Perceptions of meritocracy are based on the idea that one’s efforts lead to success through hard work and talent regardless of one’s socioeconomic background. Simply put, such perceptions reveal that higher education, hard work, and merits (should) generate return in rewards, such as higher income and better position, leading to upward mobility, and consequently higher social class. However, perceptions of meritocracy tend to legitimize inequalities by internalizing one’s success, assuming that everyone can “go up the ladder”, and that everyone deserves the position they hold in society. The idea of “deservingness” validates social inequalities and ascribes inequalities to one’s failure to achieve.
Interestingly, perceptions of meritocracy differ between those who are highly skilled and those who are low-skilled. Some evidence in the field demonstrates that highly skilled become more aware of realities about social inequalities, therefore they tend to hold weaker perceptions of the role of merits in one’s success. However, there is also another side to the story with literature claiming the highly skilled being prone to endorse meritocracy.
Migrants usually carry certain aspirations and beliefs that they will succeed if they follow the rules of host society and work hard. When in host countries, they use various strategies, including ways to navigate the labor market to prove themselves. The meanings they ascribe to their success or “deserving position” usually reflect institutional, structural, and individual mechanisms. Moreover, they also reflect their perceptions of the role of merit (education, hard work, skills as such) and non-merit determinants (family background, social connections as such) that play a role in their stories of success in host countries. Success achieved in host countries for migrants is usually relative to either their previous position in the country of origin or the situation of their close circle, including their relatives, peers, or colleagues in the country of origin.
This paper explores the determinants highly skilled migrants from Azerbaijan attribute to their success while living and working in Poland, as well as the strategies they apply not to fail. Drawing from the biographical narrative interviews conducted with migrants from Azerbaijan in Poland, it further examines what factors, either merit or non-merit as well as institutional, structural or individual Azerbaijani migrants ascribe to their success stories, how they justify their “deserving” position in Poland, and what solutions they take to manage to maintain success. Preliminary findings reveal that highly skilled Azerbaijani migrants attribute their success to merits such as hard work, and as a result tend to internalize their success by individual merits. Additionally, they apply different maneuvers not to fail and continue succeeding including, changing jobs frequently to get pay rise, and acquiring local education, even from some small and private institution to have easier access to labor market in Poland.