chapter  5
26 Pages

Female Professional Immigration in Post-war Europe: Counteracting an Historical Amnesia

At a time when skilled migration is being encouraged in Western European states, it would seem appropriate to examine our representations of the contributions and experiences of professional migrants, especially female professionals, in past flows to Europe. Immigrants are overwhelmingly represented as being unskilled and simply contributing to labour shortages in agriculture, manufacturing and low-level service sectors. The significance of female migrants in the labour force has in particular been occluded; the stereotypical image is of the female dependent of the male labourer who entered through family reunion after the stoppage of mass labour immigration in the mid-1970s. The reinterpretation of historical patterns of settlement and the use of qualitative sources shows that this image fails to reflect the reality of the period. Our knowledge of the situation in different countries is however still very partial. In the United Kingdom (UK) with its Irish and colonial flows, women from the Irish Republic and the Caribbean filled many of the intermediate professions, such as nursing and social work. 1 Commonwealth migrants from Australia, Canada and New Zealand are in the majority female and often highly skilled. In Germany, many Turkish women, as autobiographical and case study material reveals, sought emancipation;2 many, however, did not find it in professional employment but were forced to take up unskilled work in factories. The de-skilling of those years continues today, as is the case with many of the highly qualified women who have come to Germany from Eastern Europe.3 In this chapter we argue that professional and skilled women did migrate to the European Union countries in post-war years, though to varying degrees, as our comparison of Germany and the UK highlights. Many of these women were often forced to work in unskilled sectors, thus rendering the presence of skilled female migrants invisible. In the second section of the chapter, we illustrate the impact of migration on

theprofessionaltrajectoryofsuchwomen'slivesthroughanexamination ofcasestudiesoftwowomenfromTurkeyinGermanyandtheUK.