How Working from Home Affected the Social Networks and Satisfaction of Migrant Populations during COVID-19

Wanner, Philippe, Didier Ruedin, and Roberto Desponds Rodriguez. 2022. ‘How Working from Home Affected the Social Networks and Satisfaction of Migrant Populations during COVID-19’. Preprint. Research Square.

Objective: We examine how the requirement to work from home during COVID-19 affected the social integration of immigrants. Methods: Using a representative panel of 7,400 immigrants to Switzerland, we run ordered logistic regression models to test how a change in job status and the obligation to work from home is reflected in a range of social integration and well-being indicators. Results: Switching to working from home during the semi-lockdown period is associated with increased difficulties in communicating with the local population, adapting to the Swiss way of life, and making friends. It is also associated with increased dissatisfaction with social relationships but does not lead to a more negative evaluation of the stay in Switzerland. Conclusion: We conclude that work is a place of socialization for migrant populations, and therefore, it is important to consider the negative impact of a forced shift to telework on the integration of these populations.

Academia: reduce your working hours to get more work done⸮⸮⸮

I sometimes love how honest guides to academic “careers” can be. Take this description of a lecturer position (maître assistant):

In some departments, lecturers can obtain a reduction in their working hours in the final year of their contract so that they can devote more time to developing their research dossier. It’s worth obtaining information from colleagues about the department’s practices and where necessary negotiating a reduction.
“career advice” for lecturers

I realize this particular information is no longer updated, but the advice is quite simple: reduce your working hours to get more work done! Makes perfect sense⸮⸮⸮

It’s quite an honest description, though: temporary posts are dangerous and may undermine an academic career.

If you feel that your administrative responsibilities are jeopardising the development of your research dossier, you must have the courage to renegotiate your workload as soon as possible as temporary posts are dangerous and may undermine an academic career.
temporary posts are dangerous!

OK, but doesn’t this make you wonder why universities actually offer these positions that by their own admission are “dangerous” for a career, that do not include enough paid hours to get your work done? This particular guide suggests that lecturers “must take precautions against being overwhelmed by student supervision” and, better still, they “renegotiate your workload as soon as possible” — as if such a renegotiation were realistically possible.

It probably makes economic sense to have this kind of jobs, but if universities were seriously against precarious positions and exploitation, perhaps they could tackle this kind of position — maybe jointly with “part-time” PhD positions? Just an idea.

Life after the Migration PhD

This promises to be an excellent event!

Exploring possible career paths outside of academia in professional fields of migration and beyond

What can your working life look like after graduating? With the support of IMES, the ACES Migration Network, and the AISSR, the organisers launch a new hybrid seminar series titled “Life after the Migration PhD”. The series targets PhD researchers who work on migration or related topics and connects them to post-PhD professionals who have moved onto careers outside of academia. The seminars offer insight into a range of non-university working areas and function as a networking environment. They kick off on the 26th of October with a seminar by Claudia Simons.

During three monthly sessions from October to December 2021, we learn more about different working trajectories by talking to professionals in three fields: (1) research institutes outside of university (think-tanks, foundations); (2) international advocacy (NGOs, IOs) and (3) diplomacy and government institutions. The seminars are interactive.

More information and registration:

Theories of discrimination

Whether you’re new to research on (ethnic) discrimination or have a couple of studies under your belt, you could do worse than reading Lauren Rivera‘s review article on employer decision-making.

While I’m not entirely convinced about the ostensible lack of studies on employers, the review really shines on summarizing different reasons for discrimination. Oddly enough, most of the article s I come across seem to highlight the distinction between taste-based discrimination and statistical discrimination (yes, our meta-analysis included), and largely neglect other theories. Lauren Rivera solves this by zooming out and drawing a distinction between competency-based, status-based, and social closure–based approaches. Much of the literature focuses on competency-based arguments, in which employers are almost absent other than picking the ‘best fit’ or the ‘most competent’.

In the review, Lauren Rivera highlights important differences within these three broad categories. For instance, within competency-based approaches, we have:

  • human capital theory — disparities are the result of skills and educational mismatches
  • signalling theory — disparities stem from not using the right signals of competence
  • social capital — disparities because workers do not have the same networks and ties to organizations that are valued by the companies
  • statistical discrimination — perceptions or actual average group performance is taken as a proxy, leading to disparities

We also have status-based approaches where disparities are the result of implicit or explicit views of the characteristics of groups, like warmth or ‘worth’. I guess we could speak of stereotypes here, but perhaps this is not helpful. Whatever we call these perceptions, they act as filters that disadvantage groups with low status. In this context, I missed a clearer position on the fact that some descriptions of ‘statistical discrimination’ in the literature are rather inaccurate.

There are also theories drawing on social closure. These include the ‘taste-based’ (overt or covert) dislike of minority groups. While this theory is very often invoked in publications, I have not come across many contributions that make explicit the link to social closure. This link is useful, because it allows us to see other approaches drawing on opportunity hoarding and preservation (these arguments seem more common in the literature on anti-minority attitudes than on discrimination): the desire to keep existing privileges and resources for the in-group, so employers exclude members of minority groups.

I liked the part on emotions, and decisions by ‘similarity’ in the review, but missed a more explicit link to the comparison of theories in table 1.

Rivera, Lauren A. 2020. ‘Employer Decision Making’. Annual Review of Sociology 46 (1): 215–32.

Zschirnt, Eva, and Didier Ruedin. 2016. ‘Ethnic Discrimination in Hiring Decisions: A Meta-Analysis of Correspondence Tests 1990–2015’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 42 (7): 1115–34.