Why migrate to earn less?

Changing tertiary education, skilled migration and class slippage in an economic downturn

Kumiko Kawashima*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This paper examines the changing experience of middle-class labour in an economic downturn and its relation to migration motivations. At the heart of this paper is an intriguing question of why educated middle-class workers would leave metropolises with high standards of living to work in a provincial city abroad where they perform routine tasks and earn less than they would in comparable positions back home. An analysis of in-depth interviews with Japanese service workers in China’s digital outsourcing industry focuses on their educational background and employment experience prior to migration. Based on my findings, I argue that relatively educated migrants use their diminishing middle-class resources to access an occupational niche abroad, in order to (temporarily) evade the increased risk of class slippage in the society of origin. Japan’s experience of a long-term economic slump since the early 1990s provides a fruitful point of comparison for studies that investigate changing youth transitions from education to employment and their relationship to migration patterns and class mobility in economically stagnant nations elsewhere. I critically engage with the literature on middling migration to highlight the usefulness of a historically sensitive and relational perspective from which to study middle-class migrants.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Ethnic and Migration Studies
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Japan
  • middle class migrants
  • middling migration
  • recession
  • Skilled migration
  • tertiary education

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Why migrate to earn less? Changing tertiary education, skilled migration and class slippage in an economic downturn'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this