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Migrating skills, skilled migrants and migration skills: The influence of contexts on the validation of migrants’ skills

Magdalena Nowicka


Notions of skill are geographically and historically specific; migration regimes, professional regulations and national policies influence possibilities of effective validation of migrant knowledge abroad. Migration scholars convincingly demonstrate how migrants actively circumvent national requirements to fit into the dominant culture of the society of residence while preserving their own identities. Yet, without exception, social inequalities research exclusively addresses the integration of migrants into the receiving context, taking skills as a fixed attribute migrants simply ‘bring with them’. I argue that the context of origin of migrants for skill acquisition and validation during the migration process needs to be considered as well. The way skills are defined, acquired and valorised in the country of origin has an influence on how migrants mobilise them in the receiving society and on how they perceive their chances for negotiating strong positions in the labour market of the host country. The article draws on a study of Polish migrants to the UK with secondary and tertiary educational certificates who work in routine or semi-routine occupations.


Skills; Highly skilled migration; Deskilling; Polish immigrants; United Kingdom

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