This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Contrasting Tales of Indian Migrants

Thanks to Nick Parr for pointing to an article in the Economist highlighting the incredible success of migrants from India to the United States:
On the usual measures of success they outstrip all other minorities, including Jewish-Americans. They are educated and rich. In 2012 some 42% held first or higher degrees; average family income was over $100,000, roughly double that of white Americans (see chart). Over two-thirds of them hold high-status jobs. They have done so well that many migrants from Pakistan or Bangladesh like to call themselves Indian, hoping that some of the stardust will rub off on them.
The graph below highlights the overall numbers:

But it turns out that this is not how life turns out for all migrants from India seeking work elsewhere in the world. In today's OZY, Charu Sudan Kasturi has an article about the discrimination faced by Indian and Filipino workers in Singapore and in the Middle East. They are confronted by low wages and poor working conditions, xenophobia from locals, and even potential conflict between immigrant groups.
Indians, the largest immigrant community in these cities and countries, mostly work in the construction industry as laborers, with a minority employed in white-collar jobs. Most Filipinos — the second-largest immigrant group — work as nurses, caregivers and household help. Yet some host nations often end up pitting the two immigrant groups against each other in a contest to prove which is better suited for the land where they work.
Higher wages in places like Singapore and the UAE have long drawn Indian and Filipino workers from their home countries. A nurse, for example, earns about 3,000 rupees ($47) a month in India, or 2,500 dirhams ($680) in Dubai. Strict curbs on freedom of expression and the threat of deportation keep workers there “firmly in line,” says Syed Ali, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York. If they go on strike, for instance, or even just make demands for better wages and working conditions, “they’ll often get arrested and deported,” Ali says. “Or the companies fire them, so they lose their work permits, their visas get canceled and they have to leave.”
In the UAE, salaries often depend on the worker’s nationality — to compensate foreign workers proportionate to wages they’d earn back in their own countries, Ali says. That’s why Europeans tend to get paid more than a local, who in turn usually earns more than a Filipino. A Filipino would earn marginally more than an Indian. “There are often sentiments expressed about unfair advantage and privilege,” Kathiravelu says.
The point here, of course, is that the country of origin is less important than your choice of a destination and that depends heavily on your education and the range of "salable skills."

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