Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Global Migration:

                                                     ~  Migration Theories Comparison 

           International migration experiences cannot be adequately explained by a single theory, but by theories operating simultaneously at different geographical scales, for example, large structural forces (macrostructures) may directly impact individual decisions to migrate (microstructures). Migration theories can be categorized in two distinct approaches: The Neo-Classical Theory and the New Economics of Migration which both are based on micro-level, cost-benefit, and human agency decision making models of potential immigrants who engage in migration voluntarily for self-betterment. In the other hand, labor migrants within Dual Labor Market Theory and World Systems Theory are conceived as involuntary casualties of larger-scale structural forces operating at the national and global levels (Arriess & Miyares 2007). 

Nearly 190 million people, about 3% of the world's population, lived outside their country of birth in 2005. The NY Times presents a look at the flow of people around the world.

      The Neo-Classical Theory and its derivates such as Human Capital Theory are both based on economics. They state that the migration of workers across international boundaries is determined by differential employment opportunities and wages rates between the origin and destination countries. They recognize as well, that governments in both countries are able to control migration by regulating labor markets, income taxes or minimum wages. Peoples tend to move from countries where wages are low or labor is scare, to countries where labor is plentiful and wages are higher in comparison. People migrate if they believe that they can maximize their income by moving to another place (Todaro, 1976; Borjas, 1990). Constraining factors, such as government restrictions on migration, are seen as market distortions. Due to the focus on individual decisions, and the neglect of historical factors make this solely theory incomplete to justify migrations. If it is true that individuals move in the search for better his/her livelihood, is necessary to study the historical forces affecting these individual decisions that made them to migrate.

           The New Economics of Migration is based on economic assumptions as well, but differs from the Neo-Classical Theory in that the decision to migrate is made by a larger social unit such as a family group or households that are a single
economic unit. The group decision of someone to migrate is for the purpose to enhance that generation’s income and survival chances. Economic policies that discriminate against a particular slice of population in the origin country promote emigration (Arriess & Miyares 2007). Research shows that migration decision making is often a family and community process. Capital accumulated through migrant remittances can be used to improve earning opportunities at home. From this follows that governments may encourage migration and remittances to assist economic development (Castles, 2009). Although, this theory may fit the experiences of exiled populations that have been the result of the effort of a group, most later built significant cultural networks with hometown associations to help to improve the lives of those left behind. Thus, again, migration theories that focus exclusively on the economic factor do not offer satisfactory explanation about the historical forces causing the migration decision making of a group, but I see rather this theory as a consequence of chronological factors. 

       By contrast, the Dual Market Theory argues that international migration originates from the labor needs of modern industrial societies, rather than in the decision making of a poor community. This is, international migration is influenced by the structural labor needs of a national economy, rather than on wage differences across space. Because advanced economies are characterized by segmented labor markets (divided into capital-intensive and high-paying vs. labor-intensive and low-paying), and native populations often find such low-wage and status work, monotonous, and poorly paid works unattractive, immigrants meet this labor demand. Since the late 1960s low-skilled clothing apparel and microelectronic industries have recruited female immigrants from Latin-America and Asia to fill vacant occupations rejected by natives. 

           More complex, Historical-Structures Theories are based on Marxist political economy and the World Systems Theory. Historical-Structures Theory asserts that as capitalism spread across the globe, considers international migration as a byproduct of this force. While the flow of capital and goods spread from the global core to the periphery, the international flow of labor moved from the periphery to the core. For example, foreign investments which manufacture goods that compete with domestically produced goods displaced domestic workers, some of whom migrate overseas (Arriess & Miyares 2007). 

       Even broader interdisciplinary approaches to explain migration involve the inclusion of colonialism and linkages that persist during the post-colonial period to promote migration; labor surpluses in the Third World were a legacy of colonialism and Western military intervention which had brought about underdevelopment and dependency of foreign capital. Migration was as important as military hegemony and control of world trade and investments in keeping the Third World dependent on the First (Castles, 2009). Nevertheless, the creation of refugee streams through indirect military intervention in Central American countries of Guatemala and El Salvador, for example, was in part a result of president Reagan's administration, which supported brutal and dictatorial regimes in those countries during the late 1980s (Arriess & Miyares, 2007). But Historical-Structures Theory seeks answers on the capital move and paid inadequate attention to the motivations and actions of the individuals and groups involved. 

         Lastly, Migration Systems Theory, on the contrary, notes that the migratory process develops its own social networks, dynamics, and settlement thus becoming a self-sustaining process even if its own original causes disappears. This theory suggests that migratory movements generally arise from the existence of prior links between sending and receiving countries based on, for example, colonization, political influence, trade, investment, or cultural ties (Faucett, 1989; Kritz et al., 1992). According to this theory, any migratory movement can be seen as the result of interacting macrostructures (large-scale institutional factors) and microstructures (informal social networks or Networks Theory). However, the single main determinant of migration is still probably the laws and regulations imposed by states and countries in response of economic, social, and political factors. 

       Thus, the interplay of the macrostructural factors activates microstructural networks of social capital to cause the migration moves.

Cited Notes:
  • · Miyares, Ines M. Central Americans: Legal Status and Settledness. Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • · Price, Marie. Contemporary Ethnic Andean South Americans and Cultural Networks. Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print. 
  • · Carothers, Thom. In the Name of Democracy: U.S. Policy Toward Latin America in the Reagan Years. University of California Press. LA. 1991. Online. Fri 6th, 2012. 
  • · Castles, Stephen & Miller, Mark. The Age of Migration: International Population Movements in the Modern World. 2009. 
  • · Miyares, Ines & Airriess, Christopher. Exploring Contemporary Ethnic Geographies. Contemporary Ethnic Geographies in America. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. USA 2007. Print.

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