Case studies: migrant workers in Brussels

Too often the media talk about migrants in aggregated, impersonal terms.  This article by N.Nielsen is an exception.  It presents several mini-case studies of economic migrants in Brussels and brings to the fore some of the subjective reasons for why the migrants put up with their situation.  A lot remains to be said about the problem of adaptive preferences (Elster) which leads people to justify and assess the things that happen to them in relation to their prior experience (i.e., migrants may be putting up with bad treatment because it is comparatively better on some level than their life was in their home country).  Still, it is important to acknowledge this side of the story.


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  1. In Spain, my home country, the ethnostratification is evident everywhere. We have a strong family culture which relies on families for the primary things (instead of relying on the state). However, as women’s employment increases (and they spend less time at home) those primary family functions become weaker, above all elderly care. Thus, migrants (women migrant, double bias) are replacing Spanish women and carrying out the sexist family tasks that Spanish women can no longer withstand but still culturally accept.

  2. True! The same has been happening in Italy and Greece, but is only just beginning in the “new Europe” (the 2004 and 2007 accession states). It’s a “wave” that’s going through Europe heading eastwards. There is definitely far more to migration than discrimination (although discrimination is a huge and painful issue). For one, it affects division of labour in the countries of migration in the way you described; and also think of what happens in the countries from which those domestic workers (women) arrive. just two examples –
    – i.e. children of migrant workers in the host country: http://margeryosborne.weebly.com/uploads/1/4/2/3/1423738/qsehomeless.pdf
    – effects on sending countries http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28438/1/GreeSE_No35.pdf

    • Thanks for the links. Yes, I agree with you; both origin and destination countries must be taken into account in order to study today’s migration phenomenon, and I would add that it’s inextricably related to what Negri calls ‘Empire’ (probably Wallerstein’s notions of ‘periphery’ and ‘core’ have become inadequate nowadays).

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