As headlines blare about the economic crises deepening in my own country and around the world, the anti-immigrant, scapegoating forces of the world are revving their engines and rubbing their hands together with glee, bad economic times are their moment to shine

So I thought I’d post this essay called Solidarity in the Labyrinth of (un)Employment, by: Silvia Marcu,  on immigration and unemployment (h/t to Dario). It’s from a blog on migrations that is part of the madri+d network of science and technology blogs. An interesting network that I will have to check out in more depth.

The full Spanish text is linked above and I’ll post my full English translation after the jump, (Pardon the run-on sentences btw- Spanish is different and I’m only an amateur) but here’s a few excerpts.

In Spain at the moment, there are 4,169,086 foreigners. Of those, almost half (48%) are EU citizens, according to official data from June 30, 2008. The exception are the Romanians and Bulgarians, classified in the same regime but with a moratorium on labor that, perhaps, will end in January of 2009. 58% of the 2.1 million foreigners not coming from the EU which live in Spain have a temporary residence permit, and of those, more than 400,000 do not have the right to work.

Just to get the stats straight out there. Comment: I’ve been wanting for a long time to do some in-depth posts on Romanians in Spain, but every time I try there seems to be too much information to process and I put it off. But this restriction – that they are EU but can’t work – has created quite a lot of diplomatic tension. According to EU laws, they should have the rights of any other EU citizens, but Spain is placing them (maybe about half a million of them) in this labor limbo, keeping them illegal. Romania, not surprisingly, is not happy about it.

What’s happening? The majority of the global population lives in the midst of the global (un) employment or precarious employment crisis. There has been an important development of globalization in the past decades, that has meant that not only merchandise, or capital, or communications, or services are involved in the intensity of pathways of movement, but also people. And as much as they strengthen the borders, millions of people flee or jump over what’s prohibited. Because desperation knows no borders.

There is a continuous mobility, what Portes and Borok called “from below” (1989), a global movement sparked by economic uncertainty. Mobility intensified, giving rise to multiple expressions like the construction of netwoks in which social, political, labor and cultural movements are involved. In the labor aspect of these movements, one finds “economic” immigrants that arrive in developed countries, in this case Spain, with a contract acquired in their home country because there are job openings that they can occupy. This is their hope.

If it won’t be possible for them to stay, they will emigrate
to other parts because other markets are already opening in emerging countries. In the European East they need a labor force to create and improve infrastructure and an important part of the Romanians are already preparing their return. Many have already gone.

Having a job has become a luxury in the current, capitalist, developed, society of the 21st century. Its the exhaustion, the cyclical phases of capitalists crises, atrocious neoliberalism, in which the corruption of States, the lack of ethics, the lack of dialogue (despite this being the age of communication), and silence as a response, create separate worlds with borders that are difficult to break. (emphasis mine)

That’s the meat of it. In the midst of all the hoopla and fear-mongering which will mount as these economic crises deepen (Spain is slated to enter recession soon), these are the things people need to remember – immigrants don’t go where they can’t find any work at all, and if there really is no work once they get there, they leave, because work is their main motivation.

Part of the political response to this rising fear of immigration in Spain has been to curtail, it seems, the contrato de origen – the contracting of foreign workers in their home countries for specific segments of work. As this essay explains:

The initial objective was that, given the crisis, the positions that foreigners occupy – fundamentally, temporary contracts to harvest fruit – remain available for nationals who are unemployed. However, the problem that the agricultural sector encounters is that an elevated percentage of the unemployed “don’t want to work” there. And could find that there aren’t workers to harvest fruit…In that case, the losses would be in the millions of euros. And almost the same could be said of other secotrs like hospitality…those sectors relegated, in the last years, to immigration.

This report from El Pais in May outlines how the catalog of jobs “difficult to fill” and therefore available to foreigners using a “contrato de origen” has been “decimated” in the wake of the economic crisis, going from 96 to 30 professions since 2006. But is this a practical reaction? No, cuz as mentioned above, there are still too many jobs that Spaniards simply don’t want. This report (COPE) claims that these cutbacks and restrictions put the agricultural industry and the care industry as risk. And the El País article quotes an administrator in Andalucía saying that employers “don’t take seriously” the government listing – I guess they look at the market realities – consistently indicating that they need the immigrant labor.

Ok, I’m rambling, this was a long essay and there’s a lot to elaborate on, but basically, while I read the headlines about crises deepening everywhere, and brace for the headlines about anti-immigrant violence which are sure to follow, I feel it’s important to reiterate that the fears are exaggerated, and immigrants are still useful, not parasites.

Solidarity in the Labyrinth of (un)Employment

By: Silvia Marcu

In these uncertain times, wrapped in the first tremors of autumn, coinciding with out return to work, we have passed, surely, more than once, in front of some office of the INEM (the State Employment Service). The immense lines are manifestations of the economic crisis we are living which, in fact, is a reflection of the European and global crises. Millions of people have been left without work. In the lines, you also see immigrants. Those with documentation have the right to solicit unemployment payments.

In Spain at the moment, there are 4,169,086 foreigners. Of those, almost half (48%) are EU citizens, according to official data from June 30, 2008. The exception are the Romanians and Bulgarians, classified in the same regime but with a moratorium on labor that, perhaps, will end in January of 2009. 58% of the 2.1 million foreigners not coming from the EU which live in Spain have a temporary residence permit, and of those, more than 400,000 do not have the right to work.

Immigrants are not at all viewed favorably in recent times. Forever, and in spite of evolution, of the turn of the century and the transformations that took place on the world, and Europe’s map, and in the mental structure of the citizenry, being from elsewhere and, moreover, arriving from a poor country because you have no job, because you have no power to acquire goods, and you need to increase your income, posed a threat to the receiver society. It appears this perception about immigration still exists, rooted in modern societies. This theme occupies many debates and there’s a lot of controversy in receiving societies, in which all aspects of immigrant life are referred to: employment, integration, social services, access to the welfare state.

Now, it’s employment’s turn…which is, in fact the central objective of the migratory project of any person who decides to change country to improve their life. In this sense, the year 2008 isn’t the best for immigration. The crisis of global capitalism left, in Spain, more than 2.5 nationals without work, professionals, people of all ages, that live in employment desperation in their own country. With mistrust and uncertainty.

The lack of work among immigrants is also manifest. It began in the construction sector where the most were left unemployed and continued in others, in the service sectors basically. Many decided to return to their countries, or to emigrate to others, whether or not they’d be getting unemployment payments. The most enterprising are searching for a way to become autonomously employed, even though this route implies some risks.

But, in addition to the immigrants with papers or those who don’t have them, but who live in Spain, is the subject of contracting in the country of origin, governed by treaties, which recently has raised a commotion between those who defend or criticize immigration. Faced with the initial measurement, which, it seems, will not be accepted, for eliminating the contracting of 200,000 foreign workers in their country of origin next year, the critical voices of the unions and immigrants associations have been raised.

The initial objective was that, given the crisis, the positions that foreigners occupy – fundamentally, temporary contracts to harvest fruit – remain available for nationals who are unemployed. However, the problem that the agricultural sector encounters is that an elevated percentage of the unemployed “don’t want to work” there. And could find that there aren’t workers to harvest fruit…In that case, the losses would be in the millions of euros. And almost the same could be said of other secotrs like hospitality…those sectors relegated, in the last years, to immigration.

What’s happening? The majority of the global population lives in the midst of the global (un) employment or precarious employment crisis. There has been an important development of globalization in the past decades, that has meant that not only merchandise, or capital, or communications, or services are involved in the intensity of pathways of movement, but also people. And as much as they strengthen the borders, millions of people flee or jump over what’s prohibited. Because desperation knows no borders.

There is a continuous mobility, what Portes and Borok called “from below” (1989), a global movement sparked by economic uncertainty. Mobility intensified, giving rise to multiple expressions like the construction of netwoks in which social, political, labor and cultural movements are invovled. In the labor aspect of these movements, one finds “economic” immigrants that arrive in developed countries, in this case Spain, with a contract acquired in theri home country because there are job openings that they can occury. This is their hope.

If it won’t be possible for them to stay, they will emigrate to other parts because other markets are already opening in emerging countries. In the European East they need a labor force to create and improve infrastructure and an important part of the Romanians are already preparing their return. Many have already gone.

Having a job has become a luxury in the current, capitalist, developed, society of the 21st century. Its the exhaustion, the cyclical phases of capitalists crises, atrocious neoliberalism, in which the corruption of States, the lack of ethics, the lack of dialogue (despite this being the age of communication), and silence as a response, create separate worlds with borders that are difficult to break.

On the one hand, ideologies seem exhausted, and the mediocrity of power can destroy everything, without knowing how to convince. On the other hand, in the continual fleeing behind capital, the world lives with a grave fracture that threatens to get worse. The discrepancy between rich and poor is constantly greater, and , beyond nationality, citizens travel the world searching for a place to live or work. Here or there.

With their arrival, immigrants don’t take away jobs. They fill the gaps, and they’re ready for anything, in order to improve their lives in their lands. This is the reality. They can’t be blamed. They live by their own logic, in their network created by those that wander, weaving like Ariadne, their human relationships, all over the world. If they are not needed here, they will go. They are already going.

Like the search for work, the permanancy of a job has become, for the majority of people a constant and global search, even if times are turbulent it’s important that we maintain hope, strength and solidarity. Because weakness can become the danger of servitude. And what the world needs is dignity. To reconcile dignified work with culture, by way of dialogue. To create a common alliance of solidarity in the great labyrinth that is the world.

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