Hakan Kilic | PhD Candidate, Department for Migration and Globalization, Danube University Krems
“Well educated Turks are increasingly returning to Turkey” (DW, 2010). Newspaper articles like these have been appearing increasingly in the media coverage of the last 10 years. The research on migration between Austria and Turkey is largely on guest-workers and concomitant family migration. Although the statistics do not provide information on how many of the returnees from Austria to Turkey are highly skilled persons, it can be assumed that the number is very significant (Kilic/Biffl, 2019). It should be noted that in 2018 for the first time in the history of bilateral migration, Austria has a negative migration balance with Turkey. In other words, more people are migrating from Austria to Turkey than vice versa (Standard, 2019). It should also be noted that this particular return is not a classic return like after retirement. Root Migrants are the descendants of guest workers, i.e. the 2nd and 3rd generation, most of whom were born and/or grew up in Austria. Their return can therefore be described as a roots migration. They return to the country where their parents or grandparents came from (Wessendorf, 2007).
Migration research has been dealing with the topics of return migration and the migration behaviour of highly skilled migrants for quite some time, whereby the special focus, i.e. the return migration of highly skilled migrants, has only gained attention in recent years. In migration research there is also no consensus on the definition of the term “highly skilled”. While some researchers see the most obvious starting point for defining highly skilled in the level of education (Borjas, 2005), others see the classification of the profession as crucial (Bouvier and Simcox, 1995). From the perspective of Turkey, there is a clear definition of who can be considered highly skilled, for which special support programs and scholarships are also available to encourage these people to return. “Those with internationally accepted studies in the academic field, those who have come to the forefront in a scientific, industrial and technological area that is considered to be strategic in terms of our country, or those who have made or are anticipated to make significant contributions to the national economy in terms of exports, employment, or investment capacity, shall be deemed as qualified foreigners” (International Labour Force Law, 2016).
In contrast to the highly skilled people recruited by Turkey, for whom certain policy measures must be implemented, other highly skilled people are returning or considering returning. However, preparation is necessary for a successful return or return intention, which requires the mobilization of resources (Cassarino, 2004). Social capital plays an essential role in this respect because any migration decision, including the return of highly skilled migrants, is in one way or another connected with their resources. For Robert Putnam, social capital contributes features of social organization such as networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit (Putnam, 1995). In addition, the adoption of social capital should strengthen democratic structures, promote institutional and economic performance and provide integration of migrant communities and enables participants of the whole society to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives (Putnam, 1996). That means, that highly skilled Turkey origin people can also act as “bridge people” and shape the interactions between the host and migrant societies, which can have a positive influence on the whole social life e.g. Integration of Turkey origin community. In order to be able to perform this function and enable cooperation between societies, there must be trust in society as a whole and the possibility of generating social capital. According to Cassarino it is especially highly educated second-generation migrants, who have accumulated social capital in the host country but face challenges in getting adequate recognition and jobs, as a result they tend to become root migrants (Cassarino, 2004). Social capital therefore plays an important role both in social cohesion and in the decision-making process of migration.
The motivations and factors that trigger a migration process among highly skilled migrants are diverse, e.g. discrimination experiences, sense of belonging, and go beyond simple economic reasons such as better income (Aydin, 2013).
In the social science discourse, the aspect of ‘unfavorable career prospects’ is one of the main reason for the emigration of highly skilled people of Turkey origin (Pusch/Aydin, 2011). Although migration may be job-related, it is not always the unsuccessful or disadvantaged, but rather career-oriented and development-minded individuals who have aspirations (van Mol et al., 2017).
According to a study from Austria, about four out of ten foreign employees feel very or quite discriminated in work and occupation (SORA, 2003). According to another study, decision-makers make their hiring decisions based on non-functional criteria such as ethnicity or “cultural characteristics” (Janßen/Polat, 2005). Further, it shows from studies that applicants with Turkish sounding name, although German mother tongue, citizenship and same/similar education, have far less chances for an interview (Kaas/Manger, 2010). Negative experiences in the labor market and in social life, which are perceived as discriminatory, increase the willingness to leave Austria for Turkey.
Although highly skilled Turkey origin people of the 2nd and 3rd generation have their living center in Austria, the question of belonging arises for many. In addition, it must be noted that there are no secured numbers of high skilled Turkey origin persons, which are necessary for a representative sample. In two different studies from the years 2009 and 2013 in Austria, 66% (Ulram, 2009) and 46% (Statistik Austria, 2013) of people of Turkey origin feel a sense of belonging to Austria. For most of them, however, identification with or a lack of a sense of home with Austria plays a rather subordinate role. The vast majority choose neither the German nor the Turkish identity and show a hybrid identity (Aydin, 2013).
It is necessary to investigate first of all possible motivations/factors and the importance of social capital for the migration of highly skilled Turkey origin people from Austria to Turkey in order to evaluate to what extent the emigration of this specific group is eventually relevant for integration process.