Kulturelles Kapital in der Migration (Volkswagen-Stiftung)

ProjektleiterInnen: Prof. Dr. Arnd-Michael Nohl, Hamburg; Prof. Dr. Karin Schittenhelm, Siegen; Prof. Dr. Oliver Schmidtke, Victoria; Prof. Dr. Anja Weiß, Duisburg-Essen

Projektförderung: Volkswagen Stiftung

Projektlaufzeit: 2005-2009


The labour market integration of migrants can become an opportunity for knowledge societies because their prosperity depends on the incorporation and improvement of cultural capital. The international study group “Cultural Capital during Migration” examines how migrants make use of their cultural capital during their entry into the labour market. A systematic comparison of status groups who differ with respect to the level of their educational title, the place of its acquisition (at home or abroad) as well as to their residence status examines how their transition into the labour market is structured by the interrelation of both factors. For this purpose, the status transitions into the labour market are empirically analyzed taking meso- and macro-social contexts (networks, social exclusion, institutional rules etc.) into account. Every status group is investigated in the context of Germany and of one country of comparison respectively (Canada, Great Britain and Turkey).

In exploring highly skilled immigrants’ access into the labour market the study group addresses a paradox by which all national contexts under investigation here are affected to different degrees: On the one hand, current demographic and labour market developments drive them towards attracting highly skilled migrants in an increasingly competitive global market. On the other hand, however, especially European societies (but also classic immigrant societies like Canada) fail to take full advantage of the educational and professional experiences that migrants bring to their new countries.

The study group investigated these obstacles to an equitable labour market inclusion by relying on an analytical framework that is designed to capture both the complexity of integration processes and their temporal character. First, migrants’ labour market inclusion is shaped by legal circumstances (status as migrant, recognition of foreign degrees, etc.), expectations in the – professionally differentiated – labour market (recognition of work experiences, role of professional organizations, professional code of conduct), and the broader social cultural environment (processes of social and symbolic in- or exclusion, discrimination). In addition, the study group conceptualized the role of social networks and family circumstances in shaping labour market inclusion and how migrants themselves react to the challenges that they encounter. Second, relying on the life stories of migrants allowed us to reconstruct the labour market inclusion as a long-term process with distinct phases and respective sets of challenges and coping mechanisms.

Interpreting macro-structural contexts through a life-course perspective allows for a critical evaluation of integration policies. The account of the complexity of the integration process that the study group has generated has already resulted in various initiatives to inform administrative and political practice. The findings of the study group suggest that one would need to take into account the complex legal and socio-economic context that determines migrants’ pathways into the professional realm in order to develop effective and sustainable (labour market) integration policies.


Zentrale Publikationen:

Nohl, Arnd-Michael/Schittenhelm, Karin/Schmidtke, Oliver/Weiß, Anja (2014): Work in Transition. Cultural Capital and highly skilled migrants’ passages into the labour market. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Nohl, Arnd-Michael/Schittenhelm, Karin/Schmidtke, Oliver/Weiß, Anja (Hg., 2010): Kulturelles Kapital in der Migration: Hochqualifizierte Einwanderer und Einwanderinnen auf dem Arbeitsmarkt. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag

Nohl, Arnd-Michael/Schittenhelm, Karin/Schmidtke, Oliver/Weiß, Anja (2006): Kulturelles Kapital in der Migration – ein Mehrebenenansatz zur empirisch-rekonstruktiven Analyse der Arbeitsmarkintegration hochqualifizierter MigrantInnen. In: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung, Volume 7, No. 3, Art. 14 – Mai 2006 [url: http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs-texte/3-06/06-3-14-d.htm]


Letzte Änderung: 30. Januar 2018