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Free Content The mobile middle: Indian skilled migrants in Singapore and the ‘middling’ space between migration categories

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Studies of skilled migration tend to be strongly bifurcated in terms of their focus on either low- or highly-skilled migrants, and public debate generally also reflects this. However, since skills, education and income levels are frequently conflated, there are usually considerable differences in terms of how low or highly skilled migrants actually are. In addition, there has been little attention paid to strategies of mobility between various visa categories. This article focuses on what it conceptualizes as the ‘mobile middle’: skilled migrants who actively negotiate and test the flexibilities of a migration programme in order to be able to work and potentially stay on ‘permanently’ in a particular country. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among Indian (mid-level) skilled migrants in Singapore, the present study explores how we can (further) conceptualize migration categories, and the ways migrants engage with them with respect to inherent constraints on the one hand and ambitions for the future on the other. With its focus on Singapore, the article also highlights how the mobile middle, as a rapidly growing group of migrants, takes up an increasingly prominent place in discussions about new immigrants and population growth.
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Keywords: citizenship; middling; population debate; residency; skilled migration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Asia Research Institute (National University of Singapore)

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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  • Transient migration due to the global movements of people for work, study and lifestyle is part of everyday life. This journal thus aims to provide a platform that explores and investigates the complexities of transient migration and to map the experiences of the growing number of transient migrants as they engage and interact with communities that are linked both to their home and host nations. This journal seeks to look at the ways in which transient migrants cope with transience and how transient migration affects individuals and communities in this transitional yet significant period. The scope of the journal will include but not be limited to themes of belonging, identity, networks, nation, culture, religion, race and ethnicity, gender and memory while incorporating the roles played by various platforms to facilitate these themes such as media, politics, policy, economy and the creative industries.
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