The economies of China and Singapore are among the
most dynamic migration regions in the world. But Japan and Korea also rely on
the immigration of skilled workers. The competition for qualified professionals
sets several million people on the move in these regions every year. The role
that skills and education play in mobility is now being investigated by scholars
on East Asia from the universities of Frankfurt and Duisburg-Essen, the Free
University of Berlin, and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Multiethnic
and Multireligious Societies in Göttingen. The junior research group
coordinated by Goethe University will receive a total of more than 2 million
euros from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for the next
four years as part of the "Small Subjects " funding initiative.
FRANKFURT. Aging societies in
industrialised nations need skilled workers - specialists in the IT sector, in
innovative start-ups, or from top universities. This applies to Germany as well
as to the East Asian countries of South Korea, Singapore, China, and especially
Japan. Because of their quality of life and lucrative renumeration, these
countries are attractive for qualified migrants. But the recipe for success in
the competition for the best brains is far from clear: What attracts
well-trained specialists to Japan, South Korea, China, or Singapore? What facilitates,
and what hinders the integration of skilled foreign workers? What social
networks do skilled migrant workers develop? What role does their own
initiative for further qualification, their ethnicity and nationality, their
gender and multilingualism play? And what causes skilled workers to return to
their home countries after years?
"If a country's immigration policy is to be
sustainable," explains project leader Dr Ruth Achenbach from Goethe
University, "then we need to know exactly what the perceptions of migrants
are." The aim of the research project, which will receive funding by the
BMBF of more than 2 million euros, is to examine the role of skills of migrant professionals.
The researchers hope their findings will contribute to sustainable immigration
policies in industrial nations.
In addition to Ruth Achenbach and Dr Joohyun Justine Park from the
Interdisciplinary Centre for East Asian Studies (Goethe University), the
academic team includes Dr Helena Hof (MPI Göttingen) as well as Dr Megha Wadhwa
(Free University Berlin) and Dr Aimi Muranaka (University Duisburg-Essen). In
addition, the researchers work with numerous external regional cooperation
The research project will collect qualitative data in different East Asian
countries over a period of three years. It will investigate the situation of
East Asian start-ups in Japan and Singapore as well as East Asian professionals
in South Korea; Chinese professionals in Japan, professionals who have returned
to China, and Vietnamese IT workers and Indian professionals in Japan will also
be interviewed. The Frankfurt sub-project also accompanies Chinese graduates of
the 20 best Japanese universities from the beginning of their job-hunting to
their first years on the labour market.
In the final year of funding, quantitative
research will be conducted in the East Asin countries to test a theory
developed from the qualitative research and previous migration research. In
doing so, the researchers also aim to improve the dominant Western concepts of
international migration research. Influenced by experiences of migration to
America and Europe, these concepts assume that the economic situation in the
country of origin and the country of immigration differ considerably. This is
not necessarily the case anymore with East Asian labour migration and the
project will differentiate between socioeconomic backgrounds of migrants.
The results of the empirical research as well as the
development of theory will not only be published scientifically, but they will
also be disseminated to the broader public. The project team’s dissemination
activities include workshops for high school teachers in the subjects of
politics and economics, and the release of a documentary film.
The researchers hope that their project will
strengthen the "small subjects" by linking the researchers' knowledge
of these regions with current research questions from sociology, political
science and economics, thus increasing the visibility of the small subjects.
Dr Ruth Achenbach
Interdisciplinary Centre for East Asian Studies
Goethe University Frankfurt