The global development of capitalism and the transition from ‘Fordism’ to ‘flexible accumulation’ intensified international migration especially the migration of professionals. ‘Flexible accumulation’ hinges on different forms of flexibilities mainly labour market flexibility, which is, made possible by dividing the labour force into ‘core’ and ‘periphery’. Migrant professionals, however, occupy a unique position. As foreigners they can be easily marginalised in the social, cultural and political processes in the workplace. At the same time they hold scarce skills that are crucial for the success of business organizations. The social ordering and the nature of interactions between employees at the workplace, generally, mirror what happens in the wider economic, social and political spheres. The reverse is also true. Thus, the workplace has the potential to perform an integrative function by connecting individuals with the larger society or by connecting individuals from different racial and ethnic groups. This is particularly important in heterogeneous countries, like South Africa, that are made up of diverse racial and ethnic population groups and significant numbers of immigrants. Despite its integrative capacity, there are also social and cultural processes that take place in the workplace that severely undermine its capacity to perform this integrative function. South Africa’s racial ordering during the colonial and apartheid eras created deep-seated racial divisions in the wider societal realm and the workplace. In post-apartheid South Africa the African National Congressled government has set up and continues to put in place structural measures to undo the impacts of the past political and workplace regimes. Unfortunately, some of the measures put in place result in new and unexpected problems and challenges. Thus, South Africa continues to battle with structural unemployment and critical skills shortages, which has necessitated the importation of skilled migrants. These migrant professionals, therefore, find themselves in a divisive environment in the South African workplace with limited opportunities for workplace integration. This case study of Zimbabwean engineers in the public sector of the construction industry in Pretoria and Johannesburg reveals that migrant professionals are far from being fully integrated in the workplace. They are faced with structural barriers that need to be redressed. If left unchecked these differential practices in the workplace will have negative impacts on the wider political democracy in South Africa.
Dissertation (MSocSci)--University of Pretoria, 2013.