Why is that immigrant barman fresh from architecture school designing only shamrocks on the head of your Guinness? Or that cleaning lady with perfect English and the degree in literature, why is she cleaning the blackboard at your kids’ school and not teaching at it? Traditional accounts of immigrant success, or otherwise, in the labour market highlight a number of important, even obvious, factors at play in outcomes such as these: grasp of the language, level of education, time in the country, and networks of contacts all matter.
We all know that the sea is a dangerous place and should be treated with respect but it seems that Australian politicians have taken things a step (possibly even a leap) further. From sharks to asylum seekers the political response appears way out of line with the scale of the risk.
In the United Kingdom the name Matthew Flinders will rarely generate even a glint of recognition, whereas in Australia Captain Matthew Flinders (1774-1814) is (almost) a household name. My namesake was not only the intrepid explorer who first circumnavigated and mapped the continent of Australia but he is also a distant relative whose name I carry with great pride. But having spent the past month acquainting myself with Australian politics I can’t help wonder how my ancestor would have felt about what has become of the country he did so much to put on the map. Continue reading Sharks, asylum seekers, and Australian politics→
Liberal welfare states like Australia and Canada are often assumed to rely centrally on market mechanisms to provide welfare. Typically, in these countries, fewer obligations are owed by adult family members to other adults family members than in conservative welfare states. However, in the area of immigrant welfare, my research reveals that immigrant sponsors are increasingly bearing the brunt of financial costs of their parents and partners. Immigration selection policies place enduring contractual obligations upon adult immigrant sponsors to support their grown relatives, sometimes for long periods of time following immigration entry. These new forms of contractual obligations not only illuminate the stringent world of immigrant welfare provision, they also extend our understanding of familialism within welfare studies. Continue reading Welfare restrictions place financial pressure on new immigrant families→
Ever since immigrants began to come to the UK in significant numbers after the Second World War, governments have sought to find ways to manage relations between the white British ‘host’ community and new arrivals. This was politically problematic from the earliest days in the late 1940s as some British people resented their arrival; these tensions led in some cases to what were dubbed ‘race’ riots, initially blamed on migrants failing to adjust but later recognised to be generated by white hostility, assisted by racist policing responses. Initially, it was widely assumed that immigrants would assimilate into British culture and effectively become British people in every way save for the colour of their skins. This assimilationist approach was later (in the 1960s) recognised as unrealistic and demeaning to migrants’ cultures and identity, and gave way to approaches which were more respectful of migrants’ original identities; structures and organisations were created under the general rubric of race relations or community relations.
Eventually, the official policy response became known as multiculturalism, whereby, within a broad acceptance of British values and norms, migrants were free to maintain many important elements of their own culture. By the early part of the 21st century, however, in the context of increasing diversity and growing minority numbers, and anxiety about the growth of terrorism, some influential political voices were arguing that migrants were establishing what were effectively autonomous communities separate from the mainstream of British society. One such influential voice, Trevor Phillips, argued that Britain was ‘sleepwalking towards segregation’ and that this was the cause of much social and economic dislocation and, indeed, major disturbances in areas where there were significant migrant settlements. This ignored the fact that for many years, migrants had been disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion as a result of institutional and individual racism, and heavy-handed policing. The dominant government position now is that ‘multiculturalism is dead’ and the policy clock appears to be edging back towards an assimilationist position under the policy cover of what is now known as community cohesion and other similarly amorphous terms.
This article reports a study of managing local cultural relations in a city in northern England which found that ‘multiculturalism’ is never talked about in local authority policies or practices. The overall picture was one which distanced significantly from an explicit ‘race’ agenda, instead focusing on language, narratives and perceptions of difference and community tensions This shift appeared to be at the expense of tackling inequalities with targeted service provision and the representation of migrant and minority individuals or groups in local initiatives. The result is a dual, apparently contradictory process. The de-emphasis of ‘race’ in community cohesion and equalities policies aimed at managing difference has emerged alongside heightened security concerns, hostile media representations and xenophobia which reify different, Other, identifiable and racialised groups, in particular Muslims. It is now far more difficult to source financial support for migrant community organisations but the difficulties facing these communities – often generated by racist responses – remain.