Migration and the Politics of Making Skills Visible

Faculty: Natasha Iskander
Team: Amanda Alampi, Jillian Anderson, Grisel Caicedo, Cosmo Fujiyama, Matt Lisiecki, Heidi McAnnally-Linz, Mercedes Pepper, Natalie Relich, Yady Ibarra Ruiz, Maria Sarta Herrera, Andreina Seijas, Fiona Wanqing He, Casey Weston, Ali Wimer
Year: 2013

When people migrate across national borders, they often encounter challenges in having their skill recognized and valued in the labor markets they enter. Migrants with skills that place them in-between the categories of highly skilled knowledge workers and unskilled workers face obstacles that are particularly daunting: their skills often remain unrecognized and unrewarded in new labor markets, and migrants who once filled positions as nurses, skilled construction workers, chefs, mechanics, and other professions often find themselves pushed into low-wage jobs for unskilled workers after they migrate. The Capstone team partnered with the World Bank to explore policy tools designed to address the challenges faced by mid-skilled migrants. Through qualitative research, including extensive interviewing and on-site ethnographic observation, the team analyzed several programs crafted to support migrants from the Philippines, the Pacific Island region, and Mexico; the programs examined helped migrants develop skills and equipped them with the institutional tools – such a certification and agreements negotiated among countries about which skills were required for which profession – to make their skills visible across labor markets. In its analysis of these programs, the team explored possible obstacles to effective implementation such as sources of financing, the negation of institutional partnerships, and reaching agreements about the specific skill required for any given job. Using findings from this first round of research, the team investigated the institutional changes required to create a program for the skill development and skill recognition of nurses and home health care workers between France and North Africa.