Ethnic clustering among South Asian geriatricians in the UK: an oral history study

Raghuram, Parvati; Bornat, Joanna and Henry, Leroi (2009). Ethnic clustering among South Asian geriatricians in the UK: an oral history study. Diversity in Health and Care, 6(4) pp. 287–296.



The literature on ethnic occupational clustering and its impacts is large. However, it mainly focuses on the less skilled sectors of the labour market or on entrepreneurship. In parallel, the extensive literature on employment of skilled migrants has focused on expanding diversity in the workforce, and on issues of representation of migrants and minorities. This article takes a fresh look at skill, ethnicity and migration, recognising the clustering that also occurs in parts of the skilled sectors of the labour market. Using the example of South Asian doctors in a poorly valued specialty, namely geriatrics (now more often known as old age medicine), the article suggests that over-representation and clustering can be processes for career advancement among health professionals. Drawing on oral history interviews conducted with geriatricians trained in South Asia, and drawing on an earlier collection of interviews with UK-born and trained pioneers of geriatrics, the article explores the experience of clustering, especially as it occurred from the late 1960s through to the 1980s, a period when there was rapid growth both in the discipline and in the numbers of overseas-trained doctors in the specialty. The article demonstrates how the double experience of marginality, as members of a minority ethnic group and as doctors working in geriatric medicine, created a professional niche with opportunities for career development. It concludes by suggesting that dependence on migrant workers and a lack of regard for the care and cure of older people continue to be important challenges for the health and social care sectors, and that a look at past experiences can alert us to the problems and prospects that clustering affords the workforce in these sectors today.

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