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There is growing intellectual interest in issues associated with international migration. The literature on migration is continuously growing due to this trend. However, theorization of migration is not strong when compared to other branches of international transactions. This may be due to the complexity and diversity of the area covered by international migration. The paper mainly focuses on theoretical perspectives of international migration. In line with that, an overview of international migration is provided at the beginning. It is followed by types of international migration and migration theories. Prominence is given to theoretical perspectives of international migration and the classification of migration theories. In addition, shortcomings of migration theories are examined.
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Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe*
Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
Department of Economics, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
There is growing intellectual interest in issues associated with international migration. The
literature on migration is continuously growing due to this trend. However, theorization of
migration is not strong when compared to other branches of international transactions.
This may be due to the complexity and diversity of the area covered by international
migration. The paper mainly focuses on theoretical perspectives of international migration.
In line with that, an overview of international migration is provided at the beginning. It is
followed by types of international migration and migration theories. Prominence is given
to theoretical perspectives of international migration and the classication of migration
theories. In addition, shortcomings of migration theories are examined.
Key words: International Migration, Types of Migration, Classication of Migration Theories,
International Migration Theories
* Corresponding author e-mail
©2016 Social Affairs Journal. This work is licensed under
a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0
International License.
Social Affairs: A Journal for the Social Sciences
ISSN 2478-107X (online)
International migration as a practice has
a long history with some turning points.
Disintegration of the middle age societies and
accompanied changes such as renaissance,
commercial revolution, colonization,
agricultural revolutions, industrial revolution,
emergence of free market societies, modern
education, and technological advancement
are some prominent factors which have
contributed to the growth of international
migration. In the recent past, globalization
has further enhanced migration, mainly
through revolutionary changes in information
technology. Economic blocks like the
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
European Union have opened the gates
of international migration in their member
countries. The initial nancial cost of
migration has been drastically reduced due
to low transport costs, cheap accommodation
facilities, online travel arrangements, and
availability of reliable destinations with
low cost insurance packages. Similarly,
international conventions on migrants,
peaceful environment in many parts of
the world, encouragement of skilled and
professional labour migration, and modern
low cost communication facilities have
become major incentives for international
migration. Natural disasters and man-
made disasters such as wars, conicts
and deteriorating political environments at
present further contribute towards migration.
The free movement of labour among
countries in some parts of the world has
been facilitated by the signing of bilateral and
multilateral treaties (Rosen 2007). As a result
of the above factors, international migration
has become a popular practice throughout
the world today. Along with the rising trend in
international migration, intellectual interest on
international migration is also growing (Chan
2012; De Haas 2010b; Faist & Fauser 2011;
Skeldon 2010; Sutherland 2013). Moreover,
the economic implications of international
migration are widely discussed at present
(Barrell FitzGerald & Riley 2010; Kerr &
Kerr 2011). Adverse economic implications
like Dutch disease1 have been discussed
(Beine, Coulombe & Vermeulen 2015;
Chowdhury & Rabbi 2014; Edsel Jr 2010),
and the association between international
migration and workers’ remittances analyzed
(Arrehag, Sjöberg & Sjöblom 2015; Bredl
2011; Dustmann & Mestres 2010; Mamun
& Nath 2010; Plaza, Navarrete & Ratha
2011; Quisumbing & McNiven 2010). Labour
market implications of international migration
have also been examined (Brücker & Jahn
2011; Castles 2011; Docquier, Ozden & Peri
2014; Fleischmann & Dronkers 2010). The
brain drain aspect of international migration
has been highlighted from the perspective
of developing countries (Agrawal, Kapur,
McHale & Oettl 2011; Dustmann, Fadlon
& Weiss 2011; Korale 2004; Stolz & Baten
However, there is no single theory which
covers all the aspects of international
migration. The focus of international
migration has been inuenced by a number
of disciplines such as Economics, Sociology,
Geography, Commerce, Management,
Law, Political Science, Demography, and
Psychology, rendering the theorizing of
international migration a complex task. In
this regard, Massey et al. (1993) state that
international migration is associated with
incoherent and disjointed theories, and
there is no comprehensible theory related
to it. However, these fragmented theories
play an important role in directing this study
to analyze relationships between various
correlated variables in relation to international
The main objective of this study is to examine
international migration and migration theories.
Accordingly, the paper is organized under
ve major sections. Section one provides an
overview of international migration. Section
two discusses different types of international
migration. International migration theories
are elabourated in section three, along
with the classication and analysis of them.
Section four examines major shortcomings
of migration theories, while section ve
provides some concluding remarks.
The required information for the paper has
been collected from secondary sources.
Accordingly, articles, book chapters, text
books, dictionaries, annual reports, and
manuscripts have mainly been used. There
are two main domains in migration literature,
which are internal and external migration.
The former focuses on intra-migration, and
the latter deals with inter-migration. This
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
paper specically emphasizes on the inter-
migration aspect of the literature.
Moving people from place to place for living or
working purposes is referred to as migration
(Huzdik, 2014, UN 2016b). As per the UN
(2016a), international migration at present
has become a global phenomenon where its
complexity and impacts are largely felt. When
analyzed from the development perspective
of a country, international migration has
both its advantages and disadvantages. It is
argued that migration is a positive force for
development since it facilitates development
for the receiving country, as the country is able
to obtain the required knowledge, expertise
and services of skilled and unskilled labour.
However, the receiving country may also
suffer due to unwelcome migrants moving
into the country as refugees. On the other
hand, the sending country may suffer from
brain drain due to the heavy outow of skilled
labour, despite the receipt of remittances.
Economic and political factors, family re-
unication and natural disasters sometimes
cause migration to happen. In relation to
the present global setup, it can be observed
that internal and external conicts of
sovereign states compel people to leave
such countries. The best example would be
the moving of people from Afghanistan, Iraq,
Libya and Syria due to civil wars. On the
other hand, poverty and lack of decent jobs
have become reasons for leaving countries,
which is considered as economic migration.
This is often seen in inter-country migration,
especially in migration from developing
countries to developed countries. There is
a global tendency for people of developing
countries to move to developed countries in
search of more comfortable lives. Further,
more travel options and a speedier ow of
information have made migration easier to
happen around the world. Migration therefore
has emerged as a major demographic force
throughout the world in the past few decades,
especially with globalization.
Figure 1: Number of International Migrants by Major Areas of Destination – 2015
Source: UN (2016b)
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
It was estimated in 2015 that the total number
of migrants in the world is 244 million which
is 3.3 per cent of the total world population
(UN, 2016b). Europe, East and West Asia
stood on top as the most popular migrant
destinations. In 2015, the total migrant
population in Europe was estimated at 76
million and in Asia, it was 75 million (Figure
1). The United States of America hosted
international migrants totaling 47 million,
which was the largest number hosted by an
individual country. Northern America became
the country hosting the third largest number
of international migrants, which amounted to
54 million (UN, 2016b).
When examining the countries of origin of
international migrants, it may be observed
that Asia accounted for the highest number
amounting to 104 million (Figure 2), which
was 43 per cent of the total international
migrant population in 2015. Europe was in
the second place having 62 million migrant
origins, while Latin America and Caribbean
were in the third place having 37 million
migrant origins in 2015. India accounted for
the largest diaspora2 in the world amounting
to 16 million, and Mexico accounted for 12
million of migrant origins (UN, 2016b).
Figure 2: Number of International Migrants by Major Area of Origin – 2015
Source: UN (2016b)
International migration is split into different
categories based on the factors inuencing
migration. This section tries to briey explain
the types of international migration identied
by different contributors to the literature.
In the study of Jennissen (2004), four main
types of migration are identied, namely: 1)
Labour migration; 2) Return migration; 3)
Chain migration; and 4) Asylum migration.
Labour migration is dened as cross-border
movement for employment in another country.
It involves high-skilled, semi-skilled and un-
skilled migrants. If international migrants
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
intend to return to their country of citizenship
after living as international migrants in a
foreign country, and stay in their own country
for at least a year, they are called as return
migrants. Individuals who are moving from
one country to another for family re-unication
and family formation are considered as
chain migrants. Asylum seekers who visit a
foreign country seeking refugee status are
considered as asylum migrants.
Bell, Alves, de Oliveira and Zuin (2010)
identify three main types of international
migration, namely: 1) Labour migration;
2) Forced migration; and 3) International
retirement migration. Labour migration
involves the migration of high-skilled, un-
skilled low wage, and temporary labour.
Forced migration includes refugees and
asylum seekers who cross borders due to
conicts and political uncertainties, and the
displaced who have lost their settlements
due to natural disasters and construction
projects (Bell et al., 2010; Castles, 2003).
International retirement migration is when
the retired purchase property abroad for their
residence (Bell et al., 2010).
The other common categorization in the
literature is Forced and Voluntary migration
(Hugo, 2008; Koppenberg, 2012; Zetter,
2015). People who move from one country
to another as asylum seekers, refugees and
internally displaced persons are considered
as forced migrants, while others who move
for different purposes, including those who
supply labour are considered as voluntary
migrants. The former group has no other
option than migrating to a different country
due to the struggles they face in their home
country, but the latter voluntarily migrate in
search of personal gains.
In addition to the above, different terms are
used to identify different types of migration.
The most popular term is economic migration.
It is dened as the decision to move from one
country to another in order to improve one’s
living standard through better paid jobs and
better facilities. This is very much similar to
the concept of traditional labour migration.
In economic migration, priority is given to
economic benets. The other term found in
the literature is political migrants, who are the
people moving from one country to another
due to civil wars and political discrimination
in their home countries. At present,
environmental migration has also become
a popular term in the migration literature
(Laczko & Aghazarm, 2009). Environmental
migrants are the ones who move out from
their home country due to environmental
conditions like desertication, rise in sea
levels, and droughts. In view of the above, it
may be observed that types of international
migration are continuously changing over
time. The reason is that researchers identify
new categories of migration based on
emerging push and pull factors. Therefore,
it appears that migration is a subject which
continuously changes along with changing
socioeconomic and geopolitical conditions.
There are a number of theories in the literature
related to international migration. Therefore,
researchers tend to classify migration
theories according to various factors such as
the origin of such theories, migration patterns,
relevant disciplines, and application of such
theories in the present context. This section
examines such classications, along with the
nature of individual theories applicable to
international migration.
Classication of Migration Theories
Migration theories are classied based on
different perspectives as mentioned above.
Many contributors to the literature have
made attempts to classify the theories
under different headings, which are briey
discussed in this section.
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
Hammar, Brochmann, Tamas and Faist
(1997) attempt to classify theories by
using levels of migration. As per Hammar
et al. (1997) and Faist and Faist (2000),
migration theories are divided into three
main categories as micro-level, macro-
level and meso-level of migration (Figure
3). Micro-level theories consider migration
decisions from an individual’s perspective,
i.e. a person’s desires and expectations.
Macro-level theories consider migration
decisions from an aggregate point of view,
i.e. the economic structure of the country.
Meso-level is where migration decisions lie in
between the two former theories, i.e. family
bonds, social networks, peer groups and
isolated minority communities.
Push and Pull Factors
Neoclassical Micro-
Migration Theory
Behavioral Models
Theory of Social
Social Capital Theory
Institutional Theory
Network Theory
Causation Theory
New Economics of
Labour Migration
Neoclassical Macro-
Migration Theory
Migration as System
Dual Labour Market
World System Theory
Mobility Transition
Migration Theories
Figure 3: Migration Theories: Level Based Analysis
Source: Faist & Faist, 2000; Hagen-Zanker, 2008; Hammar et al., 1997
Researches related to migration have been
conducted by the academia in various
disciplines such as Economics, Sociology,
Geography, and Demography with the aim of
theorizing the causes and effects of migration
(Prakash, 2009). Accordingly, several
migration theories have been developed
with special focus on economic, sociological,
cultural, and geographical factors. Figure 4
provides the structure and sources of such
migration theories found in the literature.
Hagen-Zanker (2008) has categorized
migration theories into two sub-divisions as
‘initiation of migration’ and ‘perpetuation of
migration’, in relation to theories analyzed
by Massey et al. (1993) (Figure 5). Theories
related to the rst type are based on causes
of migration while the second type is based
on the continuity or universality of migration.
Kurekova (2011) follows a similar approach.
By analyzing previous migration studies of
eminent researchers such as Massey et al.
(1993) and Arango (2000), Kurekova classies
migration theories into two divisions, namely,
‘determinants of migration’ and ‘perpetuation
of migration’. In short, this classication is
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
Discipline Based Theories of Migration
Figure 4: Theories of Migration: Discipline Based Analysis
Sociological Economic Geographical Unifying
(Stouffer, 1940)
Push -Pull
(Lee, 1966)
(Taylor, 1986)
Social Spaces
(Pries, 1999;
Faist, 2000
(Lewis, 1940)
(Harris and
Todaro, 1970)
(Hart, 1975)
Dual Labour
Market Theory
(Piore, 1979)
(Sjaastad, 1962;
Todaro, 1970;
Borjas, 1980)
(DeJong and
Fawcett, 1981)
New Economics
of Migration
(Stark and
Bloom, 1984)
Gravity Theory
(Stewart, 1941;
Zipf, 1946;
Isard, 1960;
Lowry, 1966)
(Wilson, 1967)
Theory and
(Wilson, 1981)
(Zelinsky, 1971)
System Theory
(Kritz et al.,
plus Mobility
(Massey, 2002)
(Massey, 1990)
International Theory
(Massey et al., 1993)
World Systems
(Wallerstein, 1974)
based on the subject of analysis. Theories
such as Neo-classical Theory, Human Capital
Theory, New Economics Theory, World
System Theory and Dual Labour Market
theory are categorized under determinants
of migration, while Network Theory, Migration
System Theory and Transnational Migration
are considered under perpetuation of
Huzdik (2014) pays special attention to
theories which explain the migration process
in the 21st century. He divides such theories
into four categories namely, 1) Behaviorist and
Equilibrium Tradition, 2) Historical Structural
Source: Bijak (2006)
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
Initiation of Migration
Neo-classical Macro-Migration Theory
Neo-classical Micro-Migration Theory
Migration as System
World System Theory
Dual Labour Market Theory
Lee’s Push/ Pull Factors
Behavioral Models
Theory of Social Systems
New Economics of Labour Migration
Perpetuation of Migration
Migration as System
World System Theory
Social Capital Theory
Institutional Theory
Network Theory
Cumulative Causation Theory
Migration Theories
Figure 5: Theories of Migration: Initiation and Perpetuation
Source: Hagen-Zanker, 2008; Massey et al., 1993
Approach, 3) Theory of Segmented Labour
Market and 4) Migration Systems (Figure 6).
These are driven by factors such as wage
differences, labour market imbalances,
regional differences in the demand and
supply of labour, economic culture, past
trends, development of institutions to assist
migration, economic globalization, and
individual factors.
As evidenced from Figures 3-6, the authors
have divided the same set of theories into
different categories based on their level
of analysis, their disciplines and relevant
factors under consideration (i.e. economic,
sociological, cultural, geographical and
unifying), and initiation, perpetuation and
application of the theories.
It has to be noted that various models
developed by the above contributors to the
literature reect different research objectives,
focuses, interests, decomposition of analysis,
assumptions and hypotheses. The end
results therefore are generally unconnected
theories, models or frameworks which are
developed largely in isolation of each other
(De Haas, 2010b; Massey et al., 1993).
Therefore, it requires a sophisticated theory
on migration which incorporates these various
perspectives to build a single comprehensive,
over-arching theory on migration. However,
Arango (2000) argues that a general theory
that rests on a sound conceptual framework,
backed by empirical evidence is yet to come
into existence.
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
The next section of the paper analyzes some
of the theories popularly used in migration
Analysis of Migration Theories
Migration theories are useful as they provide
theoretical guidance to understand the
movement of people in a wider perspective.
This may be related to economic, social, legal,
political, cultural, ethnic or other phenomena.
Theories on international migration provide
scientic knowledge on international
migration, and bring to light systematic and
specic regularities related to migration and
the relationships between them. Therefore, it
is deemed useful to briey analyze popular
theories on international migration under
which the above mentioned theories can be
Neo-classical Theory
The oldest and best known theory of
international migration is Neo-classical
Theory. It explains the impact of labour
migration on economic development
(Arango, 2000; Lewis, 1954; Todaro, 1976;
van Naerssen, Spaan, & Zoomers, 2008).
According to this theory and its extensions,
the cause for international migration is the
geographical imbalance between demand
and supply of labour. In regions where the
supply of labour is elastic, but the labour
is paid low wages and their marginal
productivity is low, workers tend to migrate to
a high-wage country (Massey et al., 1993). As
a result of this trend, remittances generation
has become a powerful incentive for
labour-sending countries to encourage out-
migration. In addition, migration contributes
to the labour-receiving country’s economy
by fostering production, and the remittances-
receiving country could ideally reduce its
income inequality and wage differentials
(Prakash, 2009).
However, the implicit idea behind this theory
is that the elimination of wage differentials
Figure 5: Theories explaining migration in the 21st century
Migration Theories
Behaviorist and
Equilibrium Models
Repulsion and
Attraction Theory
Migration Equilibrium
New Economics of
Historical Structural
Theory of Segmented
Labour Market
Migration Systems
World System Theory
Network Theory
Institutional Theory
Causation Theory
Source: Huzdik (2014)
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
would end labour movements and labour
migration would reach its minimum. Harris
and Todaro (1970) have pointed out facts
which are supportive of this argument. They
emphasize that the decision to migrate
is heavily inuenced by job opportunities
available to the migrant at the initial stage
and expected income differentials.
Another major assumption made under
the Neo-classical explanation is that the
international ow of labour primarily happens
in labour markets and that other markets do
not have a key role to play with regard to
international migration (Massey et al., 1993).
When these assumptions are considered,
it could be argued that the Neo-classical
approach is optimistic about the impacts of
migration on labour-sending counties due
to high expectations of reduced poverty,
unemployment and overpopulation. Further,
Constant and Massey (2002) have fostered
an assumption of Neo-classical perspective
where the immigrant would not return to the
home country as long as h/she benets from
wages, education and prestige in the host
country. This would typically lead to wages of
the unskilled labour force being reduced in the
host country due to migration, and producers
there would employ more unskilled labour
than skilled labour, and capital intensive
production. Then again, this depends on
the scale of migration and minimum wage
regulations. According to empirical evidence,
there is not much proof that there is a
signicant decline in local employment along
with a considerable reduction in wages as a
result of migration. If anything, the human
capital of migrants is the deciding factor
that contributes to the growth of migrants
(Friedburg and Hunt 1995).
According to the Neo-classical Theory, it is
further assumed that labour market rules
and controls could regulate international
migration of both sending and receiving
countries (Massey, Durand, & Malone,
2005). This assumption appears to be true in
the present context, since many regulations
are in place that effectively control the export
of labour. One of the best examples is the
restriction imposed by the government of Sri
Lanka on mothers who have children below
the age of 5 years to accept overseas jobs in
the capacity of housemaids.
In most developing countries, the rst
migration is not necessarily voluntary.
Many factors like poverty, civil conicts,
and restraining state policies play an
important role (UNESCAP, 2007). Thus, the
assumptions of the Neo-classical approach
could be challenged particularly in the
context of developing countries. Though the
household conditions are not very favourable
and greener pastures available abroad, non-
migrants may sometimes stay at home for
socio-cultural reasons such as hierarchical
power relations within the family, kinship
systems, and gender. Females may stay at
home because gender norms prescribe that
leaving the family behind is inappropriate,
while males may be forced to stay behind
to fulll a perceived security function in
the household. Also, parents might decide
against out-migration in the interest of their
children’s education, security, mental health,
The New Economics of Labour Migration
New Economics of Labour Migration has
been developed recently with the purpose of
challenging the assumptions and conclusions
of Neo-classical Theory. NELM focuses on
migration from the micro individual level to
meso units such as families, households
or other culturally dened units. In other
words, a key insight of this new approach
is that the decision to migrate is not merely
an individual decision, but is a collective
decision of households or families where
their aim is not only to increase income,
but is also a risk management strategy in
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
the context of market failures, in addition to
failures in the labour market (Stark, 1984,
1991; Stark & Levhari, 1982; (Massey et al.,
1993; Taylor, 1999). However, the theory
suggests not to ignore individual behavior,
but to study it in the context of a group
(Stark, 1991). When a group is considered,
households are in a position to diversify risks
of economic well-being by utilizing labour
resources in different ways. Massey et al.
(1993) argue that family members could be
made to earn an income in order to minimize
risks of job insecurity and income uctuations
by assigning them economic activities both
in the country of origin and in the hosting
country. Through this, deterioration of local
income could be compensated by migrant
remittances and vice versa. Furthering the
argument, Cassarino (2004) opines that the
return of migrants to the country of origin
after achieving such targets as savings,
insurance, household needs, acquisition of
investment capital and skills is logical.
A number of improvements in NELM could
be observed in comparison to the Neo-
classical Theory. The emphasis on wage
differentials in the Neo-classical approach is
outperformed by the group role of households
in NELM, challenging the assumptions of
the former. However, it should be noted that
wage differentials and household decision-
making are not mutually exclusive or
antagonistic categories. Families are very
likely to consider wage differentials to be a
strong, though denitely not the only factor,
when choosing a work destination for their
family member abroad. Therefore, it can
be said that NELM challenges the Neo-
classical approach only to the extent that it
pays attention to the structural conditions of
the individual, and not just the labour market.
The conceptual framework built around the
role of families and households under NELM
has highlighted that remittances act as part of
a mutually benecial arrangement between
the migrant and the migrant’s family (Lucas
& Stark, 1985). Therefore, NELM’s focus on
labour as a pooled resource of a household
has become a vital criterion when compared
to the individual role played by the migrant in
the Neo-classical explanation.
Dual Labour Market Theory
In 1979, Michael J. Piore introduced the
Dual Labour Market Theory which is a
divergence from micro-level models. The
model shies away from viewing migration
as a consequence of decisions made by
individuals, and argues that international
migration is the result of intrinsic labour
demands of industrialized societies at
present (Massey et al., 1993). Michael
(1979) points out the permanent demand
from industrialized and developed nations
at present to facilitate their development
propagandas as the cause of international
migration. In other words, international
migration happens not due to push factors
seen in sending-countries, but due to pull
factors seen in receiving-countries. According
to Michael, push factors are low wages and
high unemployment, while pull factors are
essential and unavoidable needs expected
to be fullled by foreign workers in receiving-
counties. Further, this theory emphasizes on
four core features of industrialized countries
that explicate the pulling of labour from
other countries, namely structural ination,
motivational problems, economic dualism
and the demography of the labour supply
(Massey et al., 1993).
The Dual Labour Market Theory suggests
certain implications which are in contrast
to macro level models, even though it does
not clash with Neo-classical Economics in
its basic concepts (Massey et al., 1993).
One such implication in contrast to the
Neo-classical and NELM approaches is the
demand-driven nature of international labour
migration. The theory says that the demand
for migrant workers is generated from
structural needs of the economy, rather than
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
by wage differentials or wishes of households
or families.
Network Theory
Labour migration can happen for various
reasons. Some of them are: a desire for
high individual income, an attempt for risk
diversication of household income, an
international displacement with a market
penetration strategy, and as a programme
of recruitment to satisfy employer demands
for low-wage workers (Massey et al., 1993).
Even if several reasons could be observed
as above, they alone cannot explain actual
migration patterns. Other factors like
geographical proximity to nation states,
availability of social networks, institutions,
and cultural and historical factors should
therefore be focused on (De Haas, 2010b).
Migration network is a contemporary concept
linked to the concept of social capital. Arango
(2000) denes migration network as a “set
of interpersonal ties that connects migrants
with relatives, friends or fellow countrymen
at home who convey information, provide
nancial backups, and facilitate employment
opportunities and accommodation in various
supportive ways”. These networks reduce
the costs and risks of movement of people,
and increase the expected net returns of
migration (Massey at al. 1993). As a result
of these networks, subsequent migrations
have positively contributed to enhance
opportunities for other migrants in their
decision making process. Further, Vertovec
(2002), and Dustmann and Glitz (2005) state
that the diaspora and other networks have
the ability to inuence migrants when the
latter select their destinations. It is revealed
that network connections are a form of
social capital which grants wide access to
employment abroad (Massey et al., 1993).
Correspondingly, positive effects from the
network migration mechanism have inuenced
the development aspect of the sending-
country, while generating considerable levels
of legal, political and nancial obstacles on
immigration related matters in the receiving-
country. Van Naerssen et al. (2008) have
identie “transnational communities as
mechanisms which reproduce their own
sociocultural practices abroad, forming an
extended national market; penetrating the
development of migrant businesses in both
origin and host countries”. Therefore, these
multinational or transnational businesses
have created a variety of commodities,
capital, ideas and skill, thus contributing to
the fostering of social, political, and cultural
ties in addition to economic ones (Prakash,
Migration System Theory
The core assumption behind this theory is
that migration contributes to change the
economic, social, cultural and institutional
conditions in both the receiving and sending
country. De Haas (2010a) has identied that
the Network Theory is closely afliated to the
Migration System Theory. Further, the focus
of the System approach is both on the macro
and micro linkages of places linked to the
migration process (Fawcett & Arnold, 1987;
Kritz, Lim, & Zlotnik, 1992). Micro level factors
include kinship and friendship systems,
while macro level factors focus on economy,
dominance, political systems, national
policies of immigration, and cultural and social
systems. Unlike other models, the Migration
System Theory emphasizes on the mutual
link between migration and development
(De Haas, 2010a). Therefore, this theory
is relevant for developing a theoretical
framework that considers migration in a
broader development perspective. Not only
economic development, but migration also
supports social development. For instance,
remittances sent back to family members
could alter the social and economic context
of labour-sending countries. Hence, it could
be argued that migration has the ability to
inuence socio-economic development of the
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
country of origin and encourage subsequent
migration both at macro and micro levels.
Institutional Theory
With the origin of international migration, a
number of institutions and organizations
were set up to capitalize on the imbalance
between the employers of labour-receiving
countries and potential migrants of labour-
sending countries. There is a considerable
mismatch between the large number of
people seeking employment opportunities
in industrialized countries and the limited
immigrant visas available in these countries
(Massey et al., 1993). As a result, many prot-
seeking as well as not-for-prot organizations
have been established in order to address
issues of migrants and employers. Most
not-for-prot organizations place emphasis
on the humanitarian aspect of the migrants,
while prot-seeking organizations along with
private entrepreneurs facilitate the crossing
of borders, counterfeiting legal and travel
documents, arranging marriages between
migrants and legal residents/ citizens of the
destination country, and providing credit
facilities at high rates in exchange for fees
(Massey et al., 1993). As prot-seeking
organizations often engage in illegal behavior,
most not-for-prot organizations provide
relief to the affected migrants by means of
counseling, social services, legal advice,
awareness on immigration laws etc. The
Institutional Theory is important especially
in today’s context in order to create a more
favorable and a strong policy framework for
both labour-sending and receiving countries.
Cumulative Causation Theory
The Cumulative Causation Theory was
developed by Gunnar Myrdal in 1956. It
was further developed by Douglas Massey
and his colleagues (Massey, 1990; Massey,
Goldring, & Durand, 1994). The theory
explains as to why a migration ow begins
and continues to grow (Fussell & Massey,
2004). In short, it describes how the number
of outgoing migrants increases over time,
since the rst migrant provides social capital
to relatives, friends and others in the country
of origin, which ultimately encourages them
to nd jobs easily and face minimum risk in
destination countries (Jennissen, 2004). This
situation stimulates and inuences people
to migrate more and more. The Cumulative
Causation Theory could be subsumed under
the System Theory and/or Network Theory.
The next section focuses on the shortcomings
associated with the above migration theories.
Individual limitations as well as general
limitations of the theories are discussed.
The Neo-classical Theory has been
subjected to many criticisms in the literature.
Van Naerssen et al. (2008) state that the
assumptions of the theory are challenged in
the context of developing countries due to
the lack of attention it pays to sociological
and cultural factors which directly affect
migration. Analyzing the shortcomings of
this theory, Kurekova (2011) states that it
ignores market imperfections, reduces the
determinants of migration, and standardizes
migrants and migrant societies. He further
points out that in general, Neo-classical
Theory ignores the impacts of migration on
sending and receiving countries, and ignores
the importance of politics and policies for the
process. Massey, Arango, Hugo, Kouaouci,
and Pellegrino (1999) state that widespread
dissatisfaction with the Neo-classical
approach explains the emergence of new
theoretical perspectives.
Moreover, it is assumed that migrants are fully
aware of the main facts relevant to their job
opportunities and wages. However in reality,
there is imperfect information available to
migrants on job opportunities in foreign
countries as the former is manipulated by
Social Affairs. Vol.1 No.5, 13-32, Fall 2016
intermediaries (Van Naerssen et al., 2008).
It is noted in prior researches that brokers,
recruitment agencies, rural agents, smuggling
networks, and unstructured institutions heavily
inuence the international migration industry,
and the latter is manipulated for their own
benet due to the lack of a proper regulatory
framework. Therefore, it can be argued that
the Neo-classical Theory emphasizes on
economic matters and excludes the social,
cultural and political dimensions of migration.
In this regard, Prakash (2009) states that
the theory is too economic in nature and it
leaves out other important aspects that can
potentially affect the movement of people.
Further, the Neo-classical explanation has
been developed by considering facts in
the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in
Europe. Skeldon (2014) therefore criticizes
Neo-classical Theory as a more historical
and Eurocentric analysis.
Arango (2000) states that the main limitation
of NELM is its exclusion of other major forms
of international migration like illegal migrants,
refugees, asylum seekers, and families,
which in turn challenge the assumptions of
the model. Further, NELM ignores household
concerns like the role of gender, and is
predominantly future-oriented (Faist & Faist,
2000). Similarly, Kurekova (2011) points out
certain shortcomings of this theory such as
being biased towards the sending-country,
and its limited applicability in practice due
to difculties in separating issues related to
market imperfections.
Commenting on the weaknesses of the Dual
Labour Market Theory, Prakash (2009) says
that the theory does not sufciently explain
the causes of international migration. It
mostly emphasizes on the importance of
structural demand for foreign labour in host
countries, and only briey touches upon
unfavorable conditions in the worker’s
home country. As per Arango (2000), the
theory excludes push factors like low wages
and high unemployment in labour-sending
countries, and explains only pull factors in
labour-receiving counties. This sheds light
on the fact that the Dual Labour Market
Theory neglects many migrants who move
out from a country based on their own
personal desires, rather than to merely
benet from employment abroad. Kurekova
(2011) states that the theory excludes labour-
sending countries and is biased towards
formal recruitment. According to him, the
theory does not consider various immigration
rates in countries where similar economic
structures are observed. Additionally, this
theory portrays developed countries as
consistent and willing recipients of skilled
labour, whereas the domination of the
economy by immigrants becomes a serious
issue for the host government. A telling
example is Singapore, whose unrestricted
access grants to individuals eventually led
to acute fears of declining job opportunities
for the locals, and serious demographic
revisions, among other things.
The downside of the Migration Network
Theory is also an important segment to be
investigated. According to Portes and Landolt
(1996), strong networks among a certain
group of individuals exclude the entry of
outside members to that particular network.
According to Ullah (2016), the importance of
Network Theory has declined over the years
since people have better access to perfect
information on labour market requirements
and recruitment procedures with the
development of technology.
Further to above, Drbohlav (2011) identies
many general shortcomings associated with
migration theories which are summarized
as follows. Drbohlav states that certain
migration theories are merely concepts,
frameworks, perspectives or attitudes which
results in migration theories being illogical.
According to Drbohlav, many theories of
migration focus on immigrating countries,
International Migration and Migration Theories A.A.I.N. Wickramasinghe
Wijitapure Wimalaratana
and specically on labour migration. In his
opinion, political aspects or an individual’s
will are not considered important in most of
these theories. Further, female migration
may be pointed out as an under-researched
area in the migration knowledge corpus.
It appears that all theories related to
international migration have certain
shortcomings. This may be due to the
complex nature of the concept of migration.
On the other hand, migration is a mixed
phenomenon and it encompasses many
different elds such as Economics, Sociology,
Geography, Culture, Religion, Law, Political
Science, Demography and Psychology.
Therefore, it is clear that scholars who
founded these theories focused on migration
within the framework of their respective
elds. What is required now may be a holistic
approach to migration that affords a nuanced
understanding of this global phenomenon.
International migration is a multi-disciplinary
concept and it encompasses a number of
disciplines such as Economics, Sociology,
Geography, Culture, Law, Political Science,
International Relations, Demography
and Psychology. It has therefore become
impossible to identify a single unique theory
on international migration.
This paper has focused on theoretical
perspectives of international migration. It
has provided an overview of international
migration, followed by types of international
migration and migration theories. By
critically reecting on these theories, it has
also attempted to identify the strengths and
weaknesses of some of the overarching
explanations of international migration.
The paper has shown that migration has
become an area of popular research among
a wide range of researchers consequent
to the migration process becoming more
complex, regular, and acquiring a more
global character. Various researchers have
attempted to explain migration in terms
of cause, development, and application.
This has led, the paper has argued, to the
emergence of a multitude of theories on
migration that explain various dimensions
of the phenomenon in detail, and yet lacks
a holistic approach to migration that would
enable clearer comprehension of the issue.
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land away from their original homelands are
considered as Diaspora. The notion of Diaspora
encompasses a broader population including all
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... Scholars have relied on migration theories at the macro, micro, and meso levels to describe how environmental change leads to migration [10,[43][44][45]. Macro-level theories such as the neoclassical macroeconomic theory, the dual labor market theory, and Wallerstein's world system theory generally concentrate on labor and capital markets, primary and secondary sectors, and capitalist economy at the national or international levels [46][47]. Micro-level theories such as the neoclassical micro-migration theory, Wolpert's stressthreshold model, the value-expectancy model, Lee's push and pull theory focus on the influence of individuals' characteristics on migration decisions such as individual's personally valued goals, and his calculations of cost-benefit, age, gender, marital status, and education and the role of place utilities and stressors in origin and destination [46,47]. ...
... Macro-level theories such as the neoclassical macroeconomic theory, the dual labor market theory, and Wallerstein's world system theory generally concentrate on labor and capital markets, primary and secondary sectors, and capitalist economy at the national or international levels [46][47]. Micro-level theories such as the neoclassical micro-migration theory, Wolpert's stressthreshold model, the value-expectancy model, Lee's push and pull theory focus on the influence of individuals' characteristics on migration decisions such as individual's personally valued goals, and his calculations of cost-benefit, age, gender, marital status, and education and the role of place utilities and stressors in origin and destination [46,47]. Meso-level theories such as network ...
... theory, institutional theory, and cumulative causation theory focus on the role of the linkage system such as migrants' social network and structure, and private institutions between two places that facilitate or intervene in migration [46][47][48]. ...
Full-text available
Nature is an active agent in the environment-induced human migration seems to be logical in explaining the large, forecasted estimates of the climate-displaced people by environmentalists. However, migration scholars and researchers have largely ignored this direct causal relationship. To ascertain whether people’s decisions to stay or leave are directly proportional to the environmental crisis they face, this paper analyzes the various empirical and theoretical studies on this subject. Analysis of the real-life instances suggests that environmental changes are a contextual factor and trigger migration only when intertwined with other divers of migration. Moreover, migration outcomes, either no or out or return, are a function of the aggregated adaptive capacity of actors at different scales. Based on these premises, this paper presented the Environment-Migration Nexus Framework. This framework highlights the impact of climate stressors on humans, and migration, as an adaptive response, is influenced by individual characteristics, location-specific capital, the government supports, and household- and community-level adaptation strategies. Consideration of this framework might provide the researchers in this field with a more accurate and broader picture of migration in the context of climate change.
... The final beneficiaries of remittances are not the immediate household of the emigrants, especially if the business owners of the consumables bought by the recipient's families expand the business or invest more, thus, increasing the informal sector. Lastly, income transfer from abroad is usually done through the banks in most cases, if the receiving family decides to deposit the money, the bank has more funds in return to lend to potential investors, who increase the turnover from such funds, hence higher expected returns is possible (Asch, 1994;Prakash, 2009;WickramasingHe & Wijitapure, 2016;Adedokun & Karzanova, 2019;Adeseye, 2021). This further emphasizes the role of remittance as an economic and financial return of international labour migration. ...
... These remittances are useful alternative sources of income for participating households, the inflow fosters productivity in the emigrants' country of origin. The immediate household of the emigrants is the direct beneficiary of remittance at the micro-level and the economy at large also stands to benefit from investments made by the remittance-receiving households (WickramasingHe & Wijitapure, 2016;Flahaux & De Haas, 2016;Prakash, 2009). The neoclassical theory was criticised for being based mainly on economic incentives (Prakash, 2009) and unrealistic, portraying developed countries as willing recipients of migrants (Kurekova, 2011). ...
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There has been a lot of controversy on the effects of labour emigration and remittances on economic growth and development in the sending countries. Some concluded a significant positive impact, while others failed to identify a direct link between labour and remittance inflow, and economic development. This study therefore empirically estimates the effects of international labour emigration and remittances on economic development in Nigeria, using annual time series data for the period 1977-2021. The Ordinary Least Square (OLS) is employed to analyse the model. Findings suggest a significant positive effect on economic development in Nigeria. Therefore, we recommend that the government should be more involved in labour emigration by establishing policies that protect migrants in their host countries thereby ensuring their stability for effective productivity.
... The scholars attempted to answer this question by formulating different theories. They provide scientific knowledge and bring systematic regularities that help us to understand migration movements from a broad perspective (Wickramasinghe and Wimalaratana, 2016). ...
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This thesis investigates the determinants of migration intention in South Caucasus countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Analyzing migration intention may allow predicting actual migration flows in future. Therefore, intention for future migration may influence current behaviour, such as less interest in investing in local livelihoods, skills, or relationships. These factors have significant value for policymakers. I used household-level survey data – Caucasus Barometer 2010 provided by Caucasus Research Resource Center. A binary logistic regression model has been applied. Estimation results indicate that migration aspirations are significantly impacted by individual demographics, socio-economic background, and political environment. In general, males express a higher intention to migrate than females. In addition, the results indicate that social networks play a facilitator role in migration aspiration. People who have confidence in public institutions have less likelihood of migration aspiration. Life satisfaction has a positive and statistically significant impact on permanent migration aspiration for Azerbaijan only, whereas life satisfaction is an irrelevant factor for the rest of the cases. The relative economic condition has a negative and statistically significant impact on the intention for permanent migration in Azerbaijan and Georgia. It means that people who believe they live in poor economic conditions are less likely to migrate permanently
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Factor availability is a common constraint both in developed and developing countries, but takes different forms. While abundance of labor and shortage of capital are stylized facts in developing countries, the opposite is typically true for developed countries. If factors were freely reallocated across the world, a country’s capital and labor would be employed in sectors where they were most productive and world output would increase. All countries could benefit from the exchange of this higher level of output. While traditional trade theories have considered that the abundance of factors determines trade patterns, cross-border factor mobility also matters in the recently globalized world. Cross-border factor movements typically take the form of foreign direct investment (FDI) and labor migration. Labor-abundant developing countries are expected to benefit from FDI as it is considered to be a supplement to domestic investment for these capital-scarce economies. Similarly, migrant workers’ remittances are one of the major sources of foreign exchange earnings in many developing countries. However, in recent years, remittance inflows in some countries have declined steadily because of the real income reductions of migrants. These income losses have increased the number of returning migrants, making domestic employment less secure. To address these issues of cross-border factor mobility, we develop both static and dynamic computable general equilibrium (CGE) models. In our first study (in Chapter 3), we develop a static CGE model that describes competition between local firms and multinational enterprises (MNEs) in sectors hosting FDI and the distributional impacts of factor mobility among households. In the second study (in Chapter 4), we extend our static CGE model to a dynamic one by explicitly incorporating labor markets with endogenous labor supply decisions by households in response to market wages. Migration decisions by households are also endogenously determined in our model in response to a foreign wage premium. We analyze the impacts of cross-border factor mobility in Bangladesh, which faces globalization in factor mobility. Using a static model, we examine how the benefits of an increase in FDI in the ready-made garments (RMG) sector are transmitted and shared among households with different characteristics, and the appropriate government policies to mitigate adverse distributional problems, if any, created from the increased FDI. Our simulation results demonstrate that FDI would promote both output and exports by the RMG multinationals, but would benefit household groups unevenly. We then demonstrate that human capital development programs targeting an adversely affected group of households could create more equitable gains for these households. Our dynamic CGE analysis describes how a foreign labor market shock affecting migrants reduces household welfare by lowering wages and increasing unemployment, particularly for unskilled workers in the domestic labor market. Using counteractive policy options, we examine the impacts of FDI promotion in the RMG sector and of a human-capital development program. Based on our results, we conclude that the former policy minimizes the negative impacts of foreign labor market shocks, while a combination of both policies is more equitable.
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Este artículo, sustentado en entrevistas conducidas entre 2008 y 2020 con 203 traficantes de migrantes, tiene como objetivo analizar la tipología de las redes mexicanas de tráfico de migrantes. A partir del esquema desarrollado por Spener, se han diferenciado tres tipos de redes: de cruce clandestino, de intermediación laboral y de evasión burocrática. En contraposición al modelo de Spener, inspirado en el concepto de migración internacional autónoma y en la teoría de las redes migratorias, que sostiene que el coyotaje ha evolucionado desde esquemas de menor a mayor autonomía de los migrantes, este artículo sustenta la hipótesis contraria. Se ha producido una sustitución progresiva de las redes de cruce clandestino, que trabajan para las redes sociales de los migrantes, por redes de intermediación laboral, que reclutan trabajadores migratorios de México y Centroamérica para los empleadores estadounidenses. Concluimos que la autonomía y agencia de los migrantes ha mermado durante el periodo estudiado.
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There has been a serious apprehension about Nigerian youths leaving the country in search of the proverbial greener pastures. Similarly, a fundamental shift in migration patterns occurred when the routes through Libya, long used by economic migrants making their way to Europe, became formalized as highway for modern slave trade. This paper adopts a qualitative research design with reliance on secondary sources of data and argues that Nigerians have been trafficked into slavery either in the transit country as Libya or the country of destination mostly in Europe. It observed that there seem to be a failure of expectations from Nigerians who on arrival in these countries realize that the pasture is no longer green as they are sold out as slaves, used for sex labor or thrown into torture chambers on accusation of irregular migration. The paper discovers that there are syndicates and cartels responsible for this illicit trade while a lot of money is made through the conduits used to lure these youths into the illegal business. It equally uncovers that a mere securitization of migration through fences and push-backs will not stop the flow of Nigerians as the Libyan economy seems to benefit from the money made from irregular migrants. The paper concludes that there is need for proper collaboration and intensification of action by the Nigerian and Libyan governments to arrest this ugly trend.
Researching Internal Migration is a comprehensive guide for researchers and professionals to study internal migration in developing and underdeveloped economies. This book: • Explains key theoretical concepts related to migration • Guides students and researchers on how to design surveys and the utility of census data • Unravels the complexities of large data sets and their interpretation • Includes techniques for indirect measurement • Presents methodology for estimating remittances at the sub-national and national levels • Acquaints the impact of migration during emergency situations or pandemics like COVID-19 • Offers perspectives and tools for evaluating the policy impact of migration Accessibly written, this book will be an essential theoretical and empirical guide for researchers in development studies, public policy, population studies, human geography and migration and diaspora studies.
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This is Bangla Journal published Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre. It contains six articles written by academics and practioners .
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Tarımsal üretim, doğal kaynaklardan insanların yaşamını devam ettirebilmesi için gerekli olan beslenme, barınma ve giyim gibi temel gereksinimlerini gidermek amacıyla tarım teknikleri ile mühendislik biliminden yararlanılarak yapılan birincil üretimi ifade etmektedir. Elde edilen ürünlerin ulusal ve uluslararası pazarlara sunularak ülke ekonomisine katma değer sağlaması, tarım sektörünün sosyoekonomik açıdan oldukça önemli bir konumda olduğunu göstermektedir. Tarım sektörü; insanların temel ihtiyaçlarını karşılaması, tarım ürünlerinin sanayi sektöründe hammadde olarak değerlendirilmesi, kırsal kesimlerde insanlara gelir kaynağı olması yönüyle son derece önemlidir. Tarımsal üretimde temel amaç; toplumların ihtiyaçlarını kısa sürede giderecek şekilde birim alanda en yüksek verimi elde etmektir. Hızlı nüfus artışı ve sanayileşmenin etkisi ile birlikte enerjiye ve gıdaya olan talep de her geçen gün artmaktadır. Artan bu talepler, tarımda üretimin, üretimde verimliliğin artırılmasını zorunlu kılmaktadır. Bu verim artışı iki temel unsurla mümkündür. Bunlar; tarımsal üretim yapılan alanların büyütülmesi ya da birim alandan sağlanan verimi yükseltmeye yönelik yapılan çalışmalardır. Ülkemizde tarımsal üretim yapılan alanlar belirli sınırlara ulaşmış olup, var olan tarım alanlarının büyütülme ihtimali azdır. Dolayısıyla bu durum birim alandan elde edilen verimin yükseltilmesine yönelik uygulamaların artırılması ve hızlandırılması gerekliliğini ön plana çıkarmıştır. Bu da ülkemizde tarım alanında faydalanılan teknolojilerin geliştirilerek hayvan gücü ve insan işgücü yerine makina kullanımına geçilmesinin önünü açmıştır. Mekanizasyon, hayvan ve insan işgücünün yerine geçen üretim girdisi durumundadır. Bu bölümde; tarımsal mekanizasyonun kavram ve kapsamı, tarihçesi, önemi, faydaları ve sorunları belirtilmiş, ülkemizde mekanizasyonun gelişimi konusunda bilgi verilmiş, tarımda teknolojinin üretimde kullanımı, mekanizasyon uygulamaları ile ilgili karşılaşılan problemler ve çözüm imkânlarının ortaya konulması amaçlanmıştır.
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This article surveys contemporary theories of international migration in order to illuminate their leading propositions, assumptions, and hypotheses. It hopes to pave the way for a systematic empirical evaluation of their guiding tenets. The authors divide the theories conceptually into those advanced to explain the initiation of international migration and those put forth to account for the persistence of migration across space and time. Because they are specified at such different levels of analysis, the theories are not inherently logically inconsistent. The task of selecting between theories and propositions thus becomes an empirical exercise, one that must occur before a truly integrated theoretical framework can be fully realized. -Authors
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This paper offers a conceptual review of migration theories and empirical testing of the neoclassical theory of migration in the context of the EU East-West flows. In addition to outlining weaknesses of the dominant approaches, it synthesizes current suggestions on how to advance migration theorizing. The paper empirically tests the neoclassical paradigm, used widely in the pre-enlargement research, on the actual data of after-accession labor mobility from the EU8 countries to the UK and Ireland. It shows that the neoclassical theory struggles to account for significantly different rates of outmigration from CEE countries which share relatively similar living standards and wage differentials relative to Western Europe. The paper concludes with outlining suggestions for new analytical approach to studying migration processes, which needs to incorporate country-specific institutional and structural variables, give greater emphasis to sending countries and analyze migration as part of broader global processes and socio-economic changes. Such approach speaks directly to recent works concerned with migration theorizing which also call to study migration as related to and part of social change.
Neoclassical economics and the new economics of labour migration posit very different motivations for international migration. The former assumes that people move abroad permanently to maximize lifetime earnings whereas the latter assumes they leave temporarily to overcome market deficiencies at home. As a result, the two models yield very different conceptualizations of return migration. We draw upon each theoretical model to derive predictions about how different variables are likely to influence the probability of return migration. We use data from the German Socio–economic Panel to test specific hypotheses derived from each model. Finding some support for both perspectives, we suggest that migrants may be heterogeneous with respect to their migratory motivations. If so, then parameters associated with the determinants of return migration in any population of international migration will reflect a blending of parameters associated with two distinct economic rationales. Equations estimated separately for remitting and non–remitting migrants lend support to this interpretation, meaning there may not be one unitary process of return migration, but several.
China’s recent meteoric rise in the global economy is closely related to the strength of its manufacturing sector, which is heavily dependent on cheap migrant labor. This paper analyzes China’s recent migration trends, spatial pattern and their relationship with China’s economic strategy. Internal migration in China is special in that it is heavily controlled and regulated by the hukou (household registration) system. The system enables the country to create a massive exploitable migrant labor force that makes China’s industry highly competitive in the global economy. The paper explains how the system works and distils the complex population and migration statistics to present a relatively complete picture of migration over time and space, including the latest changes. Special focus is on analyzing ‘rural migrant labor’, which has constituted the most important human cog powering the China economic engine. Long-distance, interprovincial migration is also studied in the context of the changes in the regional economy in supporting China’s ascendancy to being the ‘world’s factory’. Three major issues pertaining to this migrant labor system and recent developments in China and the global economy are examined. They presage important changes to come, which are likely to impact both China and the rest of the world.
Today, more than a billion people rely on international and internal migration to escape poverty and conflict, adapt to environmental and economic shocks, and improve the income, health, and education of their families. Annual remittances to developing countries alone approach $500 billion, triple the amount of official development assistance (ODA), while potential savings from reducing migration costs could be of a similar scale. The debate on the post-2015 development agenda has only just begun, but the critical and positive role migrants are playing in shaping the 21st century is already being recognized. This marks a sea change from the days when migration was seen as a failure of development, with migrants perceived as burdens rather than as engines of poverty reduction. This awareness now needs to be harnessed by governments: Policies that lower the costs of migration, eliminate discrimination against migrants, and protect their rights can reap even bigger gains for development.