Nearly 250 million of the world’s 7 billion people live in a country other than the one they were born in. More often than not, employment is the driving factor. This can be challenging enough for adults. But migrant children (and children of migrant workers who get left behind) face special challenges.
The most common jobs among migrant populations are domestic labour and nursing. And the focus when these figures are examined is almost always on the work. The country migrants move to needs workers. The one they leave behind needs the wages they will send back to their families. And, of course, there is the story of the migrant worker themselves — seeking to build a better life.
Barriers for Children
Children in these circumstances are inevitably a secondary consideration. Many are left with relatives in their home country. And even migrant children who are able to accompany their parent(s) are ill-prepared to integrate into their new society. Both migrant workers and their children can face nearly insurmountable hurdles when trying to fit in. (Whether they are together or separated by many miles.)
Looking at the Workers, Not the Work
Orb Media’s recent multimedia report Excess Baggage examines this global phenomenon. It delves into the situations faced by migrant children and their parents, detailing personal stories and the data behind them.
“In the past ten years, immigrants accounted for nearly half the increase in the American and 70 percent of the European workforce. Many countries in North America, Europe, and Asia have created legal channels for foreign workers. As these countries’ birth rates decline, they will need not just foreign workers, but their children as well. Yet from country to country, governments treat the children of foreign workers as an unwanted burden. Frequently, the children of migrants have become part of a disconnected generation, brought to a strange land where they are unsure how to claim a place, or left at home because their parents cannot accommodate them abroad.”
The report examines the ease of reunifying migrant children and parents across different countries. (For the record, Portugal, Canada, and Spain rank as the countries where it is easiest for migrant workers to bring their children. Cyprus, Denmark, and Greece rank at the bottom.) Many countries deny entry to migrant workers’ family members deemed “substantial liabilities” to state social services. But even in relatively welcoming countries, there is still a tendency to perceive migrants as a labour force, rather than as individuals.
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