Diverging experiences of work and social networks abroad: Highly-skilled British migrants in Singapore, Vancouver and Boston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

9 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter introduces some of the contemporary literature on highly skilled migration across a range of social science disciplines. We draw upon evidence from four separate research projects on highly skilled migrants working in Singapore, Vancouver, and Boston. Despite the fact that these workers have similar levels of education, skills, training, and backgrounds, we show that they vary significantly in their experiences of migration, work, and social networks in the different host countries. Theoretically, this is important because we show that highly skilled migrants are far from homogeneous in their experiences of migration and integration, and significantly, that they produce and reproduce what Smith (1999, 12-124) refers to as “transnational social space” within the city. The idea of exclusive migrant or expatriate spatialities within cities is not new (see King 1976). However, what we show is that the production of expatiates’ social networks in particular transnational spaces within the city, in close proximity to the home, workplace, and downtown area, creates a distinctive agency of place, which are crucial territories for migrant social network formation and practice, as also argued by Ley (2004) and Waters (2006). As Beaverstock (2011, 712) noted, “an important social cultural trait of the expatriate is the tendency to be dotted around the city in distinctive separated, transnational spaces.” Practically, we argue that the skills of these groups have generally been recognized locally in the host country, but there are major untapped international opportunities for British organizations and its government to more actively engage with them for business networking, foreign direct investment, and talent mobility purposes. We also argue, importantly, that there remains a dearth of research which understands the “translocality” (Smith 1999, 121) or agency of place of highly skilled migrants’ social networks in the city, particularly in an age of Castells (2000) The Network Society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking International Skilled Migration
Subtitle of host publicationA Place-Based and Spatial Perspective
EditorsMicheline Van Riemsdijk, Qingfang Wang
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781315688312
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Structured keywords

  • Migration Mobilities Bristol
  • Cultural Work
  • MGMT Strategy International Management and Business and Entrepreneurship


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