2020: Dr Emily Greenbank, Victoria University of Wellington, has been awarded a Rutherford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship for research titled: ‘Refugee and migrant employable identities in action’
Refugees and migrants need to be able to have full access to, and involvement in, society in their new country. Research has established that employment plays a significant role in this integration. However, while both voluntary and forced migrants bring skills with them, they frequently end up unemployed or underemployed, working in jobs well below their skill level. Obstacles to joining the labour market are often framed as a question of individualistic ‘employability’, which is based on presumably demonstrable work-related skills and attributes. However, the critical characteristics of ‘employability’ are neither clearly defined nor agreed upon, nor is the relationship between the job seeker and the labour market considered. This is particularly important in the context of former refugees whose social and interactional norms may differ from, and/or conflict with, the norms of their new circumstances.
Dr Greenbank aims to explore how new migrants present and discuss their employable identity in the workplace, to uncover the obstacles to their full involvement in both the labour market and society. Following Victoria University of Wellington’s Language in the Workplace Project, Dr Greenbank will collect skilled migrant workplace interaction data and participant interviews and explore the wider structural obstacles that newcomers face in the New Zealand workforce. She will determine if ideologies and discourses have an impact upon negotiation of employable identities, for instance those related to language proficiency, accent, ethnicity or gender. She will also determine how these identity categories interact with each other and what effects these interactions have. This research will advance knowledge in the area of workplace communication and structural inequality and tease out the effects of these ideologies on labour market success of newcomers to New Zealand.