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Publisher : Elsevier - Science Direct (الزویر - ساینس دایرکت)
Journal : Geoforum, Volume 51, January 2014, Pages 183–190
This paper contributes to the literature on labour migration by considering the class commonalities and differences as refracted through gender that are embedded within recruitment practices of different workers. Recent writings on the recruitment of labour migrants often distinguish between low-waged and middle-income workers without clearly addressing the linkages between recruitment practices of both. By adopting a comparative framework between Bangladeshi male migrants and transnational financial professionals, I draw out the varied configurations of gender and class that are deployed in recruitment processes that contour the existing division of labour in Singapore. For both groups of workers, their access to work is conditioned not only by technical skills but by their social and cultural capital as well. Through the analyses of the mesogeography of labour assembly, recruitment methods become crucial channels the realms of economic production and social reproduction are intertwined. This accounts for the segmented social space that is the labour market by demonstrating that recruitment processes are themselves embedded with specific class intersections as deployed through varied gender constructions.
My agent to come Singapore last time also worker in Singapore. So much money must pay agent so I borrow from my relatives and my father sold his land. Sujan, a 23 year old Bangladeshi man working in a shipyard. I think one of the most important things that anybody who is offered a position is the way you think that person would fit in to the group, to the corporate image. Gwen, a 42 year old British-Indian woman working as the vice president of sales at a foreign bank. Sujan, and Gwen are part of the foreign workforce in Singapore, making up about 33% of its total workforce.1 This is, however, a highly differentiated workforce where Sujan and Gwen have been incorporated in very different ways. This paper takes as a starting point labour recruitment practices to analyze inequality and precarity. More specifically, this paper contributes to the existing literature on labour migration by considering the class commonalities and differences embedded within recruitment practices of different workers’ livelihoods. I show that recruitment processes shape and are shaped by the existing division of labour in Singapore by examining the interconnections of two groups of workers in Singapore. I draw on my work with Bangladeshi male migrants and transnational financial professionals to show that the assembling of a transnational labour force, such as Singapore’s, is embedded with class and its intersections with gender. When analyzed as such, labour recruitment methods become a way through which we can read the intertwining realms of economic production and social reproduction. Existing literature on recruitment of labour migrants often distinguish between low-waged and highly-paid workers without clearly addressing the similarities between recruitment practices of both (e.g., Sassen, 1991). Fewer still have compared the ways in which gender is deployed through recruitment practices. Here, I offer a critique of these forms of labour assemblage practices by illustrating both the commonalities as well as distinctions of class between the two groups through recruitment. I argue that while the costs of recruitment are borne more heavily by the low-waged Bangladeshi male migrants, financial professionals are also subjected to tensions and uncertainties through the recruitment process. For both groups of workers, their access to work is conditioned not only by technical skills but by their social and cultural capital as well. This not only accounts for a segmented social space that is the labour market but shows how recruitment is embedded with specific class discourses and practices that, in turn, reproduce the classed lives of potential employees. I further argue that gender is reproduced in complex ways through recruitment processes that in turn, create particular classes of global working subjects. Much has been written about the gendered experiences and movements of labour migrants, in particular low-waged female, with a growing interest in male labour migrants from the Third World (Datta et al., 2009, Elmhirst, 2007, Jackson, 1991, Parrenas, 2001, Pratt, 2004, Silvey, 2006, Tyner, 1996 and Wright, 2006). The experiences of highly-skilled, highly-paid workers have also been documented, albeit to a smaller extent (see for example McDowell, 1997, McDowell, 2008a, McDowell, 2008b, Schoenberger, 1997 and Ye and Kelly, 2011). There is considerably less, although an increasing interest in the discussions of labour recruitment as a crucial part of migration (Lindquist, 2010 and Lindquist, 2012). Fewer still have employed comparative analyses of labour recruitment and its implications of class intersections with gender. In the remainder of the paper, I first discuss ways in which recruitment has been conceptualized in the context of migration before moving on to highlight what I mean by class. The empirical scope of the paper then examines the role of the Singaporean state in creating the geographical space for specific recruitment practices. This does not only contextualize the argument but given the unique capacity and power of the Singaporean state in shaping the spatial contours of its labour regime for economic development (Olds and Yeung, 2004, Perry et al., 1997 and Wong, 1997), this section reinforces that the assembly of a transnational labour force is localized and also a multi-level process. This is followed by an examination of the two groups of workers used as comparative case studies who, while differentiated through their work, experience similar social and cultural filters that conditions their access to work. Existing research indicates that migration brokerage is “nearly universal – and often transnational in nature – it is at the same time, highly local and patterns of operation are specific to local societies, particularly occupations or recruited populations” (Lindquist et al., 2012, Biao, 2007, Biao, 2012, Chee et al., 2012 and Grieco, 1996). Further, it has also been pointed out how political-economy powerfully shapes recruitment processes. Forming the backdrop, or perhaps even as a key actor in these processes would be the neoliberal attempts at deregulating the labour market (Peck, 1996). Along with the commodification of labour have come the weakening of labour unions, the erosion of social protection in the labour market, withdrawal of welfare entitlements and the widening of inequalities (Peck, 1996). Indeed, McDowell et al. argued that the British legal system has been unwilling to legislate to control the triangular relationship between workers, employment agencies and employers, leaving workers in the dark about their rights and excluded from forms of labour protection (2008). Xiang has also illustrated how labour recruitment agencies are not a sign of incomplete centralization of Chinese state power but rather as a result of hypercentralization. In this sense, agents function as an integral part of a complex structure of governance rather than undermining state authority, market order and migrant rights (Xiang, 2012). Thus, labour market allocation processes themselves need to be questioned. I argue that recruitment processes are not simply the result of existing labour market policies but are part and parcel of the labour market complex to the extent that it can perform social regulation within the division of labour. The social networks that form social capital becomes integral channels facilitating the recruitment process. Holiday, for instance, points out that Cambodian migrants to Malaysia usually access work through well-known and trusted members of their community (2012). This is in spite of the potential employee being duped at the point of recruitment through empty promises of a “good job” that comes with a high brokerage price tag. Indeed, Lindquist shows that the informal broker of Indonesian migrants also function as cultural brokers, where the process of moving workers from one place to another requires also localized knowledge to navigate bureaucracy (2012).
نتیجه گیری انگلیسی
An examination of the labour recruitment process highlights some of the main problems confronting many seeking employment and inclusion in the global economy. I demonstrated the interconnections between both groups of workers, characterized by similarities and distinctions between the groups. I reveal that in spite of their commonalities, the process of creating the global working subject is embedded with gender that is deployed in differing ways for both groups. Most straightforwardly, my comparative empirical analysis discusses the differentiated costs of entry into the global economy. My main argument is that access to work for both low-waged and middle-income migrants requires more than simply technical skills as demonstrated through Bourdieu’s notions of capital and their intersections with gender. I demonstrated that constituted by multi-level processes, recruitment practices do not only lead workers to different jobs but also require uneven configurations of capital from different workers. Through a discussion of state policies towards foreign labour, it becomes clear that the geography of recruitment for both groups of workers is structured through such institutionalized measures. While recruiters do not screen for social capital in Bangladeshi male migrants to the same extent as they do with financial professionals, the existing division of labour, the unregulated and highly localized methods of recruitment and the high agent fees nonetheless require the migrant to mobilize his social networks for a job in Singapore. Similar to the financial professional, however, lowwaged Bangladeshi men are also hired for perceived qualities tied to their masculinity that are beyond their technical capabilities. While it may be tempting to dismiss financial professionals as having a ‘‘better bargain’’, careful expressions of forms of cultural and symbolic capital emerge as a more pronounced indication of an individual’s value at work as seen through recruitment practices. In spite of the banks’ articulation of policies and values that emphasize ‘‘diversity’’ and ‘‘inclusion’’, there is a very specific type of individual that gains entry into the professional classes in financial work and after initial access, there are also specific task allocations for particular types of people within the sector. Indeed, the notion of ‘‘diversity’’ is used as a screening tool as well as a culmination of processes that select particular groups of people to be included in the social networks and knowledge-transfer – elements that contribute to work success. The performance of the ideal employee at the point of recruitment hence serves to produce and 8 This term refers to effeminate men. reproduce the power inequalities to the extent that there are specific displays of employees’ gendered selves that are constructed as ‘‘fitting’’ with the organization’s supposed cosmopolitan values and task allocation. It becomes reasonable to think that the on-going performance of a professional cosmopolitan identity is much more fragmented when we take these historical and social backgrounds of employees into consideration. The variability in recruitment practices of the two case studies presented here is significant in not just illustrating the differences in recruitment practices for different workers but also in articulating the different configurations of capital required of laboring bodies. At the same time, however, there are commonalities to be drawn from these practices as well. The comparative perspective presented here sheds light not only on the precarities faced by low-waged migrants but also by financial professionals where gender intersects with various forms of capital, reproducing class through recruitment. The workers in this study emerged as subjects through the nexus of structures and power relations that not only located certain groups of people in particular positions within the division of labour in Singapore but also produced certain ways of being. Class inequality exists beyond its theoretical representations: it is entirely central to the lives of the workers, consciously or pre-reflexively. Further, these are reproduced through recruitment practices at various levels, from the state, to the recruiters, to the firm, to the workers themselves. Within this form of economic organization, each group of workers is incorporated and valued differently and had differentiated access to resources. Class, in these terms, is structural – in that the division of labour organizes what economic opportunities are available to them. Class is also operated through a myriad of capital transformations – culturally, symbolically, economically – which are more available to some workers than others. Related to this, class is also dispositional, reproduced by one’s habitus. As I have demonstrated with two case studies in this paper, the deployment of gender within each group is not only about creating their lived experiences as men or as women but plays a crucial role in recreating them as global working subjects.