IN HARD times, immigrants are often accused of stealing jobs. But migrants can actually create employment, according to research by Ivan Light, a professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California.
As quoted by the Irish Examiner, Light states that migrants have built-in advantages – like bi- or multi-lingualism, an intimate understanding of multiple cultures and access to international networks – which help them recognise business opportunities that mono-cultural locals might miss.
Historically, specific middlemen from ethnic minorities – often self-employed, due to hiring discrimination – have long excelled in international commerce. But, as Light notes in his contribution to the Handbook of Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship, globalisation and transnationalism now enable practically every migrant group to have its own cosmopolitan, bi-cultural, acculturated – but not assimilated – business elite.
While English as a lingua franca may now lessen the traders’ traditional bilingual edge, they still possess valuable social capital.
An illustration of this is Petra Mitchell, a German who had operated in the fashion trade for more than 20 years, first by importing Greek products to Germany, and then, after her move to Greece in 1997, by exporting Greek products – until the buyers switched to cheaper items from countries like India and Bangladesh.
Quick to recognise potential, she began importing Chinese products – from motorbike tyres to mesh wire fence – in 2006.
This one-woman show says associates on both sides of every border appreciate her migrant duality.
“Customers like to converse in their own language, whether it’s English or German, and because I understand their business ethics and mentality, I can build a bridge between the Greek mentality and their own.”
Briton Malcolm Mann, who moved to Greece in 1993, co-owns a bicycle shop in the centre of Athens.
One partner – also British – capitalised on a growing trend in fixed-gear and single-gear bikes in the United States and Britain. “I think the fact that my partner had knowledge of the market outside Greece was a major factor,” Mann says. “That’s not to say, though, that there weren’t also some Greeks who recognised the gap in the market. But we got there first.”
The shop offers UK-style customer service, and presently employs one fulltime partner and a part-time Greek mechanic.
Besides importing, they’ve just begun exporting a Greek bike accessory to Britain. “Certainly our understanding of both cultures makes the whole process easier for the manufacturer and the outlets abroad.”
Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas is an Athens-based, Canadian Greek writer. She blogs at kathrynlukeycoutsocostas.wordpress.com
|http://www.athensnews.gr/issue/13500/56309||Athens News 15/Jun/2012 page 20|
EMPLOYMENT chances of so-called trailing spouses are often hampered by high unemployment rates, work permit difficulties, other expats on the market and personal selectivity.
According to a 2011 report on Global Relocation Trends by Brookfield Global Relocation Services, 60 percent of the trailing spouses of expats abroad on assignment were employed before the couple moved to another country, but only 15 percent worked after arrival.
So, is volunteerism a viable filler?
Besides benefiting society, the Global HR News article “Man, Trailing Spouse” suggests that volunteering can prevent resume gaps, spark alternative careers and promote personal fulfilment and self-improvement.
Avid volunteer Jennifer Ananiadis has spent a total of eleven years in Greece – Thessaloniki and then Athens, with an in-between year in India – because of her husband’s job. She’d previously worked for twenty years, but raising their young sons became her priority in Greece – along with volunteering at their schools.
It’s our obligation as citizens of the world to volunteer, American Ananiadis says, adding: “Even if you are one of those in need of help, there is always someone that you, in turn, can help.”
She’s a founding partner of the non-profit, Athens-based organisation Helping Handbags Hellas, which facilitates the donation and purchase of gently used designer handbags to support a variety of good causes.
Ananiadis feels volunteerism enables her to help women become actively engaged in the act of charity.
Through it, she feels useful and meets many people. With its flexible hours, it’s taken the place of a paying job for her.
Uruguayan Gabriela Larrieux agrees with the pluses, but highlights one difference. “When you have a real job,” she says, “you expect that your efforts will be recognised in some way, especially by getting your salary at the end of the month.”
Larrieux moved to Athens in 1982 and to Thessaloniki in 1993, where she became the president of the International Women’s Organisation of Greece (IWOG). Under her leadership, IWOG was one of the founding organisations to establish the city’s annual Food-for-Good Festival. Larrieux continues to coordinate the festival’s Latin American table.
In addition, she was a founding member and network facilitator of the Thessaloniki Organisation for Women’s Employment and Resources (Tower), as well as active in the American Farm School of Thessaloniki’s Group for Student Services for many years. Last, but not least, she’s been the honorary consul of Uruguay since 1995.
“Voluntary work taught me how to deal with people from different environments,” says Larrieux, as well as paving the way for her finding fulltime work in 2009.
Kathryn Lukey-Coutsocostas is an Athens-based, Canadian Greek (by marriage) writer and a transnational of some 30-odd years. She blogs at kathrynlukeycoutsocostas.wordpress.com
|Athens News 23/Mar/2012 page 22|