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Social Inclusion, Qualified Jobs and the ICT Labor Market


The project investigates the conditions under which persons with different kinds of immigrant backgrounds get qualified jobs. I examine one firm in the ICT sector in Kista Science City. I show how different kinds of persons get different kinds of jobs. The assignment of jobs relates to the background of the employee, the opportunity structures and various structural relations related to gender, class and ethnicity. I show how persons with immigrant backgrounds can get good jobs and compare women and men and persons without immigrant backgrounds to those with different kinds of immigrant background.


Intersectionality, Segmentation, Social exclusion/inclusion, capital bridges, qualified jobs


I propose to write one or two peer-reviewed journal articles. The theme of the articles will be to explore the barriers to ethnic groups' entering qualified jobs, the extent to which they are successful in doing so, and how differences associated with social background, individual trajectory, and other factors influence success. This project builds on past collaborative work with Dr. Mia Gray and Dr. Leif Hommen based on a proposed study framework I developed on studying qualified jobs.

Different kinds of immigrants can gain access to qualified jobs based on their capacities and how (and whether) they are able to overcome potential barriers they confront. Theories of capital, e.g. cultural, social, economic, and human capital provide us with one reference point, i.e. mobility reflects social values, network contacts, economic resources and skills (cf. Light and Gold, 2000; Bourdieu, 1991). These theories do not immediately address discrimination or systemic inequality, which Tilly (2005) compares to a kind of 'rationing system.'

I will offer critiques if not elaborations to Tilly and Bourdieu. I argue that contingency (hiring of immigrants into qualified jobs) can be introduced by periods when: (a) there is peak demand so rationing of jobs (systems to keep out immigrants) is less rational or (b) when certain kinds of capital are devalorized, i.e. at an early stage, occupational categories can be less formalized (so the university can't be used as a channelling or exclusion system, the accumulation of university-based human capital becomes less important). Much of stratification theory is about explaining how scarcities are allocated. The problem is that individuals can find ways to overcome scarcity barriers based on macro conditions or mechanisms that limit scarcities of specific forms of capital, e.g. through bridging organizations.

While structures or unequal access to capital can probabilistically determine who gets what job, structural theories do not explain much about the contingent elements. For example, in Sweden the idea of 'class travelling' explains how people can enter the middle class (or more qualified positions of alienated labor) from the working class (or less qualified parts). A similar kind of idea has been applied to ethnic studies in the notion of 'bridges' (cf. Feldman, 2006). For each form of capital, a specific bridges can link the individual to a specific capacity, e.g. universities can be a bridge to human capital, mentors can be a bridge to social capital, the neighbourhood or family can provide a bridge to cultural capital (such as the interest in math and science that puts someone on an ICT track). Various theories of an individual's biography therefore help underline the contingent elements to mobility (cf. Kontos, 2003). These approaches have focused more on entrepreneurial outcomes than recruitment into established businesses although my research will show the similarities between both in certain occupational positions. One study explores differential power according to networks (Gray et al., 2007).

I hypothesize that the relationship between these contingent elements, e.g. 'immigrants lucky enough to get a specific mentor' and structural elements, e.g. very few of certain kinds of immigrants in certain high places can be resolved in part by the quantitative exclusion of immigrants in qualified jobs (there often aren't many represented) and the hierarchy of occupations, i.e. stratification within qualified labor markets (the few who get in are at the bottom). A key explanation is found in the work of Tilly: 'most categorical inequality relies on establishment of a partial frontier and defined social relations across that frontier, with much less control in regions distant from the frontier' (Tilly, 2005: 72).

My research will be largely based on a study I conducted which examined the career pathways of women and men, ethnic and non-ethnic employees in a large-sized ICT company based in Kista Science City in Stockholm (fieldwork conducted in December of 2004 and January of 2005). The case study company is a U.S.-based transnational firm founded in Kista Science City in 1987. Most employees were in the computer consulting and other computer related services business. The heart of the study is based on interviews with eight women with immigrant backgrounds, eight women with non-immigrant backgrounds, six men with immigrant backgrounds, and eleven men with non-immigrant backgrounds. The immigrant background status was defined by a person with 'non-Swedish' parents being born abroad or having an immigrant parent. Different kinds of immigrants were interviewed, including persons born in or having parents from Finland, Estonia, Germany, Iran, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.


Co-author with Mia Gray, Tomoko Kurihara, and Leif Hommen, 'Networks of Exclusion: Job Segmentation and Gendered Social Networks in the Knowledge Economy,' Equal Opportunities International, Volume 46, Number 2, 2007: pages 144-161.

'The Limits and Possibilities of Ethnic Entrepreneurship: The Case of ICT Firms in Sweden,' International Journal of Multicultural Studies (IJMS), Volume 8, Number 1, 2006: pages 84-101.

Other Academic Output

"Getting What Kind of a Job?"
Seminarium - REMESO
Arbetsseminarium med Docent Jonathan Feldman: "Getting What Kind of a Job?: Social Inclusion and Exclusion in the New Economy."

2011 - 2011


EU Commission
FAS/FORTE Research environment funding

REMESO Project Leader

Jonathan Feldman, Guest Lecturer

Contact for project


Last updated: 2011-05-10

Page responsible: erik.berggren@liu.se
Last updated: 2020-05-27