Welcome to Week 2

After focusing on the historical role of migration in urban development in Europe during early modern times, the industrial era and the post-war period, in week 2 we turn our attention to the contemporary city and investigate the question of migrant labour.

Migrants are attracted to large urban centres by job opportunities and can be employed in low skill-low pay services, such as care work or catering, but they can also find in cities opportunities for entrepreneurship. Migrant entrepreneurship often starts with small shops in urban neighbourhoods, but there are also examples of migrant entrepreneurship in manufacturing and successful collaboration with ‘native’ businesses. Such is the case of Prato, a medium-sized town in central Italy, which is now famous both for its Chinese diaspora and Chinese firms operating in the textile and leather industries.

However, the insertion of migrants into urban labour markets is not always a smooth process. While opportunities may be plentiful, exploitation is also ripe and labour markets typically suffer from segmentation: ‘good’ jobs are reserved for natives, while the so-called 3D jobs (dirty, dangerous and demanding) are left for newcomers.

We will look at the settlement of migrants in urban areas and why residential patterns of different migrant groups in the same city can change quite markedly. To do so we will draw on the case of London and identify some of the characteristics and reasons why this city today has become one of the most diverse cities on the planet.

We will then proceed to consider how migrants interact with the city on an everyday basis through their use and reuse of public space. By way of example, we will examine in detail the ways in which the railway station area in Naples in southern Italy and how has been transformed by the growing presence of migrants in this city.

We will discuss how migrants support the socio-economic development of cities, and reflect on some of the problems and conflicts that may arise either as a result of migrants’ restricted access to local resources or because migrants are scapegoated as the reason why such resources are in short supply. We will end week 2 by looking at two cases – the impact of ‘no access to public funds’ upon migrants’ lives in London and xenophobic violence in South African cities – and we will illustrate how these issues have been addressed and understood at the local level.

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This article is from the free online course:

Migration and Cities

European University Institute (EUI)