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Immigrant Workers and Meanings of Work

Communicating Life and Career Transitions

Edited By Suchitra Shenoy-Packer and Elena Gabor

This first-of-its-kind book uniquely captures the meanings of work expressed by immigrants. Their stories – from work histories to life transitions and professional journeys – are conscientiously and rigorously mapped by the academic insights of communication scholars, many of whom are immigrants themselves.
Immigrant workers’ narratives of work and its nuances in an adopted country offer many hitherto muted, invisible, and/or purposely silenced perspectives. A variety of new and familiar terms – concepts such as career inheritance, aphorisms, cultural adaptation, acculturation, and cultural distance – and culture-specific terms such as ganas and consejos are discussed alongside the inherent struggles of identity construction across borders.
While the contributors represent diversity in co-cultural affiliations, national origin, and immigration experiences encountered both personally and professionally, the stories of immigrants represent an even larger number of countries and cultures.
This volume compels the academic community to acknowledge immigrants as workers whose voices matter and whose sense and processes of meaning-making is nuanced, complex, and multi-dimensional. Immigrant workers’ voices can contribute significantly to the rich growth of research in organizational communication, meanings of work, career studies, cross-cultural management, psychology of work, and work and society.


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Chapter One: International Migration and the Meanings of Work: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (K. Peter Kuchinke)


c h a p t e r o n e International migration is the movement of foreign-born citizens to a new host country, and it has increased in scope commensurate with the level of globalization of economic activity and opportunity. In 2013, there were an estimated 232 million international migrants, an increase of more than 50% compared to 1990 (United Nations, 2013). Whether by choice or necessity, immigrants cross national and cultural boundaries, leave their home country, and face the challenge of adapting to new, often foreign sets of values, norms, and rules. International immigrants account for more than 7% of the world labor force of 3.2 billion workers—individ- uals age 15 years and older who are economically active (World Bank, 2014). This number excludes the estimated 51 million individuals on expatriate assignments, or those living and working outside their home country on a temporary basis, typically between one and six years (Finaccord, 2014). Statistics on international migrants do not include refugees or migrants’ accompanying members of house- hold, spouses, children, and relatives, all of whom face very similar challenges in adjusting to the host country. Common to all international migrants is the experience of being foreign, of leaving the home culture behind, and the need to adjust to a new set of val- ues, norms, behaviors, and expectations. The phenomenon is not new. Efforts to re-create the home culture were part of the immigrant experience of the industrial era, such as moving to the ethnic neighborhoods of, for...

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