23 SES 12 B, Theorising Policy ‘Blind-spots’ through Studies of Education and Skilled Migrants and Refugees in Europe, Canada and Australia
Education and training are seen as key drivers for economic activity and social improvement and underpin the formation of economic and social policy at the level of national governments and intra national organizations such as the OECD and World Bank (Farrell & Fenwick 2007). Whilst, the focus at national level has often been on increasing demand for education and training among existing populations, some countries have seen migration as the panacea for economic development. Countries such as Canada and Australia have taken a supply side approach to building their skilled workforce by prioritizing discretionary inward mobility of skilled migrants to solve skill shortages, although recently Australia has shifted to a demand-based employer-driven migration system. In contrast, in the European Union, the free movement of people within some member states, has meant the domination of non-discretionary migration. However, non-discretionary migration within Europe is falling and Europe’s labour markets need more skilled workers (Kahanec & Zimmermann 2010). In Europe, up-skilling existing populations has not been sufficient and nor has demand-based or employer-driven migration. This symposium will draw on country comparisons to reveal and theorise some policy 'blind-spots' that are emerging from the cross field effects of migration and education policy making on opportunities for migrants and the practices of employers and education providers.
The context is the growth of a global knowledge economy and increasing competition between countries for skilled workers. There is a growing mobile workforce of skilled professional migrants and refugees from countries of the emerging regions, India, China and South-east Asia, as well as highly educated people from conflict zones, particularly in central Asia and Africa, who emigrate seeking better lives and career opportunities in developed countries, such as the European Union, Canada and Australia. Yet, migration, especially from the Global South and South East Asia, is not without difficulties. Much quantitative research particularly in Canada and Australia has documented the deskilling of immigrant professionals, particularly if they are people of colour, from countries where English is not the main language or can be identified as visible migrants (Colic-Peisker & Tilbury, 2006; Reitz, 2001, Li, 2001; Henry-Waring, 2012). Women specifically, especially those who migrate as secondary applicants based on their partner’s application or without an employer to sponsor them face disproportionate difficulties in finding employment commensurate with their previous experience and education qualifications.
The migration of highly skilled people, particularly women challenges the logics of education and discretionary migration policies that presume a simple relationship between skills and their utilization in knowledge economies. This symposium explores the ‘blind-spots’ in these policy logics and seeks to develop migration theory and a better understanding of education and employment through three papers that discuss migrants and refugees experiences of de-professionalization and deskilling and exclusion in relation to education and training systems in Europe, Canada and Australia.
The symposium draws on a range of funded research projects in these three contexts to investigate the experiences of migrants and refugees and the role of learning and formal education and training in their migratory transitions.
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