The Malta Independent 17 October 2018, Wednesday

Are the Maltese racists? Or are they worried with security?

Simon Mercieca Monday, 6 August 2018, 07:52 Last update: about 3 months ago

After Salvini became Minister of the Interior in Italy, those in Malta supporting his high-handedness in dealing with illegal migration began being branded racists. But are these individuals truly racists? I am sure that the majority are not. But if they are not, then what are they?

A recent study by Speranta Dumitru, published by Taylor and Francis, does not answer directly these questions but offers us a serious analysis why there are Maltese who are against the presence of migrants. In her paper on migration, Dumitru challenges the main thoughts on the subject, which in academia are more often than not, led by Marxist criticism. As one may expect, migration issues are divided into two distinct political spheres. There are scholars who have a rather leftist leaning on the subject. Then there are others who have a more conservative or even alt-right view. In academia, the tendency is to discredit the alt-right view as being unscientific. The leftist or what in some academic quarters are defined as neo-Marxist interpretations are now being academically acknowledged as biased with a highly charged agenda. Dumitru supports this latter epistemological conclusion. Even the title of his work is provocative; ‘How neo-Marxism creates bias in gender and migration research: evidence from the Philippines’. Research was carried out on migration trends from the Philippines to the USA and Europe. The European countries studied are Spain and Italy. Therefore, her research is highly relevant for Malta.

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As the title indicates, this work addresses issues of gender and division of labour. It was conducted on two categories of migrants: those employed in IT; principally in computer programming and migrants employed in domestic work. 

Migration to developed countries was always construed as one which favoured male migrants in search of low-skilled jobs. Today, it is being found that these type of jobs are invariably being taken up by females. In the past, it was the male migrants that took on the highly-skilled jobs. Such a gender division of Labour is still being supported by the neo-Marxists. But even this paradigm is now being challenged by academia.

I am sure that the data compiled by Dumitru about Filipinos migrating to the United States and Italy to work as computer programmers and domestic workers becomes extremely pertinent to understand the current migratory flows to Malta. What Dumitru found is that the number of Filipino migrants working as computer programmers in the United States is higher than the Filipino migrants working in the domestic field.

I don’t have the statistics for Malta but I am sure that the number of foreign migrants in Malta linked to IT is higher than those linked with those who doing menial jobs or illegal migration.

This conclusion complements the trends discussed by the demographer Livi-Baci in his book on migratory trends. Those countries who receive most low-skilled workers are those countries that are practically in the same economic predicament. These migrants tend mostly to migrate to neighbouring countries.

Then within the high-tech migration sphere, I don’t think that we have gender statistics for Malta. At least I failed to find reliable sources. Statistics in America are showing that high skilled females tend to migrate at the same or even higher rate than males. How many female migrants are working today in Malta in high tech or digital companies? Does their number compare or exceed those of males? These are important questions. Past migration models were gender-biased in favour of males but studies are now showing that this imbalance was mainly due to education rather than gender. The more educated society becomes, the more the migratory imbalance will, at some point, cease to exist. The conclusion is that the educated had a better chance to migrate than the lesser educated ones. Males were better educated in the past and this seems to be the main reason why migration in the past was in favour of males.

This research of Dumitru challenges another migratory notion. Marxist theorists have a tendency to claim that globalization is having a determining role on migration. What this study found is that the real factor that determines migration is not globalization but individual state policies, both in the sending and receiving countries. 

Then, when it came to the Filipino domestic workers, these migrated more to Italy and Spain, rather than to the USA. Moreover, there was an important gender revelation: more male Filipinos migrated to Spain and Italy than Filipino women. Yet it is normal to associate domestic work as being a female occupation. Incidentally, these findings are also relevant to us. Females from the Philippines appear to be among the highest number of migrant workers in this sector that we find employed in Malta, in particular amongst well-to-do families. But what about male Filipinos working as care-workers? I doubt whether data for Malta would be different.

What the West - this includes Spain and Italy - attracted most from the Philippines, are computer programmers. They are higher as a percentage and therefore in number. More importantly, there is no gender bias. The number of females equals that of males. Therefore, the aging population in the West is not having a real impact on migration to the West. If this was the case, one would expect that the number of care workers would be higher than that of computer programmers.

What this study seems to imply is that the more advanced and rich a country becomes, the number of domestic workers working in that the country decreases. Per capita, the USA has less domestic workers than Italy and Italy has per capita less domestic workers than the Eastern European ones. Furthermore, the number of males working as domestic workers in Italy has grown in recent times. Most of these are Filipinos but then their job is less stable than that of women. 

But these changes are not linked to issues of globalization but to internal legislation. Dumitru’s paper shows why Salvini is being effective and proving one point. It is the State and not globalization that drives and determines migratory flows.

More important, statistics are proving neo-Marxists wrong in their migratory theories. Neo-Marxists argue that where there is a global expansion of capital, this will have a negative impact on female migration. The counter argument that I am making is that global expansion favours high-skilled migration. Global expansion is showing that there is not much room for low-skilled migrants. But more important, there is no difference between males and females when it comes to high-skilled migrants. Thus, this study showed that Western countries attracted a very small percentage of these Filipino domestic  workers. Most went to work in the Middle East countries, like Saudi Arabia. This type of migration is more regional than global.

In this new scenario, low skilled migrants are going to be seen as a threat to the community. Thus, these findings collaborate the fear that exists in Europe, including Malta, regarding migration. The fear does not stem from fear of race or the highly skilled migrant but from fear of the low-skilled ones. Therefore, rather than being an issue of racism, this phobia derives from a new situation that has been created by globalization which has nothing to do with race but which favours excellence and the high skilled migrants more than migration did in the past.


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