This paper delves deep into the intersection pertaining immigration and social class in New South Wales which boasts of a population of 6,917,658 people as per the provisions of the 2011 Australian Census. In this state, for every 10 people, 4 are immigrants either directly via immigration or indirectly through parental heritage. The most common immigrants in this state in terms of country of birth as per percentage statistics provisions include those from England at 3.3%, China (excluding SARs and Taiwan) at 2.3%, New Zealand at 1.7%, India at 1.4% and Vietnam at 0.9%. However, this doesn’t correspond with the state’s ancestral demographics whereby 25% of the New South Wales population is Australian, followed closely by the English at 24.2%, the Irish at 7.4% the Scottish at 6% and last but not least, the Chinese at 4.3%.
An analysis of the social class positions of Immigrants in New South Wales as understood from a Marxian perspective.
The Marxian sociological perspective was founded by Karl Marx in the period of the mid-1800s. Karl Marx’s analysis of economic classes led to the perspective that in a capitalist society, the proprietors of production means often resulted to the manipulation of their workers and thus social oppression. This resulted in a class struggle which Karl believed would lead to the emancipation & reign of the communist system whereby workers would be the actual proprietors of economic production means. History has proven repeatedly that class conflict results in social change in terms of a revolution as workers topple the reigning elite economic class. In essence, economic classes in a communist economic system would cease to exist.
In the late 19th century, there were numerous reports of friction between the then European workers and immigrants especially from China. This prompted the passing of the anti-Chinese Act in the 1850s that extended up to the 1880s. In 1893, the then premier of New South Wales, Sir George Dibbs expanded the anti-Chinese legislation to include "all colored people". The Australian Federal Government then proceeded to promulgate the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901 alias the White Australia Policy.
This promoted the immigration of the British, Italian, Greek and Irish whites prior to the demise of the second World War. In the 1800’s, non-whites were perceived as servile inferior agents of immorality who posed a threat to the living standards of the working class. 19th century racism widened wage gaps between Chinese workers and Europeans thus strengthening the ruling class by aiding in a phenomenon entailing capital reigning supreme over labor & thus resulting in the establishment of a lasting hegemony.
However, the social and racial supremacy united the white workers with white capitalists. This is due to the fact that in the 50s extending into the 60s, corporate interests of power in the steel, iron and automotive industries were of the view that non-English speaking immigrants provided a seemingly undisciplined, lazy and inexhaustible source of labor due to political docileness and likely affiliation to trade unions. In the majority of the 20th century, the government implemented policies that aimed at strengthening the Anglo-Australian supremacy. For instance, the Aborigine immigrants were obligated by policy expectations to personify Anglo-Australian culture, norms, accent, lifestyles and so forth.
However, there was an unavoidable multiculturalism advent and exploding diversity of ethnicity which prompted the Whitlam Government in the mid 70s to introduce an immigration policy on the basis of non-discrimination thus encouraging Asian immigrants who reached as high as 41% of immigrants by 1994.The ruling class of Australia mainly comprises of the corporate as well as state sectors.
The likes of Peter Abeles and Arvi Parbo are examples of an exceptional few non-English speaking immigrants in the ruling class. Migrants from Asia are mainly proprietors of small businesses and are of the middle class job criteria. The dawn of 1990s saw 16% of Asian immigrants being professionals from especially English speaking countries such as India, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. In addition, female immigrants from non-English speaking nations in manufacturing occupations were three times as much as women born in Australia.
An analysis of the social class positions of Immigrants in New South Wales as understood from a Weberian class perspective.
Weber argued that comprehension was the best way to follow in studying social situations and activity. He came up with a stratification based, multidimensional theory that entails class, party and status. Therefore class, which is based upon communal action, determines one’s market and economic situation. Status on the other hand revolves around prestige, honor and one’s lifestyle. Whereas a party is a structure that’s organized with its existence based on the rationale behind domination in a social life sphere. These three essential tenets provide a rather sophisticated set of tools to be used for stratification and power analysis as per Weber’s class perspective
Today, any immigrants in New South Wales have been subject to xenophobia and discrimination. This is mainly due to the nationhood ideology, Anglo-Celtic perceptions of cultural privileges, hierarchy, separatism and racial supremacy. It is estimated that 15% of Australians have been subject to isolated incidences of discrimination within educational institutions and varying workplaces (Dunn & McDonald 2001). The Anglo-Celtics have been mainly accused of this predicament. The Australian Federal Government once instituted a commission of inquiry into racism between 1996 and 1998 but its findings have never been unveiled to the public (DIMA 1998:1)
The highest population of immigrants resides in cities with a select few being found elsewhere. The population of New South Wales has been receiving a disproportionately large amount of immigrants despite experiencing growth below the national average. Many ‘chain’ immigrants have wished to live near family who moved into this state in earlier years. However, many minority ethnicities have been subject to numerous problems such as reduced economic opportunities, general deprivation, social dislocations and language hurdles. Ethnic concentrations however aren’t direct indicators of political, social or economic schisms.
The emancipation of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs in the 50s and 60s largely influenced population distribution of immigrants from southern Europe, thus minimizing transportation costs to various workplaces. The bulk of cheap available rental housing is mainly found within inner suburbs. However, ‘gentrification’ and a large inflow of highly paid residents has affected these suburbs, with cheap and affordable rentals being more prevalent in the outer suburbs where the Vietnamese have been noted to be most populous. However, the decentralization and counterurbanization tendencies of immigrants have led to a lower increase in populations in major cities ( Hugo 1994). Only the Greek immigrants have exhibited a high city affiliation with 90% of them residing in big cities within the state. Immigrants from the UK have depicted high concentration tendencies (Hugo 1986) thus establishing their presence via ethnic-based hotels, churches and clubs in an effort to attract later arrivals of immigrants. Though it’s viewed that ethnic enclaves tend to promote separatism and impede upon adjustment to the society as a whole. A majority of ethnic-based residential concentrations tend to be noticed among low socioeconomic status communities.
It has also been noted that non-English speaking immigrants such as the Latin Americans and Vietnamese tend to be more concentrated in laboring jobs characterized by poor pay and dangerous working unions thus more likely to be unionized unlike their English-speaking counterparts. They’re also limited in financial means.
This is due to their vulnerability to atrocious exploitation and complete alienation. Social isolation has also proven to enhance class conflict by fostering militancy thus sustaining the solidarity of particular ethnic group members participating in strikes. In addition, their past struggles in their countries of origin further complicate the situation. For instance, in the 1980 Melbourne Toyota-AMI strike and 1985 Redfern Mail Exchange strike, it was the Vietnamese who were key participants. Labor movements have proven to effectively combat ethnic differences both in the community and the workplace.
However,, a labor aristocracy has also emerged between the Anglophone workers and non-English speaking immigrants such that the Anglophone workers regard themselves as being the superior immigrants thus disorienting common immigrant class interests. From a political perspective, this further destroys the unified consciousness of immigrant workers as a whole.
As per the aristocracy of labor thesis, there have been many events depicting bourgeois Anglo-Australians and migrants uniting in struggle despite intense racial hatreds. Though mass immigration policies after world war 2 resulted in the segmentation of the labor market, the working class wasn’t divided irreparably.
While the Marxian perspective clearly depicts the socioeconomic evolution of New South Wales, the Weber analysis is more rounded and all- inclusive, giving a variety of perspective options as per the needs of any analyst. The Marxian perspective is also limited by the proprietorship of production means whereas the Weberian perspective connects the dots in regards to the genesis of prevailing social and political conditions while at the same time unveiling a wide array of comparative analysis options in the society at hand. Thus, the Weberian analysis is more competent in the analysis of social class intersection of immigrant ethnic groups in New South Wales.