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Guest Post — The New Global Laborers: When economics fuels a middle class migration

This piece originally appeared in the expat+HAREM, May 2011.

As many world economies downshift, a typical question of global citizens shifts too. “Where would I like to live?” becomes “Where can I find a job?”

Here in Prague it’s become harder for Americans not just to find work, but to face the rigorous visa process to live and work legally. Some say this is a response to the USA’s increased visa restrictions on Czech visitors. Others think the Czech Republic is tightening its borders like Western Europe.

Where I lived in California, Mexican day laborers would wait on street corners and in parking lots of home improvement stores in the hope that a farmer or contractor would drive by and enlist their help for the day. While the American government cracks down on these undocumented immigrant workers who’ll do the jobs citizens often won’t, so too are they cutting mainstream jobs such as teachers and doctors.

Since my husband and I were both made redundant at our international school in Prague, we’ve discovered few local availabilities willing or permitted to hire Americans. We started to look elsewhere to find that some of the best economies are in the worst places, like the Arab Emirates, which may be in the starting phases of bloody revolutions.

Our gaze is now settling on Istanbul, a place geographically near Europe and one that still has its doors wide open to Americans. Amazingly, my husband can make more money there than we both do here, and much more than in the States.

How can it be more economically viable to stay abroad than move back to our passport country?

Have we become the middle class version of day laborers, going wherever an employer will have us? Seeking our “American dream” of a good job, savings and the hope of upward mobility — outside the USA, because it just isn’t available there anymore?

How have economics fueled your migrations?


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