Highly Qualified Migrations from Southern Europe in Times of Crisis: Gain or Waste of Brains?

3 March 2022. From 18:30  To 20:00 | Conference | Spanish | IEMed
slideshow image REUTERS/Albert Gea

The number of highly skilled migrants is constantly increasing globally for several reasons. On the one hand, between the years 2007-2017, when the economic crisis broke out, thousands of highly qualified individuals from countries like Spain or Italy moved to other countries of Europe and North America in search of better employment opportunities. On the other hand, in the context of the knowledge economy, and the consequent race among highly industrialized countries to obtain global talent, several governments put in place policies to attract highly qualified migrants. At the same time, considering what the speaker Riaño has called “migration for love”, love is today a central factor in the project and the decision to move to another place. This is exemplified by Switzerland, where almost 40% of the marriages that take place annually are binational unions between a Swiss and a migrant person. A large part of these migrants have university education. This context generates important research questions: to what extent do highly qualified migrants manage to obtain a job that corresponds to their qualifications, or on the contrary, they only manage to obtain jobs below their qualifications? In this lecture Riaño takes the case of Switzerland, a country with a high number of highly skilled migrants from various countries. The speaker adopts an intersectional perspective to examine the extent to which there are differences between highly-skilled migrants and non-migrants, men and women, regarding their labor integration. The results highlight the key role of gender and country of birth, as well as the strategies developed by couples to distribute paid work and domestic work.

Yvonne Riaño is an Associate Professor at the Geography Institute of the University of Neuchâtel, and chair at the Swiss National Committee of the International Geographical Union (IGU). She also leads a research group on Transnational Migrant Entrepreneurship at the National Centre of Competence in Research nccr – on the move. Specializing in Geographies of Inequality, Riaño uses a feminist perspective and participatory methodologies in her work to contribute to self-governance in Latin American informal settlements and the role of migration policies in shaping unequal work opportunities, among other areas of research. She has published an extensive selection of peer-reviewed articles in international books and journals. Among her recent publications “Unequal opportunities for skills development between highly skilled women and men, migrants and nonmigrants” (in Population, Space and Place, 2021) and “Policies of international student mobility and migration: theoretical and empirical insights” (with Christof Van Mol and Parvati Raghuram, in Globalisation, Societies and Education, 2018).

Moderated by Thales Speroni, postdoctoral researcher at CER-Migracions. Conference co-organised by the IEMed as part of the Aula Mediterrània 2021-22 programme in collaboration with the Master in Master’s in Contemporary Migrations, Rights and Social Cohesion, UAB/UB.

This lecture takes place at the IEMed conference room, Girona, 20 – Barcelona and it can also be followed on the IEMed Youtube Channel.



Yvonne Riaño

Associate professor Institute of Geography, Université de Neuchâtel

Thales Speroni

Postdoctoral researcher CER-Migracions

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