Social Action Now!

An objective view to worldwide social issues

Theories about migrations and their perpetuation over the time.

Most people spend their lives in or near the place where they are born. Migrations, historically, have been the exception rather than the rule. Yet, in recent decades, human mobility has become one of the staple components of globalization. Human movements (for various reasons) and transnational practices are today central. These movements affect not only the life trajectories and identities of the people involved, but also those of the whole societies in the sending and receiving countries. Social, economic, and demographic structures are clearly transformed. We could describe our times as “the age of migrations” (Castles). Different theories have been developed to try to explain the phenomenon. None of them explains it fully. Some fragmented theories only explain some factors of them. We need several levels of analysis because they are very complex.

The first migration theory was developed by Ernst Ravenstein. In his Push/Pull framework, he says that there are advantages and disadvantages in both places (of origin and destiny) but the migration destiny has more advantages. Migrants search for new opportunities, the main reason is used to be economical but there are others like sexual, religious or political issues. This theory was criticized for its simplicity.

It basically applies to the field of the Neo-Classical Explanation. It is based on the rational choice, maximizing advantages, differences on the income and the net benefits. This theory has two perspectives:

  • Macro perspective: migrations happen for a demand of labor in different locations. Migrants usually go to places with higher salaries.
  • Micro perspective: they migrate after considering the cost-benefits of the move. Before taking the decision they have to take into account some aspects like, the cost of the journey, the food, the effort of learning a new language or the lost opportunity.

Net benefits = [expected benefits] – [benefits in origin] x [probabilities of finding an employment] – [psycho-cost of migration]

If the result is positive, they move. This theory has also been criticized because it doesn’t take into account the policy restrictions, legal problems and it can’t be the explanation because not many people migrate.

In the last few decades of the 20th century, there were dramatic changes. The migratory flows became more heterogeneous, laws became more restrictive and they appeared other reasons for migrations, for example, refugees.

The theory of The New Economics of Labor Migrations says that there are not the single individuals who migrate but the whole group. Collectivities of people migrate after considering the shortcomings in their origin country. Risks are minimized thanks to insurances and distributed among different members. The groups as a whole will be pushing individuals to go abroad. Remittances become crucial for familiar economies.

The theory of the Dual Labor Market, worked by Mr. Piore, focuses on the idea that developed countries need cheap workers and there are some jobs that are not taken by natives because of the three D’s. Those jobs are considered dirty, difficult or dangerous. The offered-salary do not usually respond to the free offer and demand in the market. There is a clear hierarchy of prestige. In this way, it is created a dual labor market where some jobs are stable and give a good position (taken by natives) while the others are unstable and require little qualification (taken by migrants).

In The Theory of The World System Wallestein, Sasen and Cortés developed the Theory of Dependence. They claim that there are inequalities between capitalist countries and the others. Capitalists are developed while the others still base their economies on agriculture. Rich countries search for new resources, cheap labor, new markets, consumers and lands.

Hitherto, we have given some explanations to know why migrations happen. However, we have to know also how can migrations stay in the future because some of them are perpetuated while others not. There are some theories that explain The Perpetuation of Migratory Flows in time:

  • Networks Theory: there are networks that connect migrants, returnees and potential migrants in both countries. When those networks become stable the flow continues. They help other migrants so, costs and risks are reduced and they provide assistance and information.
  • Theory of Institutions: Institutions and organizations are divided into, the black market and other organizations. The Black Market take advantage of migrants and the lack of balance between the demand of labor and the offered visas. Other organizations stand up for the migrants rights. They show in receiving countries, have an humanitarian character and concentrate on those who have to enter irregularly.
  • Accumulative Causation Theory: developed by Myrdal, says that “future flows will be much easier” because social networks spread, income levels improves by comparison with peers, land in origin are redistributed and migration culture emerges. Remittances are very important. Migrants send money back home. In the past, they saved this money and went back home richer.
  • Migration System Theory:  migrants have finally an stability and structure generated by economic, cultural and political connection. Relatively stable exchanges take place between countries complemented by other types of flows: of goods, capitals, ideas, customs and information. Each migratory system has a core of receiving and sending countries stabilized over the time. Often colonial connections are significant, but does not need to be the case.

To sum up, we could say that the migration topic is a bit controversial, even if there are theories explaining the motifs of migration, we know that the situation of each migrant is different and creating a perfect theory that takes into account all the aspects refered to migrations would be impossible.




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