Patterns of international migration in the Santiago Metropolitan Area - Characterization of the immigrants' social space and contributions to the national policy debate

by Paulina Schiappacasse, M (Sc)

Abstract (Summary)
International migration to Chile and to the Santiago Metropolitan Area (SMA), its major point of attraction, is a rather recent phenomenon which is gaining more and more attention. According to the latest population census the number of foreigners who were born abroad and permanently live in Chile, has increased by 75% between 1992 and 2002. Parallel to this, the national policy debate about immigration is becoming more intensive. However, until now there is only little evidence concerning the patterns of international migration and the characterization of the immigrants’ social space. This study is oriented towards reducing this deficit. Based on a thorough theoretical discussion, recent research publications and international reports, the study pursues mainly four objectives: The first objective is to identify major patterns of international migration as a context for the immigration to Chile and the SMA. The second objective is to understand the main features of international migration to the SMA. The third objective is to analyze the immigrants’ social space and its contribution to the overall urban development patterns in the SMA. And finally, the research results are linked with the national policy debate about immigration, and a number of policy recommendations are made. The study applies a mix of – mainly quantitative – methods, such as descriptive and analytical statistics including factor and cluster analyses using Chilean census data and visa records. The current immigration situation in Chile is characterized by a notable increase in the number of South American migrants, being attracted by better job opportunities. Moreover, there are growing numbers of young migrants for educational reasons. Chile appears to present an “intervening opportunity” in the migrants’ decision-making process, where a number of factors, such as new policy regulations in industrialized countries, the time/cost distance, as well as the economic development and political stability in the country, increasingly seem to turn into competitive advantages as compared to countries like the US, Spain or Italy. The qualification profiles of migrants in the SMA sharply contrast with the situation in most industrialized countries. In general, the educational level of immigrants is rather high. In general, immigrants strongly contribute to the educational level of the population in the SMA. Like in most global cities, two major streams of international migrants can be found in the SMA, on the one hand those who belong to the upper levels of the occupational hierarchy and on the other hand marginalized low-skill employees. The related data can be taken as an indication for the fact that a large group of immigrants is employed below their qualification levels. In the SMA, professionals and technicians play a very important role, and, except for some of the Peruvian and Ecuadorian migrants, there is little evidence of labour market segmentation. Skilled migrants contribute to reducing gaps of labour market supply in some sectors of the economy, such as public health and private education. Low-skilled migrants contribute to the labour market supply in fields where there is a growing demand, e.g. in the domestic services. Almost 50% of the international migrants live in five of the 34 communes of the SMA. This seems to be largely determined by two main factors: Migrants are found where job opportunities are, and they follow similar patterns like the Chilean population regarding their socio-spatial differentiation. Furthermore, despite the relatively high spatial concentration of migrants, the SMA shows less evidence of residential segregation than many European and US cities. The highest segregation indexes are associated with European and US immigrants with a high socioeconomic status (“voluntary ghettos”). Factor and cluster analyses show major patterns of the socio-spatial distribution of migrants in the SMA: a rather large zone of low attraction for migrants, the downtown area concentrating recent flows, and a series of semi-concentric zones around the centre where the migrants’ socio-economic and residential status increases with distance from the city centre. This is consistent with models of urban dynamics of Latin American cities. Based on the results of this study, four major recommendations for the policy debate about immigration can be derived. There is a need for (1) strengthening the diagnosis regarding immigration, (2) the improvement of the institutional framework and the participation of stakeholders, (3) fostering international cooperation regarding issues of immigration, as well as (4) shaping public opinion and strengthening the integration of immigrants.
This document abstract is also available in German.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Technische Universität Dresden Geowissenschaften; Prof. Dr. Winfried Killisch; Prof. Dr. Winfried Killisch; Prof. Dr. Paul Gans; Prof. Dr. Gladys Armijo


School Location:

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:Latin America, Chile, Santiago Metropolitan Area, International Migration, Immigration, Immigrants, Urban City Models, Segregation, Social Space, Migration Policies, Factor Analysis, Cluster Analysis 550


Date of Publication:

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