The shaping of the new Zimbabwean diaspora
- The shaping of the new Zimbabwean diaspora
- Inclusion and exclusion in the UK
- McGregor, J
- University of Reading
- Jun 2006
To fill the gap in knowledge on this new, significant and understudied group and to contribute to academic and policy debates on migration, employment and diasporic identities. Specific objectives include: to deepen the understanding of how the ‘new African diaspora' is shaped by the nature of migrant inclusion in the UK, with an emphasis on welfare sector employment; to examine insertion into employment, and the legal and social barriers entailed; to contribute to debates over ‘diasporization' by exploring how labour market incorporation affects changing identities and global diasporic networks; to contribute to policy debates around migration management.
Semi-structured interviews with over 90 Zimbabweans, both individually and in small groups or pairs, including with marital partners or friends. Participation in Zimbabwean community events, focus groups and written diaries were also used. Participants were contacted through intermediaries with different social networks and the author's own contacts. They were drawn from a variety of areas of employment, although nursing, care work, teaching and other unskilled work predominated. Zimbabwean employers were also interviewed. Both men and women were interviewed from each occupational area and Zimbabwe's two main tribes were represented. Participants had a range of legal statuses, including asylum seekers and refugees. Six Zimbabwean research assistants were used although over two thirds of interviews were carried out by the main researcher.
In the care sector, Zimbabwean migrants had entered as a result of both existing vacancies and worsened working conditions owing to privatisation. Zimbabwean social networks centred on this sector due to the presence of Zimbabwean subcontractors. Experiences of work were more negative than positive: some had used it to advance their goals but many felt stressed, trapped and deskilled in the process. Within the care sector the interviewees tended to work where the conditions were worse. Irregular status posed particular workplace problems. Race and sex discrimination (the latter against male carers) were reported. A variety of problems were reported amongst nurses and teachers despite ‘relatively well developed social networks and a history of organised recruitment', among them insecurity of various kinds and skills mismatches. Nurses tended to wish to continue in the sector despite the difficulties encountered however most teachers wished to leave due to the working environment. Family and identity were important to the participants. Many were concerned at different manifestations of what they perceived as the ‘breakdown' of family life in Britain. Their own identity was often defined in relation to this. Children had often been brought to the UK for negative reasons. Such decisions impacted upon ideas about home and belonging and the extent to which Zimbabweans feel part of UK society.
In general, the findings increase understanding of the problems faced by this migrant group in the light of the particular conditions they as a group left in Zimbabwe and now face in the UK, especially with regard to legal status and work. This research is relevant to and indeed has already fed into to policy debate, especially around work-related legislation affecting migrants. Furthermore the findings contribute to ongoing theoretical debates in three key areas: global care chains, gender and skilled migration, and processes of ‘diasporization'.
A means of regularising those with insecure status should be found and skilled migrants in particular need a better facilitated path into professional work in the UK. Further research priorities include the dynamics of race and gender in the UK care sector and ‘new African diasporas' in British contexts. Within these broad themes the report lists a number of specific subject areas on which such future research might focus.
- Resource Type
- Research report
- Funded By
- Economic and Social Research Council [ESRC] (Research council)
- £ Free