressure to help out at home because of extended families and
servants. The lack of friends or a social life in New Zealand was an issue that came up often.
There were mixed responses to work stress in New Zealand: while some men found work in
New Zealand less stressful, others found it more pressured. Obviously, this was dependent on
their personal experiences of work in both India and New Zealand.
For women who were in paid employment in India, their daily lives pre and postmigration were similar in the fact that they involved balancing the needs of their families with
the demands of their work. However, like some of the male participants, many commented
that one significant difference between life in New Zealand and India was the lack of help
with childcare, housework and cooking. This impacted on their daily lives and the time spent
with family and friends. A number of the women did not work outside the home in India but
had taken up jobs in New Zealand in order to provide extra income. These women had extra
challenges and responsibilities that they had not had prior to migration.
We look first at men’’s daily lives in India and New Zealand. Deepak,16 a manager in India
and owner of a café in New Zealand, finds life less stressful in New Zealand.
Very hot and humid conditions [in India]. Life is easier here. You are your own boss.
Ashwin, who worked in the Information Technology industry in India and who owns a
computer business in New Zealand, felt that life in New Zealand was more relaxed and
In India, I used to work longer hours but somehow I did not find it as hectic because we had servants to
do the housework and a driver. Worked Monday to Friday and half a day on Saturday. Started work at
9:30am and finished at 7:00pm every day, and went to bed at 11:00pm. There was a lot of corruption in
business. We struggled in recovering our payments in our business. There were also huge traffic jams we faced
on a daily basis of up to two hours.
In New Zealand, life is much better, no tensions. In New Zealand, we don’’t have persons or servants to
do all the odd jobs. I start work at 9:30am to 6:00pm and go to bed at 11:00pm. Life is more relaxed here,
less pollution and traffic is more peaceful.
Sanjay, however, was typical of other male participants who felt that life in India was
more relaxing because they had more time to spend with friends and less pressure at home
due to support from an extended family. He worked as a scientist in India and works in sales
in New Zealand.
My job in India was more relaxing. I did not have so much work pressure. I could take longer lunch
breaks and could talk longer on the phone. I was working Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm; I had
Skype is a software application that allows videoconferencing over the internet.
All names used are pseudonyms.
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flexibility of work timings. I could socialise with friends much more till late in the evening. I lived in a joint
family and everything was taken care of.
Even though I work less hours in New Zealand [8am-5pm], my social life has come to a standstill as I
don’’t get the time to socialise with friends. After 6pm, everything shuts down here. Friends are also busy over
the weekend with housework. Here it is a question of survival, I have to pay the rent, my wife is expecting for
the second time.
We turn now to women’’s daily lives in India and New Zealand. Prior to migration,
women talked about managing their paid work, housework and childcare responsibilities,
often with the assistance of paid help or extended family. After migration, women talked
about the added pressures of life without this kind of assistance. Like the men in this study,
many also spoke about their lack of social lives in New Zealand.
Amrita, a lecturer in India and a tutor and merchandiser in New Zealand, described her
daily routine pre and post-migration. She worked long hours in India, but felt she was now
also ‘‘a maid’’ in New Zealand.
[In India] Woke up at 6am and cooked breakfast and got ready. Leave at 10am for work, commuting
time one hour to my job. 11am to 4pm –– work giving tuitions and teaching computers. 5pm I come home.
From 6pm to 8pm, lecturer at law school. 9pm, I come home. No working on weekends.
[In New Zealand] Get up at 5:30am and make breakfast and pack lunch for husband and daughter.
Drop children to childcare. Get home at 2pm. After collecting my son, collect daughter from school. Cooking
and cleaning, then sleep at 10pm. On weekends I work as a merchandiser. Saturdays –– 5am to 8am in the
morning; Sunday evenings I work 5pm to 8:30pm.
Now I am a maid –– on call servant –– a cook. In India, it was all taken care of.
Shreya also felt there was less time for family and social gatherings in New Zealand.
In India, I had an 8am to 4pm job, so I interacted and ate with my family. I could barge into any friend’’s
house. We were socialising much more in India, every month there would be festivals.
[In New Zealand] I feel I don’’t have much time for my family because we all have different shifts. We
only meet on Sundays. We hardly meet up with friends. I come home at 10pm.
For those women not involved in paid work in India, their pre and post-migration lives
were quite different. However, several participants commented that despite the busier
workload, they have enjoyed gaining confidence and independence in New Zealand.
Varsha, who was a housewife in India and is a baker in New Zealand, explains.
I was a housewife in India. I only looked after the house. I lived in the Punjab, North India. In my
family girls don’’t work. My father pampered me very much.
In New Zealand I had to start working for the first time. I now have a greater responsibility as I look
after my home and work. I enjoy this because I meet many more people. I have grown in confidence and now I
have earned respect from my family back in India as I am working and helping my husband financially.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
7. Indian Employers
Between them, the seven employers17 interviewed for the study owned a total of eight
businesses established between 2000 and 2008. Only one participant started their initial
business the same year they obtained permanent residence, while two started their businesses
one to two years later. The remaining three interviewees established their businesses five to
six years after they were granted permanent residence.18 Two of the enterprises were sole
proprietorships and four were partnerships. The remaining two were private limited
companies. With respect to industry, six were in retail (4) or accommodation and food (2),
with the remainder in other services (1) and rental, hiring and real estate services (1). One of
the retail businesses also provided technical support services. Both of the women employers
owned businesses with their husbands.
The businesses employed an average of three paid employees, the majority of whom were
not family members. However, 71.4 percent of employers had a family member working in
the business without wages or salary and these were mostly wives. Employers worked long
hours (although not as long as the hours worked pre-migration): between 35 and 80 hours per
week in their businesses, with an average of 52 hours per week (compared with 56.7 hours per
week in India). Half worked 50 hours per week or more.19
Starting Out
Participants gave a range of reasons for establishing businesses in New Zealand. Two said
they had always intended to start a business in New Zealand while others said that they had a
desire to be self-employed. Other reasons included a partnership dispute, a redundancy from
a previous job, knowledge of a particular industry, and because self-employment offered
better financial rewards.
It’’s good to be your own boss. My earlier business gave me the confidence to start this business.
Redundancy from old job.Sick and tired of old job.Racism at old job.
In contrast to the Chinese and Korean immigrants we have interviewed, none of the
participants had undertaken any form of training in New Zealand before they started their
own businesses. These results mirror the data from the LisNZ which showed that just 3.2
percent of Indian immigrants completed a post-school qualification between Wave One of
the survey, six months post-migration, and Wave Two which occurred 18 months later.
Interviewees were shown a long list of organisations and individuals and asked which
were most helpful to them during the start-up phase of their businesses. Two of the
participants commented that no one provided them with business help while the remaining
participants listed friends, their bank, an accountant and assistance from business partners.
Employment Transitions
All of the employers had worked as paid employees in New Zealand prior to owning their
own businesses. These jobs included working at fast food restaurants (2), a supermarket (1),
Two women and five men.
One employer did not provide information on when he arrived in New Zealand.
19 One employer said his wife worked in his business 36-40 hours per week, while he worked there on the weekends. These hours were not
included in the average figures.
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as a hairdresser (1) and in industries related to their previous experience in India (2). One
employer did not wish to talk about his previous job. There is evidence of downward
occupational mobility between their work in India and their first job in New Zealand (see
Table 6). Of the seven employees we interviewed, two were not in the labour force
immediately prior to their migration from India. The remaining five were all managers in
some capacity (one was self-employed with 20 employees), responsible for as many as 50
staff. Immediately after their migration, none of the participants found managerial work,
while there was an increase in the proportions of technicians and trades workers, sales
workers and labourers.
Table 6: Employers’’ Occupational Mobility20
Business Owners
Technician & Trades Worker
Sales Workers
Not in the Labour Force
First job
Current job
When we compare participants’’ employment in their home country to their current
employment in New Zealand, only two employers were engaged in business activities directly
related to their previous work experience in India. For example, one participant worked for a
company in India and now owns a similar repair and wholesale business in Auckland; and one
participant who owned a business in India now owns and manages a similar business in New
Zealand. Two participants were not in the work force in India –– one was a housewife and one
a student. Initially, the housewife found work in New Zealand but now runs a business with
her husband; while the student in India went from working in a supermarket to being
involved in restaurant and Indian food businesses in New Zealand. The remaining employers
embarked on different employment paths in New Zealand compared to their work in India.
For example, one participant was a manager/team leader of a finance-related company in
India but now runs a retail business in Auckland. However, given the nature of the interviews,
it is difficult to say if and how participants used their previous work experience in these new
ventures in New Zealand.
One of the key policy and academic questions about immigrant business owners, and an
important focus of the Integration of Immigrants Programme, is the extent to which business
ownership is the result of migrants’’ thwarted labour market ambitions. This small study
cannot conclusively answer this question. However, of those in paid employment premigration, all started their own businesses after experiencing some downward occupational
mobility in the transition between India and their first job in New Zealand. In addition,
business ownership was perceived as a pathway to improved financial security.
You have more money when you start your own business.
Due to low participant numbers, this information is reported as a total figure rather than percentages.
Totals exceed the number of participants because responses indicate management role and business ownership pre-migration. In addition,
while all of the participants who were in paid employment pre-migration managed staff in some capacity, two also identified other
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
Problems and Solutions
We asked respondents about the difficulties (if any) they experienced in the start-up phase of
their businesses and also about the strategies they used to overcome these obstacles.
Participants did not indicate that they had many problems and those who did experience
difficulties did not go into much detail about them. Unlike other Asian immigrants who
participated in our research, none of the Indian employers had difficulties communicating in
English.22 Similarly, none of the seven employers had any difficulty obtaining finance
although one participant said that they had trouble setting up a bank account for their
company because they were new immigrants.
The small number of participant employers produced some conflicting information about
the kinds of difficulties that were experienced. One participant said that they had trouble
attaining accurate information from the landlord of their business premises, commenting that
the landlord was not very forthcoming. However, no further explanation was given as to why
this was the case. Another participant said that finding suitable business premises proved
challenging and that they had some issues obtaining resource consent and a code of
compliance. However, as quoted below, another participant noted that ‘‘council requirements
were no problem’’, and, in fact, was particularly positive about the help they received from
various organisations or agencies.
The New Zealand government are very helpful compared to India. Council requirements were no problem.
Whatever problems you have with the IRD or council, they were very helpful.
Another employer had difficulties employing staff due to a problem with visas,
commenting that the New Zealand government ‘‘took their own sweet time’’ in processing the
visas and resolving the issue.
The absence of details regarding difficulties in establishing businesses in New Zealand
suggests that our seven employers had few serious problems in this area. However, the largely
positive responses might also have been due to a failure, on the part of the interviewer, to
probe deeper into the employers’’ comments, asking for clarification, explanations or
examples to elicit a more detailed response.
Participants’’ responses to the following question provide an insight into their perceptions of
the challenges immigrant business owners face and the strategies they believe will lead to
If you were giving advice to another new migrant starting up in business in New Zealand,
what are the three main things you would say?
Their advice was varied and ranged from financing and ‘‘starting small’’, to the skills
required to be a successful business owner. Here are some of the responses:
Double check all the information given to you by your Chartered Accountant.
Get a job first and learn the Kiwi way –– the culture, the work ethic.
Start small –– don’’t invest all your resources in your business.
Given English has the status of a subsidiary official language of India that is often used for official work, these findings are, perhaps,
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Indian Employees
Initial Jobs
Employees were asked a number of questions about their New Zealand labour market
experiences, in particular about their initial and current jobs. Looking first at employees’’ initial
jobs, none had arranged this work pre-migration. A significant proportion (65%) had been
granted permanent residence before they started work while the remaining participants took
between five months and two years and an average of just over a year before they became
permanent residents.23 With respect to industry, the majority of participants worked either in
retail (50%) or the accommodation and food industry (35%), while the remainder worked in
manufacturing (10%) and agriculture, forestry and fisheries (5%). Although 75 percent of the
participants had found their initial job within the first two months, 15 percent took between
six and eight months.
When we compare our interviewees’’ occupational status in their current New Zealand job
with their first job and their home country occupations (see Table 7), we can see that they
have experienced considerable downward occupational mobility during their transition into
the labour market in New Zealand. In their first job, participants worked predominantly as
sales workers (80%), even though none had worked in sales in India. The remainder worked
as labourers (10%), professionals (5%) or clerical or administration workers (5%). Fifty
percent remained as sales workers in their current job although some found better sales roles
or were promoted within their companies. In India, 30 percent of our participants were
employed as either managers or professionals, while in New Zealand, that proportion fell to
five percent at the first job before rising to 20 percent at the time of interview. However, it is
interesting to note that three participants, who were professionals or administrators at the
time of the interview, worked second jobs as sales workers in the retail industry, usually on
the weekends. This brings the percentage of participants who work in sales to 65 percent.
Table 7: Employees’’ Occupational Mobility
Technicians and Trades Workers
Community and Personal Service Workers
Clerical and Administrative Workers
Sales Workers
Not in the labour force
First job(%)
Current job(%)
An examination of occupational data from the LisNZ provides some context to the
experiences of our research participants. The data supports the suggestion that Indian
immigrants experience downward occupational mobility over the course of their migration to
New Zealand. For example, 17.2 percent of Indian LisNZ participants were managers prior
to migration and 50.9 percent were professionals. These percentages dropped to 11.9 percent
and 26.0 percent respectively at Wave One of LisNZ. Conversely, the proportion of sales
workers, technicians and trades workers and labourers all increased at Wave One. While only
5.2 percent of Indian participants in LisNZ were sales workers prior to migration, 17.7
percent were employed in this occupation at Wave One. Similarly, only 2.6 percent of Indian
One participant did not answer this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
participants were labourers pre-migration, yet 13.5 percent found work as labourers in New
Zealand at Wave One.
Data from Wave Three of the LisNZ (three years post-migration) shows some (albeit
small) changes in occupational status among Indian immigrants since their arrival in New
Zealand. At Wave Three, the percentage of Indian managers had increased marginally to 14.5
percent, still considerably lower, however, than pre-migration figures. The percentage of
Indian professionals had dropped marginally to 25.6 percent, again considerably lower than
pre-migration levels. The percentage of Indian sales workers has systematically decreased
between Waves One, Two and Three, dropping from 17.7 percent to 16.3 at Wave Two
before settling at 15.0 percent at Wave Three. The percentage of technicians and trade
workers has also steadily declined (13.0% to 11.9% to 9.7% at Wave Three), as has the
proportion of labourers, decreasing from 13.5 percent at Wave One to 11.6 percent at Wave
The relatively high incidence of downward occupational mobility among skilled Indian
workers in New Zealand has been discussed elsewhere (Trlin, Henderson & North, 2004).
Evidence suggests that Indian immigrants are not able to make good use of their experiences
and professional qualifications upon migrating. It is common for Indian immigrants to take
on jobs well below their skill-set, especially within the first years of settlement.
We turn now to our employee participants’’ assessment of their first jobs in New Zealand.
With respect to their initial jobs being a good match for their qualifications, only 20 percent
of interviewees agreed or strongly agreed that this was the case. Just over half (55%) disagreed
or strongly disagreed with this statement while 15 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.24 A
slightly larger proportion thought that their initial job used their skills and experience (35%),
while 35 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed and 20 percent neither agreed nor disagreed.
The group also felt that they were not working in their preferred occupation during their
first jobs. Just five percent thought they were working in their preferred occupation while 70
percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that this was the case. However, when asked whether
their first job provided them with opportunities for career development, the group were more
evenly divided (45% agreeing or strongly agreeing and 45% disagreeing or strongly
Only 20 percent of participants thought their first job measured up to their expectations
while 40 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed and 30 percent were ambivalent. When
looking at job satisfaction, however, 45 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were
satisfied with their initial job while 30 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. The majority of
participants felt they were treated fairly in their first job (70% agreed or strongly agreed) while
just 15 percent did not. However, only 20 percent were satisfied with their pay (5% strongly
agreed and 15% agreed).
Forty percent of the interviewees had received assistance in finding their first New
Zealand job. When asked about this help, most participants said that their friends or family
had offered them work, given them advice on finding work or introduced them to their
employer. Around a third of Indian participants in the LisNZ (26.3% of men and 34.1% of
women) also obtained their first New Zealand job through friends and family.
Totals do not add up to 100 percent because of missing responses to the questions on initial job satisfaction.
IMDS Working Paper Series
Friend who was a baker took my resumé. The owner was an Indian, he knew how Indians struggle to get
jobs when they first arrive, and he offered me the job.
My friend was very useful; she spoke to the manager at Foodtown.
Only 25 percent of our employee participants were still employed in their first job. Those
who were not were asked why they had left. Many said they left because they were promoted
or had found a better job. Others said they left because they wanted full-time work or because
they wanted a job better related to their qualifications.
I left because I got a better job as a head baker.
I finished my course and wanted to find a job related to my studies.
Current Jobs
We now turn our attention to interviewees’’ current jobs. In terms of industry, and as
mentioned previously, 45 percent are in retail trade, 15 percent in manufacturing, 10 percent
in health and social services, 10 percent are in accommodation and food and five percent in
construction, education or financial and insurance services. With respect to occupation, the
largest proportion (50%) are sales workers, followed by technicians and trades workers (15%)
and clerical and administrative workers (15%). The remainder are managers (10%) and
professionals (10%). Participants’’ workplaces have between one and 200 employees and an
average of 54 workers.25 Sixty-five percent of the workplaces employed 40 employees or less.
Interviewees had been in their current jobs for between one month and seven years and an
average of two and a half years. Seventy-five percent were full-time and 25 percent part-time.
They worked an average of 34.5 hours per week (compared with 40.4 hours per week premigration), 20 percent worked 20 hours a week or less, while 75 percent worked 40 hours per
week or more. Twenty-five percent of participants managed between two and 12 other
Interviewees were asked about the strategies they used to find their current job. Thirty-five
percent said that they responded to a newspaper or magazine advertisement and 25 percent to
an online advertisement. A quarter of participants said they found their current job through
family and close friends and 20 percent sought the assistance of an employment agency. A
further 45 percent said they also used other strategies such as looking in the yellow pages,
cold calling or door knocking businesses, approaching the employer or business owner
directly, and applying for in-house roles when a vacancy came up.26 When asked about the
most successful strategy, 40 percent claimed ‘‘other’’ methods were the most effective, such as
the ones described above. A further 25 percent cited responding to online advertisements, 20
percent to utilising close family and friends and 10 percent to responding to newspaper or
magazine advertisements as successful strategies.
Respondents were also asked what three strategies they would recommend to new
immigrants looking for work in New Zealand. The most frequent advice was to gain New
Zealand qualifications or standards, to have appropriate training and to study or up-skill.
This figure is elevated by the workplace with 200 employees. The median number of employees is 20.
Total does not add up to 100 percent due to multiple responses to this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
Other common advice was to keep trying and be flexible, while being patient and staying
positive were deemed important, as well as being willing to find employment outside your
field of expertise. One participant even suggested ‘‘dumbing down’’ qualifications in order to
find work. Other advice included: being fluent in English; to build networks; learn to drive;
and to learn about Kiwi culture.
You can’’t expect to get into your field of work immediately. Be willing and open minded to get into
whatever job you get. Study and get qualified to New Zealand standards because processes are quite different
here to India.
Must have proper training and qualifications in the field where there is a shortage. You must speak good
English. Honesty and sincerity - your attitude is very important, you must have a positive attitude towards the
When respondents were asked what strategies they would use if they were searching for
another job, the internet assumed far greater importance than it did when participants talked
about obtaining their first job. Nearly three-quarters said that they would either place or
respond to an advertisement online. A similar percentage (78.9%) said they would respond to
a print advertisement. Just over half of respondents said they would register with an
employment agency and nearly a third said they would approach family and friends.27
Seventy percent of respondents reported having difficulty finding work in New Zealand. The
most common barriers identified were: lack of New Zealand experience (92.9%); no
recognition of qualifications (57.1%); being overqualified (42.9%); no suitable job
opportunities (35.7%); and not knowing people in the industry (35.7%).28 The lack of local
experience and problems with the recognition of skills or experience were also the two most
common difficulties identified by Indian participants in Waves One, Two and Three of the
LisNZ survey.
We are new to New Zealand so don’’t have experience. I have a double Masters so I am over qualified. I
don’’t know people personally who are in my profession. I don’’t know how to approach them.
Job Satisfaction and Evaluation
Despite the fact that participants felt they were often over-qualified or lacked New
Zealand experience, over half said that their education (55%) and work experience (60%)
were personal attributes that helped them gain their current jobs. Another 60 percent also
claimed it was their English language skills and 20 percent their personal contacts and
networks.29 When asked to rate how they felt about their current job on a scale of one to five,
where ‘‘one’’ is very happy and ‘‘five’’ very unhappy, only five percent chose ‘‘very unhappy’’. A
quarter chose a neutral ‘‘three’’ while the majority (65%) chose the most positive responses
(‘‘one’’ or ‘‘two’’).30 The following quotes are illustrative of the largely positive assessment of
interviewees’’ job satisfaction.
Total does not add up to 100 percent due to multiple responses to this question.
Total does not add up to 100 percent due to multiple responses to this question.
29 Total does not add up to 100 percent due to multiple responses to this question.
30 Total does not add up to 100 percent because of missing responses to this question.
IMDS Working Paper Series
I am working in the field I have experience in thus I am enjoying my work. I am getting good clients for
my company and feel I am playing a positive role in the company’’s development.
I love teaching. I got an opportunity in my own field. I can meet like-minded people there and I can prove
myself that I am competent in what I do.
Using a similar scale, where ‘‘one’’ is very important and ‘‘five’’ is very unimportant, 60 and
65 percent rated their current job at the positive end of the scale in terms of the interest or
challenge of the work and possible career development respectively. Related to this, 80
percent of participants said that their current job made good use of their skills and
experience.31 In contrast, however, only 45 percent of employees said that their current
position made good use of their qualifications.32
I don’’t use my qualifications currently.
I have managerial and administrative skills, but it’’s completely wasted because my current job is sales
related which anyone can do. So my skills are completely wasted.
Other responses suggest that although some participants are often not using their formal
qualifications in their current jobs, they are able to make use of a range of skills and
experiences acquired over the course of their working and personal lives.
Others are using both their formal qualifications and their skills and experience in their
New Zealand work.
I have done Masters in Law and I’’m teaching commercial law. What I learnt plus taught in India has
When asked how long they intended to stay in their current jobs, 30 percent said for some
time or for as long as they can, while five percent wished to leave immediately. Others said
they wanted to leave in between two months and two years (the average figure was just under
10 months) and 35 percent were not sure or did not know when they wanted to leave. Forty
percent of interviewees were actively looking for another job, most in Auckland but 10
percent overseas.
Seventy percent of employees had participated in some form of training since they had
arrived in New Zealand. The majority of this training (71.4%) was provided or funded by
employers: some was compulsory (such as food safety courses or fork lift driving lessons),
while other courses were for up-skilling purposes (such as computer courses or Team Leader
training). A number of participants also invested in their own training or education in order to
improve their employment prospects. Only 14.3 percent were engaged in training at the time
of the interview.
I’’m doing a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies at Massey University to get extra skills and have an
edge over competitors.
Almost all the respondents who had undertaken training believed that it had been useful
to them for a number of reasons: it provided them with skills and knowledge; it enabled them
to get an edge over others; and it was essential and useful for their job.
Total does not add up to 100 percent because of missing responses to this question.
Total does not add up to 100 percent because of missing responses to this question.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
Local training does help because it improves my knowledge of the local industries.
9. Indian Employers and Employees: An Overview Hopes and Dreams:
An Evaluation
Employers and employees were asked, at the end of the interview, to consider the hopes and
dreams they had identified earlier and to reflect on the extent to which these had been
realised post-migration. We start by discussing the two main themes identified by participants
- lifestyle and children’’s education, before discussing other themes.
(a) Lifestyle
Many participants were satisfied with their New Zealand lifestyle.
Better living conditions, better working conditions.
Standard of life is good, lots of free facilities.
Others had more mixed views about fulfilling their dreams of a better lifestyle in New
No, my hopes are not realised. We were living in a dream world, now reality is different. We never
expected it to be so hectic. My life here is more stressful and hectic.
b) Attaining and Maintaining Acceptance and Satisfaction
Respondents were also asked several other questions which together provide some insight
into the way they felt about their lives in New Zealand. For example, they were asked whether
they felt accepted in New Zealand and, if they did, how long it took them to feel this way.
Just over 90 percent of participants who answered the question felt accepted here and nearly
half (46.7%) of these interviewees said that they felt this way within six months. The
remainder took an average of two years and three months to feel accepted. However, it
should be noted that six participants did not answer the question on feeling accepted and 12
did not state the number of months it took to feel that way.
Participants were also asked how satisfied they were with their current life. Just over 70
percent of employers and 75 percent of employees said that they were either satisfied or very
satisfied with their current life. Participants in the LisNZ were also asked about their levels of
satisfaction with life in New Zealand at Waves One and Two (six months and 18 months
post-arrival respectively) and their responses were slightly more positive. The percentage of
Indian immigrants who were either satisfied or very satisfied at both waves was around 89
percent although the proportion rose slightly between Waves One and Two. At Wave Three
(three years post-arrival), this had climbed slightly further to 90.9 percent.
Examining the data from a comparative point of view, however, provides a more nuanced
picture. The proportion of Indian immigrants in the LisNZ who were very satisfied with their
lives in New Zealand was considerably lower than for those born elsewhere (28.6% compared
to 43.4% in Wave One; 22.8% compared to 39.4% in Wave Two). There were also slight
gendered differences in satisfaction levels for Indian immigrants as well as in the changes that
occurred in these figures between Waves One and Two. In Wave One, 30.3 percent of Indian
men were very satisfied, a level which dropped to 24.5 percent at Wave Two.
Correspondingly, the proportion of Indian men who were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied at
IMDS Working Paper Series
Wave One was 1.4 percent but was too small to report for confidentiality reasons at Wave
Two. The percentage of Indian women who were very satisfied with their New Zealand lives
dropped from 27.6 percent at Wave One to 20.0 percent at Wave Two. Compared to men,
however, levels of dissatisfaction among Indian women rose between waves, going from too
small to report at Wave One to 4.2 percent at Wave Two.
These results indicate that Indian women are less satisfied with life in New Zealand
compared to Indian men. This was particularly true for Indian women aged 30 and over.
While this group had similar levels of satisfaction to women aged less than 30 at Wave One,
at Wave Two, there were significant differences between the groups. The proportion of
Indian women aged 30 and over who were very satisfied with life in New Zealand was almost
half that of those aged less than 30 (16.5% compared to 31%). Similarly, 5.5 percent of Indian
women aged 30 and over were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied while the number of Indian
women less than 30 who felt the same way was too small to report.
Indian women’’s relative dissatisfaction may be due to the significant changes they have
undergone in their work and home lives since they left India, as described earlier in the
report. For some Indian women (especially older women who had well-established lives in
India), the transition from their pre-migration lives into their post-migration lives can be very
difficult, especially when it involves significant downward occupational mobility, the loss of
social status and a change in gender roles. The majority of our interviewees have had to adjust
to life without the support and guidance of elders, extended family and paid domestic help,
and some have entered the labour market for the first time. Data from LisNZ also suggests
that Indian women have not experienced any increase in occupational mobility between Wave
One and Wave Two of the study. The percentage of Indian female professionals actually
decreased between waves (going from 34.2% at Wave One to 28.8% at Wave Two), while
Indian female sales workers increased from 20.5 percent at Wave One to 27.5 percent at
Wave Two.
As Pio (2005a; 2005b) notes, in India, status is primarily afforded through birth, marriage
and social networks and, secondarily, through work. However, as an immigrant, work
becomes one of the primary paths to recognition and achievement. The failure to secure
employment, despite high education levels and experience, can be disheartening, stressful and
even shameful. Pio’’s research on Indian women aged over 35 in New Zealand shows that
employment is central to both feelings of acceptance and to identity negotiation; and work
provides meaning, money and movement into the host society. Initial negative employment
experiences and the non-acceptability/recognition of qualifications can quickly detract from
the positive aspects of migration and lead to feelings of dissatisfaction.
It is not surprising, therefore, that when asked what, if anything, they would change, the
responses centred on employment: either changing jobs or working fewer hours to spend
time with family and friends.
One of the most common responses to this question was a desire for work-related
changes. Many wanted to find jobs which better suited their qualifications or were less
stressful and time-consuming.
I would like to change my job. I would like to work in a science related field.
My job in banking. I want another position where the stress is not there for selling.
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
However, respondents also frequently talked about wanting to spend more time with their
children and families.
I would like to work less hours and spend more time with my family on the weekends.
I want to spend more time with the children. Right now I am busy studying and working.
Participants also wanted to improve their social lives. This included making more friends,
spending more time with existing friends and indulging in hobbies and activities outside of
I want to have a better social life and spend more time with friends.
Socially, I would like more friends. I would like to indulge in more sports activities.
Other comments included: a desire for a higher salary; more holidays; less discrimination
against Indians in the workplace; better weather; and to move away from New Zealand.
c) Positive Migration Outcomes
In a question which sheds further light on the participants’’ overall perceptions of their
migration experiences, interviewees were asked about the three most positive and the three
most negative things to have come out of their shift from India to New Zealand.
Respondents described a wide array of positive consequences of their migration. The most
frequently mentioned outcomes were centred on lifestyle and living standards, children and
family, the natural environment and improvements in participants’’ personal sense of
independence, confidence and achievement.
Better lifestyle, not crowded and no corruption. People are very friendly.
Good standard of living. We are living in a beautiful, clean environment. The government system is good ––
things can get done over the phone.
d) Negative Migration Outcomes
The negative consequences of migration described by participants fell into five often interrelated areas: missing family, friends and household support in India; lack of friends, social
life and time for family; work stress and low earnings; food; and discrimination.
I miss my cultural activities and friends. I miss all the support there [in India], from family and maids.
I miss my family and friends. I had to start over and take a few steps back in my job.
My social life has decreased immensely, all places shut by 6pm. Discrimination –– employers openly
discriminate against people who don’’t speak fluent English.
I feel my husband could get a better job, his qualifications are not realised.
Pay is less compared to my experience and qualification. More stress in the workplace –– I have a
performance review every week.
10. Conclusion
This article provides an insight into the experiences of recent India-born immigrants to
Auckland. Understanding what challenges these immigrants have faced since arriving in New
Zealand and understanding how they have responded to these challenges is important in
IMDS Working Paper Series
getting a sense of what motivates Indians to migrate and then what happens post-arrival. The
immigrants we spoke with struggled with occupational down-shifting and the challenge of
adjusting to quite different family routines, responsibilities and gender roles. Unlike the
Chinese and Korean immigrants we interviewed,the Indian participants did not rely
extensively on co-ethnic contacts and pre-existing networks, at least not in terms of
employment. Their mostly fluent English language skills enabled them to obtain employment
in more conventional ways.
This does not mean that finding employment has been smooth sailing for our Indian
participants; far from it. Many spoke of the difficulties of finding work in Auckland and, in
particular, of having to face discrimination, accept employment below their skill level and deal
with the stress of establishing economic security. In this sense, they are more like other
English-speaking immigrants, such as those from South Africa and Britain. They arrive in
New Zealand as well-educated and highly skilled newcomers. Yet, unlike these groups, their
employment outcomes are not as rosy. The stories described in this report illuminate the
widespread presence of discrimination and point towards a general unwillingness to employ
immigrants who do not as readily blend into New Zealand’’s dominant PĆkehĆ/European
culture. What is admirable is our participants’’ persistence and resilience despite these barriers.
Many have demonstrated a pro-active approach to job hunting, embraced the chance to upskill and retrain, and have shown a determination to make their way back up the occupational
Economic considerations have not dominated our interviewees’’ reasons for choosing to
move to New Zealand. Rather, they came with the hope of enjoying a better standard of
living, for their children’’s education, and for safety and the environment. Were these hopes
and dreams fulfilled? Yes and no. The positives include lifestyle, access to facilities and
amenities and, for some, the education their children are receiving. However, part of enjoying
a better standard of living must include economic factors. Obtaining a secure income,
working reasonable hours in a suitable job and having time for family and friends are all
important elements in the pursuit of quality of life. And it is these factors which were noted
by participants as some of the more negative migration outcomes.
These negative outcomes require attention because many relate to employment transitions
and the reaction of the host community. It does not appear that Indian immigrants are
finding work commensurate with their education, experiences and abilities. This has
implications, not just at an economic level, but in the way immigrants come to feel accepted
and valued. Those who find appropriate work are not only more likely to enjoy a good quality
of life and integrate more readily into their communities but also to remain in New Zealand
and contribute to the country’’s economic future.
The material here provides insights into the experiences of Indian immigrants as they
settle in Auckland and establish their lives locally. There are important lessons to be learnt.
More could be done to recognise immigrant experiences and requirements, especially within
the initial two years of settlement. Employers could be more sympathetic and welcoming to
Indian employees and more attention could be given to explicit workplace policies which
address the recruitment of immigrants. After all, migration is not simply about the
adjustments made by the immigrants themselves; it is also about the way in which host
communities adjust to the new residents in their midst. Addressing the issues brought to
Namasté New Zealand: The Experiences of Indian Immigrant Employers and Employees in Auckland, New Zealand
attention in this research is important to ensure better settlement outcomes for both Indian
immigrants and their host communities.
Bedford, R., Ho, E., & Bedford, C. (2010). Pathways to residence in New Zealand, 2003-2010. In A. Trlin,
P. Spoonley & R. Bedford (Eds.), New Zealand and International Migration. A Digest and
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Working Paper No. 57
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good
are Existing Regional Institutions for
Governance in Future?1
Binod Khadria
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Over 2.5 million Asian workers are believed to leave their countries every year under contract to work
abroad. As part of south––south migration, a large proportion of ‘‘service workers’’ from South and
Southeast Asia head for the Gulf States to perform various types of low- or semi-skilled service, trade and
construction jobs, in contrast to their ‘‘knowledge workers’’ primarily migrating to the developed countries of
the north. The future might interchange these ‘‘hubs and hinterlands’’ (H&H) of migration within Asia ––
in 50 years, if not in next 20 years –– when migration flows would reverse: originating in the Gulf
countries and ending in today’’s countries of migrants’’ origin. In the process, it is the national, rather than
the multilateral or the bilateral, institutional framework that is likely to strengthen, and environmental
migration dealt with only under ‘‘emergency measures’’. The stereotypes of the push and the pull factors
would not necessarily continue to be the primary drivers of migration within Asia, particularly to the Gulf
countries, over the next two decades. It would be rather what in the paper is called the ‘‘dynamic conflict of
interest’’ between the origin and destination countries that would determine the future of migration in the
region, whether environmental or non-environmental, leading to the need for a number of new institutional
paradigms and conflict resolution strategies.
1. Migration in environmental context
Notwithstanding the acknowledged gaps in definitional understanding and consensus about
‘‘environmental migration’’ (Biermann and Boas, 2011), predictions of future environmental
migration are often drawn on generalised scenarios, expert opinions, back-of-envelope
calculations and best guesses (Brown, 2008a) –– not necessarily the best evidence on which to
base international migration (McLeman, 2011). Added to this is the fact that there are not
enough statistical data available on environmental migration on which to base future
projections (Brown, 2008b; Tacoli, 2011).2 Future estimates of environmental migration or of
population displacement due to climate change –– a subset of environmental migration –– are
This paper is based on SR 20 of Migration and Global Environmental Change Project (Khadria 2011). The author benefited immensely
from the detailed comments by Andrew Geddes and two anonymous reviewers on earlier drafts. Any remaining errors and omissions are,
however, the author’’s sole responsibility.
2 According to McLeman (2011), one often-cited prediction from British ecologist Norman Myers suggests that there may be 200 million
environmental refugees worldwide by mid- to late 21st century (Myers, 2002). CARE International (2009) arrived at similar conclusions in a
report produced in collaboration with the United Nations University-Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), which
had previously estimated that 50 million environmental refugees should be expected worldwide by 2010 (UNU-EHS, 2005), a prediction yet
to be validated. The relief organisation Christian Aid (2007) had suggested that as many as 1 billion people will be displaced from their
homes by mid-century from global environmental changes. McGranahan et al. (2007) observed that 10% of the world’’s population lives in
the low elevation coastal zone (LECZ), defined as the contiguous area along the coast that is less than 10 metres above sea level, and is
consequently exposed to the possibility of displacement by sea-level rise, but made no predictions about its extent. Similarly,
theIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported no statistical evidence beyond the commonly cited Myers estimate (Adger et
al., 2007).
IMDS Working Paper Series
often given in terms of ‘‘environmental refugees’’, a term having no formal recognition under
international refugee law, but which generally describes involuntary migration driven by
changes in environmental conditions (Westing, 1992; Bates, 2002). The International
Organization for Migration (IOM) uses the term ‘‘environmental migrants’’ and the following
working definition: Environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, for
reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment that adversely affects their lives
or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either
temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad. (IOM, 2010; emphasis
However, there is widespread recognition among scholars that environmental variability,
including climate change, can, and does, influence migration (Shah, 1994; Hugo, 1996;
Hunter, 2005). Such migration can happen in response to environmental conditions or events
that may occur naturally (e.g. earthquakes) or are anthropogenic in origin (e.g. flooding of
river valleys behind large dams) (McLeman, 2011). An array of climatic events and conditions,
such as extreme storm events or droughts, have the potential to stimulate large waves of
environmental refugees, and the frequency and severity of many such events are expected to
increase in many regions as a result of climate change (Solomon et al., 2007). Yet,
environmental refugees represent only one end of a continuum of possible environmentmigration outcomes (McLeman and Hunter, 2010). At the other end of the continuum is the
environmental amenity migrant who voluntarily seeks better quality environmental
conditions. Instances would include a family with an asthma-prone child that leaves a
congested megacity for another city’’s better air quality –– an example applicable to both inward
and outward migration to and from Bangalore, respectively, at the outset and maturing of the
so-called Silicon Valley of India. A great many other possibilities are said to exist between the
two extremes of environmental refugee and amenity seeker.
Second, although the number of disasters has increased significantly over the last two
decades in Asia3, much displacement is internal, short-lived and temporary also because those
who are displaced do not have the resources or networks to migrate abroad. This is why it is
often asserted that environmental change is likely to contribute more to internal rather than
international migration.For example, of more than 36 million people estimated by the United
Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Internal
Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) as being internally displaced or evacuated in 2008
due to sudden onset of natural disasters, over 20 million were those affected by climaterelated disasters, with the Sichuan earthquake alone responsible for the displacement of 15
million people in China. With 31,397,358 persons displaced because of natural disasters, Asia
as a whole was the most affected continent, followed by the Americas (OCHA/IDMC, 2009).
Third, it is important to bear in mind that not all environmental migration will be long
term. Natural disasters tend to generate temporary movements if the affected area remains
habitable, whereas slow-onset processes may lead to long-term or permanent exodus (IOM,
2010). Although extreme environmental events such as cyclones, hurricanes and tsunamis
tend to capture the media headlines, gradual changes in the environment are likely to have a
3 There is considerable but scattered literature on these concerns –– including the arsenic poisoning of drinking water, which affects 20
million people in Bangladesh alone, and the deforestation in Himalayan headwaters of the Brahmaputra and Ganges Rivers, which cause
frequent flooding in Bangladesh but soil erosion in Nepal –– and their potential for causing future conflicts in the subcontinent, population
growth and related problems with water supply, overfishing and desertification. For examples of environment-related migration in Asia, see
Asian Development Bank (2011)and Tacoli (2011).
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good are Existing Regional Institutions for Governance in Future?
much greater impact on the movement of people in the future. For example, over the last 30
years, twice as many people worldwide have been affected by droughts as by storms (1.6
billion compared with approximately 718 million). Similarly, environmental degradation may
be the result of changes in average annual temperatures or rainfall levels, but it may equally be
the result of deforestation or poor land management –– or a combination of these factors. In
the Middle East and North Africa, for example, it has been predicted that environmental
degradation will reduce the amount of fertile arable land, and thus compound a shortage of
employment for a youthful population expanding quickly as a result of demographic trends, a
proportion of whom may thus migrate to look for work. In this case, environmental
degradation, demographic trends and economic factors (such as lack of employment)
combine as potential drivers for migration. It can thus be difficult to isolate environmental
factors from other drivers of migration, such as political, economic, social and cultural factors
that may also concurrently influence migration behaviour (Suhrke, 1994; Hunter, 2005;
McLeman, 2010). Some migrants will move for sheer survival, others as part of a family
strategy to maximise household incomes.
Environmental migration in legal frameworks
Thus, although the term ‘‘environmental migrant’’ is not accepted universally, nor are the
estimates based on any scientific projection, it is still possible to speculate that existing global
legal frameworks could be manoeuvred to address the speculated challenges arising from it.
For example, the application of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement at the
national level provides a model for the adoption of ‘‘soft law’’ guidelines in national laws and
policies. Currently, about 30 countries worldwide have developed national laws or policies on
internal displacement, and there have been four main approaches. One is a brief instrument,
simply adopting the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, exemplified by the onepage Instrument of Adoption of Liberia. The wholesale incorporation of the Guiding
Principles may appear an effective way of ensuring the implementation of all provisions of
the principles, suggesting absolute agreement with the principles and ensuring against the
dilution of its provisions. Such an approach, however, limits opportunities that the
development of a more tailored law would present for national authorities, relevant
governmental bodies, civil society and internally displaced persons (IDPs) themselves. A
second approach has been to develop a law or policy to address a specific cause or stage of
displacement. The Indian National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project
Affected Families, for example, addresses displacement only as a result of development
projects. The Angolan Norms on the Resettlement of the Internally Displaced Populations, as
well as laws and policies adopted in Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal
and Serbia, address only return and resettlement. A third approach is a law or policy
developed to protect a specific right of the internally displaced, examples of which include the
Turkish Law on the Compensation of Damages that Occurred due to Terror and the Fight
Against Terrorism and the US Hurricane Education Recovery Act, which was developed
following Hurricane Katrina, and addresses, among other issues, the needs of displaced
students and teachers. The fourth and final approach is a comprehensive law or policy
addressing all causes and stages of internal displacement. The Colombian Law 387 and
Ugandan National Policy for Internally Displaced Persons most closely approximate a
comprehensive law on internal displacement.
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Although most of the movements within a state’’s borders that can be envisaged as a
result of the effects of environmental change are included within the remit of the Guiding
Principles on Internal Displacement, a significant gap that remains unaddressed in the current
legal and normative framework is that of cross-border environmental migrants, especially
those moving permanently. Even if a ‘‘soft law’’ approach is adopted to address these current
shortcomings, achieving consensus and then translating it into national laws and policies is a
lengthy process. A shorter-term option is to amend national immigration laws and policies,
particularly for the neighbouring countries or those with strong migration channels that are
likely to be impacted by the effects of environmental change in the near future. The immigration
policies of most potential destination countries are not conducive to receiving large numbers of environmental
migrants, unless they enter through already existing admission categories –– for example, for labour or for
family reunification, or on humanitarian grounds. The Temporary and Circular Labour Migration
(TCLM) programme between Colombia and Spain is an unusual exception of an existing
labour mobility programme that specifically extends to populations in high-risk zones of
natural disasters. Nevertheless, there are examples of countries from around the world having
special policies and/or taking new initiatives4:
The USA, for example, enacted a law in 1990 to provide temporary protected status (TPS)
to persons ‘‘in the United States who are temporarily unable to safely return to their home
country because of ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or other extraordinary and
temporary conditions’’. ‘‘Environmental disaster’’ here includes ‘‘an earthquake, flood, drought,
epidemic, or other environmental disaster in the state resulting in a substantial, but temporary,
disruption of living conditions in the area affected’’. In the case of environmental disasters,
however, as compared with conflict, the country of origin must request designation of TPS
for its nationals. Importantly, TPS applies only to persons already in the USA at the time of the
designation.It is not meant to be a mechanism for responding to an unfolding crisis in which people seek
admission from outside of the country. It also only pertains to situations that are temporary in nature. If the
environmental disaster has permanent consequences, a designation of TPS is not available,
even for those already in the USA, or it may be lifted. Another significant factor is that the
designation is discretionary and can be granted only by the Secretary of Homeland Security.
At the European Union level, the Temporary Protection Directive establishes temporary
protection during ‘‘mass influxes’’ of certain displaced persons. The term ‘‘mass influx’’ refers to
situations where large numbers of people are suddenly displaced and where it is not feasible
to treat applicants on an individual basis, and it is defined on a case-by-case basis by a
qualified majority of the European Council. Sweden and Finland have included
environmental migrants within their immigration policies. Sweden includes within its asylum
system persons who do not qualify for refugee status but require protection. Such a person in
need of protection ‘‘has left his native country and does not wish to return there because he
has a fear of the death penalty or torture, is in need of protection as a result of war or other
serious conflicts in the country, is unable to return to his native country because of an
environmental disaster’’. The decision is made on an individual, rather than group, basis. Although
many recipients of this status are presumed to be in temporary need of protection, the
Swedish rules foresee that some persons may be in need of permanent solutions. Similarly, in
the Finnish Aliens Act, ‘‘aliens residing in the country are issued with a residence permit on
the basis of a need for protection if [……] they cannot return because of an armed conflict or
These examples are drawn from IOM (2010).
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good are Existing Regional Institutions for Governance in Future?
environmental disaster’’. A number of other countries provide exceptions to removal on an ad
hoc basis for persons whose countries of origin have experienced significant disruption because
of natural disasters. Following the 2004 tsunami, for example, Switzerland and the UK
temporarily suspended deportations of individuals from such countries as the Maldives, India,
Indonesia, Seychelles, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Canada in North America did the
In contrast to the above examples, to date there are no examples of legislation or policies
that address resettlement as a result of slow-onset processes that may destroy habitats or
livelihoods in the future and make return impossible. The Green Party in Australia launched
an initiative in 2007 to establish a ‘‘climate refugee visa’’ in immigration law. The initiative had
three components: to amend the Migration Act to incorporate aClimate Change Refugee Visa
class; to establish a programme for the migration of up to 300 climate change refugees from Tuvalu
per year, 300 from Kiribati, and 300 from elsewhere in the Pacific, where appropriate; and to
push the government to work in the UN and other international forums for the establishment of
an international definition and framework on climate change and environmental refugees. The visa would
be available to persons who had been displaced as a result of a ‘‘climate change induced
environmental disaster’’, which, in turn, was defined as: ‘‘A disaster that results from both
incremental and rapid ecological and climatic change and disruption, that includes sea level
rise, coastal erosion, desertification, collapsing ecosystems, fresh water contamination, more
frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as cyclones, tornadoes, flooding and
drought and that means inhabitants are unable to lead safe or sustainable lives in their
immediate environment’’ (cited in IOM, 2010: 83). The bill was defeated in 2007. New Zealand,
under similar pressures regarding the potential need for resettlement of Pacific Islanders
affected by rising sea levels, also has not yet established a specific category of admissions. The
Government has introduced a Pacific Access Category (PAC), under which 75 people from
Tuvalu, 75 from Kiribati and 250 from Tonga may immigrate to New Zealand each year. The
programme is, however, based on employment rather than environmental factors. The
immigrants must be 18––45 years old, have an offer of employment in New Zealand, have
English skills, meet a minimum income requirement, undergo a health check, and have no
history of illegal entrance. The programme is not intended to provide access to those who
may be most vulnerable to climate change-induced displacement, such as the elderly or the
A number of origin countries see the potential need for large numbers of their population
to relocate internationally if the worst-case scenarios of climate change do materialize. Anote
Tong, President of Kiribati, has made it clear that the population of his island might be
forced to relocate en masse. His focus has been on identifying immigration possibilities for
Kiribati nationals in nearby countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand. In a recent trip
to New Zealand, he suggested that the best educated people of Kiribati should emigrate first,
in an orderly fashion, and then establish communities that others could join as the situation
requires. President Mohamed Nasheed announced at the end of 2008 that the Maldives was
establishing a sovereign wealth fund that could be used to purchase a new island for the
country’’s population. According to Nasheed, ‘‘this trust fund will act as a national insurance
policy to help pay for a new homeland, should future generations have to evacuate a country
disappearing under the waves’’. Hoping that the funds would never be used for this purpose,
Nasheed used the announcement as a call for renewed action to reduce greenhouse gas
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The Colombo Process of cooperation in Asia
Over 2.5 million Asian workers are believed to leave their countries every year under contract
to work abroad5. As part of south––south migration, a large proportion of ‘‘service workers’’
from South and Southeast Asia head for the Gulf States to perform various types of low- or
semi-skilled service, trade and construction jobs, in contrast to their ‘‘knowledge workers’’
primarily migrating to the countries of the north. Prior to the 1970s, the countries in the
region maintained a liberal non-selective immigration policy. However, the ‘‘oil boom’’ of
October 1973 significantly affected the dynamics of the policy. The major oil-exporting
countries, or the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, were earning huge revenues by
exporting oil. They decided to invest the revenue in major economic and social fields such as
infrastructure and power stations, industrial and agricultural sectors, health and education
(Winckler, 1997). The implementation of these projects, which were highly labour-intensive,
resulted in a huge demand for migrant labour from overseas, both skilled and unskilled
workers in various categories, which led to a substantial rise in the inflow of foreign workers6.
In the early 1980s the majority of workers in the GCC countries originated from Arab
countries, but currently Asian countries have become the major source countries. The top
source countries of migrant workers to the Gulf are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Philippines,
Sri Lanka and Indonesia (Kapizewski, 2001). Women constitute about 25% of all migrants
working in the GCC countries. They are mostly employed in the domestic service and
healthcare sectors (DESA, 2006).
Given these dimensions, the countries of origin of labour migrants are increasingly
engaged not only in ensuring ‘‘protection’’ for their migrants against exploitative practices in
recruitment and employment, but have graduated to providing them with appropriate services
that would enhance their ‘‘welfare’’, such as pre-departure information and orientation,
assistance during their stay abroad; and further even to their reintegration with the
‘‘development’’ of their place of origin7. These types of support are important for
empowerment of the unskilled and semi-skilled migrant workers who often find themselves
in a vulnerable situation. More so because –– unlike the educated elite who go westward,
attracted by better opportunities and a luxurious lifestyle –– those who arrive in West Asia as
waged labourers have a much harder time: practically no rights, hostile working environments
and absolutely no support systems. They are, therefore, also more vulnerable to
environmental change. Need for greater effort is also felt to optimise the benefits of
organised labour migration, including the development of new markets and increasing
remittance flows through formal channels. Building institutional capacity and inter-ministerial
coordination; increasing cooperation with destination countries to protect migrant workers;
providing better access to labour markets; and preventing irregular migration are considered
important aspects of an effective regional response to the challenges of labour migration.
To accomplish these goals, a Ministerial Consultation for Asian Labour Sending
Countries was held in 2003 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The 10 initial participating nations ––
Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and
Vietnam –– made recommendations for the effective management of overseas employment
Foreign workers in all the GCC countries have contributed significantly towards the development process. As is the case in most labourimporting countries, after the completion of the projects the governments tightened their immigration policies to reduce the number of
foreign workers. In spite of such measures, demand for migrant workers remained as more private projects arose in the construction sector.
7 See Khadria (2010a).
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programmes and agreed to regular follow-up meetings. Since then, the member nations of the
‘‘Colombo Process’’ have met in countries of origin –– in Manila (Philippines) and Bali
(Indonesia) in 2004 and 2005, respectively, to review and monitor the implementation of
previous recommendations and identify areas of future action. The Third Ministerial
Consultation in Bali in 2005 was enriched by the participation of several countries of
destination as ‘‘observers’’ –– Bahrain, Italy, Kuwait, Malaysia, Qatar, Korea, Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates –– all GCC countries except for Italy. However, after the Bali
meeting, the Colombo Process lost its momentum, and it took 6 years for its revival in
Bangladesh, in 2011.
As the Colombo Process evolved with each ministerial consultation, new members and
partners have joined the Regional Consultative Process (RCP), and the consultations have
expanded in scope. The process aims to continue to provide a forum for dialogue among
member states. The first ever meeting hosted by a destination Gulf country, the United Arab
Emirates, bringing together the 11 Asian countries of origin (with the addition of Afghanistan
to the initial 10 members) and eight ‘‘observer’’ countries of destination was held in Abu Dhabi
in January 2008 and resulted in the creation of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue as another RCP. It
highlighted the potential of contractual labour mobility to benefit overseas workers as well as
the development of countries of both origin and destination in Asia, through the
establishment of key action-orientated partnerships. With the continued participation of the
destination countries, this dialogue is set to evolve and contribute to strengthening migration
management both in the countries of origin and destination the Asian region. In recent years,
the Colombo Process –– the RCP for the management of overseas employment and
contractual labour for Asian countries of migrants’’ origin –– has been particularly active in
promoting legal south––south migration as a means of reducing irregular migration.
Bangladesh took over the rotational chairmanship of this regional consultative process in
December 2009, and hosted the Fourth Ministerial Consultation for Asian Labour Sending
Countries in Dhaka in April 2011.
The stated aim of the Colombo Process is to provide a forum for Asian labour-sending
countries to:
share experiences, lessons learnt and best practices on overseas employment;
consult on issues faced by overseas workers, labour-sending and -receiving states, and
propose practical solutions for the well-being of vulnerable overseas workers;
optimise development benefits from organised overseas employment, and enhance
dialogue with countries of destination; and
review and monitor the implementation of the recommendations and identify further
steps for action.
The current focus of the Colombo Process is on:
Protection of and provision of services to migrant workers. In particular, protecting
migrant workers from abusive practices in recruitment and employment, and
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providing appropriate services to migrant workers in terms of pre-departure
information and orientation and welfare provisions8.
Optimising benefits of organised labour migration. This includes the development of
new overseas employment markets, increasing remittance flows through formal
channels and enhancing the development impact of remittances.
Capacity building, data collection and inter-state cooperation. This includes
institutional capacity building and information exchange to meet labour migration
challenges. Increasing cooperation with destination countries in the protection of
migrant workers and access to labour markets, and enhancing cooperation among
countries of origin.
In practical terms, some of the instruments leading to the success or fulfilment of these
aims could be cited from at least three large and prominent South Asian sending member
countries of the Colombo Process, viz., Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
The Bangladesh Missions in host countries now perform the following duties:
receive and hear the complaints of migrant workers;
take up the matter with the employers;
provide legal assistance;
arrange repatriation of stranded migrant workers; and
repatriation of remains of workers who have died abroad.
Bangladesh also operates a welfare fund for providing legal support and initial sustenance.
Orientation and briefing centres function in Protector of Emigrants (PE) offices in Karachi,
Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar. All migrant workers register with the PE. Offices are given
pre-departure briefings about their countries of employment. They are also informed about
the customs, local conditions and relevant laws in the country of destination.
Community Welfare Attachés are posted in the manpower-importing countries. They
maintain liaison with the Pakistani workers and provide them with the necessary help to solve
problems in coordination with the host authorities.
Under the Emigration Ordinance of 1979, a welfare fund has been created. It is being
managed by the Overseas Pakistani Foundation (OPF) for the welfare of migrant workers and
their dependants in Pakistan. Education, training, housing and medical facilities and other
services are organised for the families of overseas Pakistanis by the OPF.
Newspaper and media provide first-hand reporting of the abuses and the divide between policies and practices in place. See, ‘‘Dreams die in
the desert’’, by V. Swathi; ‘‘Changes in policy’’ by S. Dikshit; and ‘‘Chasing a mirage’’, by K.P.M. Basheer –– all in The Hindu, New Delhi, 20 Feb
9 See also GOB and IOM (2004).
10 See Gazdar (2003); Siddiqui and Mahmood (2005).
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The Government of Pakistan has taken measures to improve the skills and attitudes of
the workers in demand abroad in accordance with international norms and standards.
The majority of the emigrants remit their savings through the official channel. The
Government of Pakistan has banking arrangements in some of the manpower-importing
In 2004, the Government of India established a new ministry called the Ministry of Overseas
Indian Affairs(MOIA), which acts as a nodal agency to deal with issues related to Indian
migrants abroad11. However, apart from MOIA, the Ministries of Home Affairs, Commerce,
External Affairs and the Department of Science and Technology also interact with the Indian
migrants in various capacities.
The MOIA is working towards two basic objectives:
to take note of the problems of the Indian migrant communities in various countries
and to initiate measure to overcome those problems; and
to involve the Indian migrants abroad for India’’s larger development purposes.
Towards these goals, the Indian government has floated a number of schemes. One
landmark step relating to migration of Indian workers within Asia, in particular to the Gulf
countries, has been the gradual abolition of the Emigration Clearance Required (ECR) for
unskilled and semi-skilled migrant workers, which, having been fraught with corruption,
became a roadblock in free mobility of workers from India12. Another recent step, introduced
in February 2011, has been the granting of voting rights to non-resident Indians (NRIs) living
abroad for participation in elections in India.
Efficacy of the Colombo Process in easing mobility in Asia
Although it may be too distant to speculate about the next half a century –– to 2060, evidence
suggest that the stereotypes of the push and the pull factors would not necessarily continue to
be the primary drivers of migration within Asia, particularly to the Gulf countries, over the
next two decades –– to 2030. A study by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI)––BBC (2009)
pointed out that the immigrants constituted the largest share of the total population in the
Gulf States. Foreign nationals accounted for 90% of the labour force in the United Arab
Emirates, 86% in Qatar, 81% in Kuwait, 71% in Oman, 59% in Bahrain and 50% in Saudi
Arabia (DESA, 2006: 16). Such levels of migrant stocks are not what the governments of
some GCC countries desire. Responding to a UN survey on opinions about levels of
immigration and emigration, four out of the six oil-rich GCC countries –– Kuwait, Oman,
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates –– considered that the immigration levels in their
countries were too high and they wanted to reduce them. A review of the opinions, attitudes
and policies towards immigration in the Gulf region indicate that in all six countries the trend
towards restricting the inflows has increased. Also, steps towards the actual implementation
of the policies are more actively being taken and enforced. In order to lower the level of
See GOI and MOIA (2008).
See Khadria (2010a).
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immigration these countries are implementing highly restrictive immigration policies13. The
remaining two –– Bahrain and Qatar –– considered the levels to be satisfactory and had policies
to maintain the inflow. There are several measures that are adopted by the governments of
the GCC countries to discourage immigration: indirect taxes, such as health taxes for
expatriates, not only raise revenue for the host country but also increase the cost of living for
the expatriates. Owing to the lack of minimum wage legislation, the migrant workers are paid
low wages. Apart from this, the ineffectiveness of the labour dispute settlement machinery
results in no increments in wages and non-payment of non-wage benefits as per the labour
The main factors steering the future migration in this region, therefore, need to be
identified and grouped together in a generic classification of what I call age, wage and
vintage14. I prophesise on how the driving force of the dynamic conflict of interest between
the origin and destination countries is likely to continue or discontinue in future.
The first, age, deals with the ‘‘acceleration’’ in the migration of younger cohorts of new
workers so as to neutralise the adverse effects of ‘‘age-structural change’’ that can be brought
about in population composition of countries of destination. This has been discussed
predominantly in the case of Western countries, but not in the Gulf in a futuristic perspective.
The second driver, wage, refers to the comparative advantage gained by a Gulf country of
destination through ‘‘replacement’’ when younger returnees re-emigrate a second or third time
from the Asian countries (the older cohorts tending to stay in the country of origin and
adding to the stocks of older workers), thus bringing with them more cost-effective
production functions because of their lower wages.In addition, although there has been a lot
of hype about the diaspora resources such as remittances breaking all records in India, and
being substantial for Bangladesh and Pakistan, there have been no speculations on these
becoming silent reverse flows in terms of lowering of wages in the Gulf, in real terms, that
determine the quantum of remittances to countries of origin. The third driver, vintage, would
imply the state-of-the-art know-how and skills embodied in the latest and younger
generations of semi-skilled trainees, as well as students who would be enrolling in upcoming
training and educational institutions in the Gulf countries, many set up by universities in the
West, being ‘‘pre-empted’’ as future migrant workers.
These advantages to the countries of destination would create a dynamic conflict of
interest vis-à-vis the origin countries because of different time horizons (which makes the
conflict ‘‘dynamic’’ as opposed to ‘‘static’’) that the former perceive for development in future ––
most countries of origin being myopic because the time horizons of their plan perspectives
are shorter, e.g. of 5 years as in India’’s Five Year Plans, and most countries of destination
being far-sighted in keeping the time horizons of their plans long and open ended, sometimes
of 50 years in the future. Precisely because, as in all other RCPs, the outcomes of the
Colombo Process are informal and non-binding, this dynamic conflict is unlikely to be
resolved in the near future of the next 20 years, whereas the distant future of the next 50 years
Another issue that the GCC governments have to deal with is visa trading by fictitious companies. Ever since labour migration to the Gulf
began, each employee must have a sponsor or kafeel. A system of visa trading emerged during the last two to three decades because the
demand for visas to the Gulf exceeded supply. Some nationals thus opened up fictitious companies for which they procured work permits
that they were able to sell to those migrants who were willing to pay for them. Frequently, the work permit was not accompanied by a job.
The migrant thus found employment with someone other than the sponsor, or remained unemployed.
14 See Khadria (2008). These may sound like conventional explanations, but have so far been highlighted only in terms of the spontaneous
‘‘push’’ factors for the individual migrants at the micro level; not at all as the strategic ‘‘pull’’ factors taken advantage of by the receiving
countries at the macro and meso levels. The environmental impact of the strategic element on the sending countries has not even been
mentioned in the debates.
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good are Existing Regional Institutions for Governance in Future?
would be difficult to predict. Informality in the Colombo Process consultations is understood
in neutral terms, whereby participants are not put in a negotiating position to defend national
interests or political positions (the ‘‘party line’’), which seems utopian at best and misguiding at
worst. Informality here is meant to break down barriers to cooperation, such as an absence of
trust between states, fears of political or financial costs, adversarial international relationships
or a lack of understanding of the perspectives and concerns of others, but it is also too
wishful to be realistic. As the processes are non-binding in that states do not negotiate
binding rules and are not obligated to implement any changes following consultations, this
actually leads to a weakness in the sense that there is no in-built mechanism to tide over the
dynamic conflict of interest that creates a schism between the countries of origin and
Paradigms of future: H&H, RSEs and TcD model
The future might interchange the ‘‘hubs and hinterlands’’ (H&H) of migration in Asia15 –– in 50
years, if not in next 20 years –– when migration flows would reverse: originating in the Gulf
countries and ending in today’’s countries of migrants’’ origin16. The Gulf countries might then
have their own excess supply of highly skilled workforce because of foreign educational
institutions opening campuses there. Low-skilled service workers may not find jobs in the
Gulf countries because of saturation of construction-related activities. Rather, contrary to
Peter Drucker’’s forecast, the divide between the highly skilled and low-skilled work may go
overboard and create a boom, in countries of the north, in attracting these low- and semiskilled immigrants in the so-called ‘‘dirty, dangerous and difficult’’ sectors of the low-skilled
‘‘service work’’, such as agriculture and recycling. These will be the sectors where –– in the wake
of the on-going climate change, which is leading to the emergence of a global ‘‘green
economy’’ –– too few green jobs would be created, according to an International Labour
Organization (ILO) report17. The report has been cited to have said that the global market for
environmental products and services was projected to double from US$1,370 billion per year
to US$2,740 billion by 2020, with half the market in energy efficiency and the other half in
sustainable transport, water supply, sanitation and waste management, and by 2030
employment in alternative energy sector might rise –– to 2.1 million in wind power and 6.3
million in solar power –– as renewable energy generates more jobs than fossil fuels do.
Projected investments of US$630 billion by 2030 will translate into at least 20 million
additional jobs in the renewable energy sector, leading to newer dimensions of migration
flows in directions so far unanticipated. As the ‘‘stock’’ of greenhouse gas emissions into the
atmosphere by the industrialised Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD) countries over the years is higher than the current ‘‘flow’’ of emissions by countries
such as China or India in Asia, either low-skilled service workers would move to the OECD
countries to fill the 3-D (dirty, difficult, dangerous) jobs or the polluting industries would
somehow find a way to silently shift their location to the developing countries in Asia,
particularly India and Bangladesh (Khadria, 2009a).
Khadria (2010b).
Going to an intermediate year when India should be celebrating its 100 years of independence, the year 2047, it would perhaps be
interesting to prophesise in this context by making reference to a futuristic science fiction of sorts: according to River of Gods, first published
in 2004, by Ian McDonald, the well-known contemporary British science-fiction writer, a number of changes have occurred in the country
by 2047.
17ILO (2008).‘‘Green jobs: towards decent works in a sustainable, low-carbon world’’, cited in The Hindu, New Delhi, 25 September 2008.
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Even the Colombo Process might disintegrate and another RCP may emerge among what
I have elsewhere called the ‘‘rising Southern economies’’ (RSEs) comprising the BRICS (Brazil,
Russia, India, China, and South Africa) plus Mexico18. For handling future environmental
migration, the diaspora associations may form part of a hypothetical ‘‘global diaspora force’’
(GDF) and play a constructive role not necessarily confined to their respective countries of
origin, but in another country where such contingencies arise –– through a third-country
development (TcD) model19.
Similarly, the probabilities for the next 20 years would be also contingent on the political,
diplomatic and military agreements (and trust) among the large and important countries of
origin in the region adjacent to the Gulf, i.e. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China, and
possibly, to some extent, Sri Lanka. Smaller countries, such as Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and
Afghanistan, would not play very strategic roles in this except with relation to their immediate
neighbours, but stability in their internal polity would still be important. All this would be
contingent on which way the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
process develops, and which way the dynamics of China and India in the emerging BRICS
configuration moves.
Opportunities and challenges awaiting the Colombo ProcessA freer Asia
making some more mobile than others?
At present, exclusively environmental concerns for Asia are conspicuous by their absence in
the Colombo Process dialogues or proceedings, except as emergency measures. On the other
hand, given that the primary focus of the Colombo Process is migration, it may be speculated
that if relatively freer migration within Asia sets in over the next 20 (or 50) years,
environmental migration, as an emergency fall-out, if not policy, would indeed incorporate
those prone to be affected by the natural disasters, mostly uneducated, unskilled and semiskilled migrant workers, only if it is assumed that people would prioritise anticipated safety
over immediate livelihood. On the other hand, as emphasised in the inaugural India Migration
Report 2009: Past Present and the Future Outlook (Khadria, 2009a), freer mobility would certainly
encourage migration for work and livelihood, particularly from the neighbouring countries for
seasonal migration, into those Asian countries where ‘‘polluting’’ industries would find safer
havens, vis-à-vis the rest of the world, to set up non-regulated or less-regulated factories (e.g.
in China and India, unless they both keep the promises held out recently in Cancun and
presumably to be reiterated in Durban later this year, and Bangladesh too). In any case, these
migrants would be unlikely to be in the affluent, highly educated skilled categories, rather,
they would be considered as the so-called ‘‘huddled masses’’.
Any preconditions for ensuring success?
Much of the conflict resolution would depend upon the nature of what I have called the
‘‘dynamic conflict of interests’’ (i.e. the division of time horizons between the more developed
destinations and the relatively less developed countries of origin in Asia –– usually long term
for the former and short term for the latter), and much cooperation for the success of the
Colombo Process would depend upon how fairly the nations would engage in what I call the
18India Migration Report 2010––2011: The Americas, forthcoming (Khadria, 2012). See alsoJim O'Neill et al.'s Dreaming with BRICs (O’’Neill et al.,
19 See Khadria (2010c).
Environmental Migration in Asia: How Good are Existing Regional Institutions for Governance in Future?
‘‘equitable adversary analysis’’ (EAA), rather than playing ‘‘hide and seek’’ in a game-theoretic
situation, in the multilateral or even bilateral negotiations, if any (Khadria, 2009b). The EAA
has to lead to binding norms and codes of conduct to tide over the schism between the
practices and the policies agreed upon by the countries of origin and destination, and not
merely to some ‘‘informal’’ relationship among them without any legal bindings. Second, for
the success of the Colombo Process, there must be some kind of time-bound guarantee for
stability in the adopted policies. Frequent changes in immigration policies of destination
countries lead to maximisation of future uncertainties that adversely affect long-term planning
of investment in training and education by the migrants. To guard against this, it should be
made mandatory that immigration policy changes, like all genuine and quality products and
services, will bear expiry dates (or ‘‘best-before dates’’), short of which there would be no
major surprising changes, unless warranted by extraordinary, justifiable and rationalised
circumstances, such as the sudden onset of the recent global economic recession. The
Colombo Process countries, as well as other countries, need to pledge themselves to such
norms if the global migration system needs to be stabilised and made more humane than
what it has been.
Concluding remarks
The most remarkable impact of the success of Colombo Process in terms of making
migration across countries of Asia, particularly migration to and return from the Gulf
countries, relatively freer would give it the characteristics of resettling IDPs. On the contrary,
if the Dhaka Declaration of Colombo Process Member Countries, adopted on 21 April 2011,
is any indication of the future shape of things to emerge, the fact would remain that it is
unlikely for the Colombo Process to usher in anything like that kind of freer migration in the
region20. While the declaration took note of the global financial and economic crisis as well as
the political unrest in key destination countries of West Asia and North Africa affecting
labour mobility, the eighth and the last recommendation of the declaration under ‘‘services
and capacity building’’ reads as follows: ‘‘To encourage mobility in job market, consistent with
national regulations’’ (emphasis added). The two recommendations under ‘‘emergency response
and emerging issues’’ read as follows:
To develop appropriate policy and institutional response capacity to mitigate the impact
of emergency situations on migrant workers, including ensuring their safety, security and wellbeing as well as early evacuation, repatriation, compensation and opportunities to return to
their jobs;
To further explore the possible nexus between environmental degradation and climate
change on one hand and human mobility on the other, and its likely implications on labour
In both cases, it is the national, rather than the multilateral or the bilateral, institutional
framework that is likely to be strengthened, and environmental migration would be dealt with
only under ‘‘emergency measures’’. The declaration also resolved that the next, fifth,
consultation would take place only in 2013, and not earlier despite the fact that the fourth was
unduly delayed. Under the circumstances, only the following second best developments could
be speculated to take place:
IMDS Working Paper Series
There would be tendencies for much more seasonal (pre-monsoon, for example, to avoid
floods) migration in these categories across national borders to India, mainly from Nepal (as
there are no visa requirements), and less from Bangladesh (though not necessarily from
Pakistan), than for permanent settlement, mainly because ‘‘temporary return’’ to homeland
would become easier over the next 50 years.
The Colombo Process would probably facilitate evacuation across the borders for crisis
management in the case of extreme events such as flash floods, earthquakes and similar
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The IMDS Working Paper Series is published by International Migration and
Diaspora Studies Project at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
© IMDS Working Papers cannot be republished, reprinted or reproduced in any
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Citations of this publication should be made in the following manner:
Author, Year, “Title of the Paper”, IMDS Working Paper, No. #, month,
International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project, ZHCES, JNU, New Delhi.
ISSN 0976-271X
Professor Binod Khadria, Convener
Professor Deepak Kumar, Member
Professor Ajit K. Mohanty, Member
Professor P.M. Kulkarni, Member
Professor Sucheta Mahajan, Member
Professor Binod Khadria, Project Director
Rashmi Sharma
Perveen Kumar
Umesh L. Bharte
Nicky Naincy
International Migration and Diaspora Studies Project
Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University
New Delhi 110067, India
Tel: +91 11 26704417
Email: [email protected]
The views expressed in the papers are those of the author and do not
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IMDS Working Paper Series
December, 2008
WP 1 International Migration Policy: Issues and Perspectives
for India
Binod Khadria, Perveen Kumar, Shantanu Sarkar
and Rashmi Sharma
WP 2 India Recentred: The Role of Indian Diaspora in the
Globalisation Process
Eric Leclerc
WP 3 Return Migration as a Tool for Economic Development
in China and India
Anja Wiesbrock
March, 2009
WP 4 Highly-skilled Migrations in Canada and the U.S.: The
Tale of two Immigration Systems
Wei Li and Lucia Lo
WP 5 Pakistani Diaspora in the United States: An Economic
Hisaya Oda
WP 6 Future of Migration from South Asia to the OECD
Countries: Reflections on India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
Binod Khadria
May, 2009
WP 7 The Indian and Chinese Academic Diaspora in Australia:
A Comparison
Graeme Hugo
WP 8 Migration and Diaspora Formation: Mobility of Indian
Students to the Developed World
Perveen Kumar, Shantanu Sarkar and Rashmi Sharma
WP 9 Indian Overseas Migration, Marriage Markets and
Citizenship Issues
Gavin Jones
July 2009
WP 10 - Emigration Data: We Need a Change of Focus
Amal Sanyal
WP 11 - Indians in Britain
Stephen Castles
WP 12 - Indian Diaspora in International Relations: 'Tinker,
Tailor, Soldier, Spy', or
A Great Off-White Hope' of the New Century?
Binod Khadria
September, 2009
WP 13 - Economic, Political and Social Conditions of Indian
Migration to Germany
Beatrice Knerr
WP 14 - Bridging the Binaries of Skilled and Unskilled Migration
from India
Binod Khadria
WP 15 - From High Skill Migration to Cosmopolitan Service Class?
Irish Migration Policy in a European Context
James Wickham
November 2009
WP 16 - Being Indian in Post-Colonial Manila: Diasporic Ethnic
Identities, Class, and the Media
Jozon A. Lorenzana
WP 17 - The Gendered Political Economy of Migration
Nicola Piper
WP 18 - Struggle to Acculturate in the Namesake: A Comment on
Jhumpa Lahiri's Work as Diaspora Literature
Mahesh Bharatkumar Bhatt
March 2010
WP 19 - Root Causes and Implications of International Migration
for Sending and Destination Countries: Lessons from the
Mexican-U.S. Experience
Raul Delgado Wise
WP 20 WP 21 -
Health Transition of Indian and Chinese Immigrants in
the US
Lopamudra Ray Saraswati
Indian Immigration to the United Kingdom
William Somerville
June 2010
WP 22
Diaspora and Development: Lessons from the Chinese
of Southeast Asia and Pointers towards a Research
Ronald Skeldon
WP 23 - Indian Immigrant Labour in Malaya during the
Economic Crisis of the 1930s
K. Nadaraja
WP 24 - Indian Migration and "Temporary" Labour Programs:
Select Contrasts in Policies and Trends
in the European Union and the United States
Mary Breeding
September 2010
WP 25- Regional Migration Policy in Southern Africa: Bilateral
Hegemony, Regional Integration and Policy Transfers
Aurelia Wa Kabwe-Segatti
WP 26 - South-South Migration and the Rise of Xenophobia in
India and South Africa
Jonathan Crush and Sujata Ramachandran
WP 27 - Competition for Global Talent - A Comparative Study of
the European and the Canadian Immigration Policies with
Regards to Highly Skilled Migrants
Zdravka Zulj
December 2010
WP 28 - Latin American Skilled Migration: Historical Trends and
Recent Challenges
Lucas Luchilo
WP 29 - Trends and Characteristics of Latinoamerican Skilled
Migration to Spain and the United States (2000-2008)
Martin Koolhaas, Nicolas Fiori and Adela Pellegrino
WP 30 - Diaspora Inquiry: Search for a Method
Aditya Raj
March 2011
WP 31 - Migration and Morality: Sovereign Finance and
Dehumanized Immigrants
Amiya Kumar Bagchi
WP 32 - The Role of Migration in Re-structuring Innovation
Binod Khadria and Jean-Baptiste Meyer
WP 33 - Household Capabilities: A Different Approach for
Explaining International Migration from Rural Punjab
Puran Singh
June 2011 Special Issue
June 2011 Special Issue–-In lieu of WP 34-36
An Exploratory Study on Circular Migration from India
to European Union
Binod Khadria
September 2011
WP 37 - Understanding Migration in the Asia-Pacific Region
through a model of 'Hubs and Hinterlands'
Binod Khadria
WP 38 - The New Dalit Diaspora: A Sociological Analysis
Vivek Kumar
WP 39 - Widening Income gap and Economic Disparity among
South Asians in Canada
Sandeep Agrawal
December 2011
WP 40 - India Diaspora in the United States: Issues and
Manan Dwivedi
WP 41 - Middle-East Country Policies
Binod Khadria
WP 42 - Governing International Migration in the Global Age:
Challenges of the Divide between Immigration and
Emigration Policy
Perveen Kumar
March-December 2012
March-December 2012- Special Issue-In lieu of WP 43-54
Tapas Majumdar Memorabilia, In commemoration of the
second Death Aniversary of Late Professor Tapas Majumdar.
Available at -
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