Academic journal article Migration Letters

Femininities and Masculinities in Highly Skilled Migration: Peruvian Graduates' Narratives of Employment Transitions and Binational Marriages in Switzerland

Academic journal article Migration Letters

Femininities and Masculinities in Highly Skilled Migration: Peruvian Graduates' Narratives of Employment Transitions and Binational Marriages in Switzerland

Article excerpt

Introduction

Peruvian migration represents an example of feminization of highly skilled migration. Among the 2.8 million of Peruvians (9% of the population in 2015) who left the country between 1990 and 2015, a large number of migrants were women. Peruvian women's international migration grew from 31% between 1932 and 1950 to 57% in the period of 1991-2000, and then decreased to 53% in 2015 (INEI, 2010, 2016b; Sanchez, 2012). Peruvians who migrated were highly educated between 1990 - 2015, and 21% and 9% declared being university students and professionals, respectively. During the same period, women represented 53% of professionals and 49% of students (INEI, 2016b). In the literature, although women's migration has been recently researched in relation to specific jobs and skills, such as care workers, the feminization of highly skilled migration has remained unexplored (Dumitru & Marfouk, 2015). Drawing on a biographical approach, this article aims to fill this gap, with a special focus on the experiences of highly skilled Peruvian men and women in Switzerland. Highly skilled migration includes qualified foreigners who earn Higher Education (HE) degrees in the host country, and subsequently embark on job hunting (Hawthorne, 2014). Aside from work-related legal paths, international student migration might be followed by binational marriage in order to settle in the host country (Fleischer, 2011). Foreign graduates' employment outcomes thus intertwine with family transitions such as partnership and parenthood (Geddie, 2013). Provided the gendered division of family caregiving, binational marriages can mediate highly skilled female and male migrants' labour market participation differently (Fleischer, 2011; Fresnoza-Flot, 2017). Researchers have paid little attention to professional and family-related masculinities and femininities amongst highly skilled migrants (Hibbins, 2005; Varrel, 2011). Here, I explore how Peruvian graduates from Swiss universities evoke gender norms while narrating their employment transitions, their partnership and childcare arrangements in Switzerland. Peruvian women's access to university education and the labour market in Peruvian urban middle class have an impact on the dissociation between femininity and maternity, on the growing importance given to professional projects (Fuller, 2001), as well as on the practice of delaying family formation (Cieza, 2016). When abroad, these women's career aspirations might clash with Swiss restrictive migration (Riaño, 2011) and neo-maternalistic care regimes (Giraud & Lucas, 2009). In contrast with a binary vision that views home countries as sites of women's oppression and host countries as sites of women's emancipation, I found that the male breadwinner/female caregiver model persists in these highly skilled women's and men's transnational experiences between Peru and Switzerland.

The article is structured into six main sections. First, I briefly illustrate the literature about international students, highly skilled and family migration, and present my framework for studying gender norms in this context. Afterwards, I present the gendered employment and migration characteristics of Peru, as well as the Swiss care and migration regimes for non-EU foreigners. After describing my research methods, I analyse the meanings of femininities/masculinities in Peruvian graduates' narratives. Finally, I present some concluding remarks.

Gender Norms in Binational Marriage: Mediation of Employment after Graduation

Previous research focused on the spouse's role in academic mobility and international student migration (Bordoloi, 2015; Schaer, Dahinden, & Toader, 2016), and on the impact of binational marriages on highly skilled non-EU women's careers (Raghuram, 2004; Riaño, 2011). International student migration has also received increased attention from various scholars (King & Raghuram, 2013; Teichler, 2015), for instance regarding the legal situations and employment of foreign graduates (Hawthorne & To, 2014; Mosneaga & Winther, 2013; Suter & Jandl, 2008). …

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