“Migration, whether internal or international, can contribute to reducing inequalities.”– 5in10 with Mohamad Amara

Mohamed Amara received his master’s degree in economic modeling from the Higher Institute of Management of Tunis in 2004, before undertaking a PhD in Geography at the University of Paris I and a PhD in management (quantitative Methods) at the University of Tunis in 2010. In 2016 Dr. Amara joined the Department of Economics of Higher School of Economic and Commercial Sciences of Tunis as an associate professor of quantitative methods. From January to March 2019, he was a Research Follow in the department of Economics at the University of Oxford. Amara’s research focuses on development economics, regional sciences, labor market, youth and gender in MENA region, and applied micro-econometrics. He has published in a range of journals on a variety of topics such as the Annals of Regional Science, Social Indicators Research, Annals of Economic and Statistics, Growth & Change, Papers in regional science, Middle East development Journal, and Letters in Spatial and Resource Sciences. . In the academic year 2023/24, he is a research fellow at MECAM financed by the Konrad Adenauer Fondation in Tunisia.

Mohamad Amara

1.  How do you explain your work to someone who may not be an expert in the same field of inquiry and comes from another geographical context?

The purpose of my research project with MECAM is to analyze the economic and social integration of sub-Saharan immigrants into local labor markets in Tunisia. The issue of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa in Tunisia has been the subject of an open national debate, widely reported by the media since the Arab uprisings of 2011. The outbreak of the Libyan conflict in late February 2011, pushed hundreds of thousands of foreign workers to move to Tunisia in the hope of eventually returning to their home countries. Over time, Tunisia has transformed from a simple transit country to a host country for a large majority of sub-Saharans. Since 2014, the number of Sub-Saharans has tripled, raising a serious problem of their social and economic integration in Tunisia. The arrival of migrants results in an increase in the overall labor supply of the workforce. The resulting supply are driven by the degree of substitutability or complementarity between immigrant labor, locally produced labor, and the other factors of production.

2. What intrigued you when you started your academic journey? What were formative encounters and challenges?

As a native of one of Tunisia’s inland regions, I had the opportunity to see up close the regional and social inequalities that become more pronounced as we move further away from the capital and coastal areas. I was intrigued by the complex nexus of factors that contribute to inequality in all its forms. During my research journey, I experienced decisive moments that shaped my point of view. In my PhD thesis that dealt with the issue of regional inequality and local development in Tunisia, I have been lucky to meet and work with extremely talented people from two different disciplines (economics at the university of Tunisia and geography at the university of Paris I), each complementing each other. This interdisciplinary pathway offered me the opportunity to see inequality through several angles and to understand its origins. The popular uprising of January 14, 2011 in response to regional inequalities and social exclusion is one of the most formative and important times in my personal and academic development. I had the opportunity to talk to researchers from different disciplines (geography, sociology, civil society, etc.). Their deep insights and commitment to addressing inequality ignited a sense of purpose in my own work.

3. How does your work relate to imaginations of future and how does it deal with questions of disparities?

Migration, whether internal or international, can contribute to reducing inequalities. Migrant workers tend to send remittances to their home countries, which can improve living conditions for their families and communities. However, in some cases, migration can also increase inequalities within host countries. For example, some migrant groups may face discrimination, exploitation or precarious working conditions, which can lead to economic and social disparities. On the other hand, the migration of skilled workers, such as healthcare professionals, can lead to a skills drain in the country of origin, which can increase inequalities. I believe that my project on the impact of sub-Saharan migrants on the Tunisian labor market, as well as their economic, social, and psychological integration, can provide insights into various political inquiries. Firstly, do sub-African immigrants truly pose a threat or represent a potential competition for the Tunisian workforce? which sectors of economy are most affected? how smoothly do immigrants assimilate into Tunisian society? Answering these questions can aid political decision-makers in implementing necessary measures, such as infrastructure improvements, to effectively manage migration influx. This includes ensuring access to basic services, providing counseling and support services, particularly for sub-Saharan Africa immigrants.  

4. What is the role of humanities and social sciences in times of upheaval? And what may be the task and the public of a scholar?

The role of the humanities and social sciences is crucial, especially in times of upheaval. They have the capacity to describe the effects and explain the causes of the observed political, economic, and social changes in societies that have led to their development over time. I remember the post-2011 revolution debates, whether in the media or even in the academic world, where the main question is to understand the root causes behind these events and explain how a young generation revolted against a regime that has been in power for over 20 years.

I think that the role of a scholar is to understand these societal shifts, provide possible explanations, and communicate them in an accessible manner to a wide and diversified audience including academic community, general public, policy-makers, civic and social organizations, as well as media and press. Scholars in some fields like economics, public health, and others may influence policy-makers through their research findings. They may also interact with non-profit organizations to address specific societal challenges. In short, I think that the task and scholar’s public are tightly linked to the pursuit of knowledge and the ambition to make positive contribution to society, whether through research, public engagement, or political influence.     

5. Can you recommend a book, text, film, or exhibition that effectively addresses questions and imaginations of the future while dealing with inequalities in interesting ways?

I’d like to recommend the academic book “Inequality : what can be done ?” by Anthony B. Atkinson published by Harvard University Press in 2015. Atkinson started his book with a vital question: “if we are serious about reducing income inequality, what can be done? How can heightened public awareness be translated into policies and actions that actually reduce inequality?”. Drawing on his theoretical and practical experience, the author shows in his book that to reduce inequality, we need fresh ideas. More specifically, Atkinson recommends new policies in five areas: technology, employment, social security, the sharing of capital, and taxation.


Citation: “Migration, whether internal or international, can contribute to reducing inequalities.”– 5in10 with Mohamad Amara, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 28.12.2023, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/49871




Diesen Blogbeitrag zitieren
Forum Transregionale Studien (2023, 28. Dezember). “Migration, whether internal or international, can contribute to reducing inequalities.”– 5in10 with Mohamad Amara. TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research. Abgerufen am 23. Februar 2024, von https://doi.org/10.58079/vfab

Forum Transregionale Studien

The Berlin-based Forum Transregionale Studien promotes the internationalization of research in the humanities and social sciences. It provides scope for collaboration among researchers with different regional and disciplinary perspectives and appoints researchers from all over the world as Fellows. More...

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