Self-initiated strategies for labour market integration among tied migrants in South Africa

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Zinatsa, Farirai
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University of the Free State
South Africa is a hub for migration in sub-Saharan Africa and a prominent reservoir of migratory flows within and beyond the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since the early 2000s, this skills-constrained country has implemented policies to harness the talents of skilled migrants for economic growth and development. On the part of migrants, the decision to emigrate represents an opportunity to improve their social and economic well-being and support their families back home in remittances. Skilled female migrants emigrating within the context of family as accompanying spouses (also known as tied migrants) remain obscured, particularly in the Global South, where the image of a skilled migrant is typically regarded as male. Tied migrants face multiple disadvantages that impact their ability to integrate themselves in the labour market in host countries. In the absence of support, they must devise their own strategies for LMI. Extant research on the labour market integration (LMI) of these migrants focuses mainly on the experiences of those who emigrate from the Global South to the Global North. Not much is known about the LMI of tied migrants who emigrate from one developing country to another, that is, within the Global South. This knowledge is essential in the context of the growing significance and magnitude of south-to-south migratory flows. Therefore, this thesis sought in-depth elucidation of how tied migrant outcomes concerning labour market integration are shaped by overarching power relations mediated by multiple axes of advantage or disadvantage. It also sought to understand how tied migrants resisted these governing technologies to fulfil their own aspirations. This study applied the theory of governmentality, and intersectionality as a heuristic device that enabled a comprehensive, multilevel analysis incorporating micro, meso and macro factors impacting the labour market integration (LMI) of tied migrants in South Africa. Data collection took place between August 2020 and February 2021. The study incorporated an interpretive/ constructionist approach or emic perspective to interrogate the lived experience of tied migrants in South Africa. A total of 13 one-on-one interviews were conducted with female tied migrants. Each interview lasted one and a half hours on average. The study set about to answer the following questions: i. What governing technologies impacted the integration of accompanying spouses into the South African labour market? ii. How did accompanying spouses attempt to overcome barriers to labour market integration in the host country? iii. How did accompanying spouses fare in the labour market? Significant findings included that self-initiated (resistance) strategies that reflect agency and a push back on governing technologies by tied migrants, can facilitate integration into the South African labour market. However, these strategies are not necessarily sufficient to guarantee full labour market integration. The broad exclusionary context which is premised on ethnicised rationalities that characterise the South African labour market makes full LMI difficult to achieve, particularly in the absence of support for integration. Tied migrants in South Africa are subjected to governing technologies such as informality, temporality, precarity and immobility, which have the cumulative impact of producing less than satisfactory labour market outcomes. Despite the adverse experiences they face, tied migrants remain agile and adept at employing various strategies at various times to maximise opportunities presented within a given space in time, even as they continue to work to secure better outcomes in the future.
Thesis (Ph.D. (Development Studies))--University of the Free State, 2021
Southern African Development Community (SADC) -- Migration, Migration -- Scarce skills, South Africa -- Migration -- Skills