Resolving a crisis of habitus : the experiences of professionals and managers from South Asia in Australia
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The aim of this research is to examine the challenges faced by the highly skilled migrant professionals and managers from South Asia as they attempt to advance their careers in Australia. Existing literature reveals a gap between skilled migration policies and responses to those policies by organisations; for example, the non-recognition of overseas acquired skills and qualifications. This thesis explores the nature of the migrant experience paying particular attention to occupational progress.In this thesis, the theory of habitus is employed as a framework for analysis. A person’s habitus is composed of cultural, social and economic capital that, together, form the particular social space that they occupy within certain social conditions – in this case, occupation and career. To support the analysis, disembedding, sense making and acculturation are utilised to help conceptualise the issues relating to the alteration of the occupational/career space brought on by migration.In employing a mixed method research strategy, this thesis combines two qualitative methodologies of phenomenology and analysis of narratives in the collection and analysis of data. The initial stage of the research was to establish an understanding of the ‘home country habitus'. To achieve this, field observation data was collected in Pakistan. The main data collection consisted of in-depth, semi-structured interviews that continued until the data was saturated. In total, twenty-one South Asian migrants fitting the selection criteria were interviewed.The analysis reveals that upon migration, people are uprooted from their inherited social conditions and thrust into new social conditions creating a 'crisis of habitus' characterised here as being a state of 'disembeddedness'. Social capital is lost, economic capital is depleted and cultural capital is transformed in unexpected ways. This prompts attempts at reconciling the crisis, through sense making and, following this, acculturation. The analysis also brings to light that gender is a significant factor in the shaping of this process. It was found that women face more barriers than their male counterparts.While this research is limited to South Asians in an Australian context, it raises some interesting questions worthy of further research in other national contexts and with other migrant groups. It has brought into focus previously unexamined avenues of research and brings to light new theoretical insights. It also has the potential to raise awareness amongst policy makers and business organisations to help them in their quest to recruit and retain skilled and qualified people.
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