Migration and community formation under conditions of globalisation
This article discusses the conceptual issues of migration research before focusing on two major issues: • Likely trends in migration in future • Perspectives for migrant settlement and consequences for multi-cultural societies
International migration as a systemic factor in globalisation
Migrations have always been key factors in colonialism, industrialization and nation-building. During the 1990s, there was a shift in perception concerning migration but this not does represent a major change in phenomenon. Migration as a systemic element in the process of globalization is a new form of a systemic role which has taken different forms since the formation of global networks of capitalist markets in the 16th century.
Understanding migration and community formation is crucial for anticipating future developments. Until now, policy-makers and analysts have failed to anticipate the current state of societies – nobody foresaw the development of multi-cultural societies in settler nations of the New World or Western Europe. Policy-makers have perceived migration as something that can be easily controlled by states, for the perceived benefit of the state, but have not taken into account human agency.
Perspectives for international migration
The volume and significance of migration
According to a UN study, between 2 and 4 percent of the world’s population are migrants, but the distribution of these immigrants is of course not evenly spread. In absolute terms, most migrants are living in less-developed countries, but in relative terms developed countries are more affected by migration as migrants form a higher percent of the population in developed countries than in developing countries. Migrants tend to migrate from rural communities, which often has a sever impact on those communities (family life and labour shortage) to urban communities, where there are likely to be more chances of employment and assistance from other migrants.
Causes of migration
There are several approaches to understanding the causes of migration:
Demographic explanations stress the importance of declining fertility rates and labour shortages in Europe and increasing fertility rates and unemployment in developing countries which creates a “push and pull” factor.
In the free market model of neo-classical economics, individuals from less developed countries migrate to developed countries for better paid job opportunities. According to this model, this movement results in convergence of wage levels, although in reality, the wage levels are moving further apart.
The “economics of migration” approach emphasizes the decision-making process of families who invest in the education of one child in order to ensure that (usually) he is in a position to move abroad to find work in a stable economy and send money home to support the family.
Historical-institutional approaches point to the role of large institutions in initiating and shaping migration flows, such as national governments initiating “guestworker” systems, where migrants are encouraged to fill a local labour need without being encouraged to stay and bring their families.
Sociological explanations of migration emphasise the importance of cultural and social capital in encouraging and facilitating migration: cultural capital being the increased awareness among people of developing countries about other societies and the opportunities they provide, social capital being the social connections needed to migrate to a place where other members of the community have already migrated.
While a full understanding of migration would need to take into account all these approaches, yet another factor is the global migration industry, comprised of legal and illegal entities and networks which all have an interest in encouraging migration.
Types of migration
In the last 50 years, there have been three major types of migration: permanent settlement migration, temporary labour migration and refugee movement. Highly skilled workers are encouraged to migrate through government programmes, but also most global cities rely on low-skilled labour, provided by asylum seekers and irregular migrants. The term refugees is not sufficient to represent all those forced to leave their homes: forced migration is a more inclusive term which refers to asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, post-conflict returnees, people displaced by environmental and natural disasters, and those displaced by development projects (eg. Infrastructure development, dam construction etc.) More patterns of migration are developing under conditions of globalization:
- Astronaut phenomena: families move from developing to developed countries while breadwinner works in the original home country
- Return migration: a growing trend, migrants return and effect social, cultural and economic change.
- Retirement migration: people from wealthier countries retire to countries with low living costs and pleasant weather.
Perspectives fro multicultural societies and transnational communities
To what extent will migrant settlement and community formation change under conditions of globalization? What will be the effects on social relations, culture, identity and politics in receiving countries? How will states seek to incorporate minorities and manage diversity? To answer these questions, we need to look at the different ways migrants have been incorporated into receiving societies over the last 50 years.
Modes of Incorporation: the Western Society Convergence
There are three main approaches to migrant incorporation:
- Assimilation: encouraging immigrants to learn language and adopt the social and cultural practices of the receiving community
- Differential exclusion: migrants are temporarily integrated into some sub-systems e.g. labour market, but excluded from others e.g. political participation or obtaining citizenship.
Both of these models were designed to ensure that immigrant culture does not have any cultural impact on the receiving community. However, in Western societies, this was not possible.
- Multi-culturalism was introduced as an alternative immigration policy initially in Canada, Australia. Multiculturalism accepts that homogenous and mono-cultural natioan-states are not possible, and that social equality should be strived for, and diverse communities protected form discrimination. Therefore, difference is controlled while assuming that loyalty of citizens will be to a single nation-state.
Migrant incorporation under conditions of globalization: the rise of transnational communities
Globalization reduces the power of the nation-state. Increasing mobility, especially through communication and cheap travel allows people to challenge the idea that a person belongs to one nation-state. Transnational communities, or diaspora, have existed for centuries, for instance the Jews, African slaves in the New World, Greek and Arab trading groups etc. but the number of such communities is increasing. This is facilitated by time space compression, partly technological in character, partly social/cultural. If the loyalty of transational community members is not to a particular nation-state, then what does loyalty relate to? These communities are sometimes portrayed as cosmopolitan hybrids, and sometimes as having a feeling of identification with other people of the same ethnic group, wherever they are.
Transnational communities and global cities
It is suggested that immigrants find their sense of identity primarily at the level of the city, that there is a sense of sub-national belonging.
Significance of transnational communities for national identity
Governments of emigration countries often try to retain a strong link between the immigrants and the homeland, as this can bring economic, cultural and political benefits. This can be advantageous for migrants – in societies where they experience racism and marginalization, mobilizing community solidarity and transnational links can be a source of strength. Multicultural, cosmopolitan communities also negotiate cross-border links and bring cultural and economic openness and opportunities.
Transnational communities and citizenship
If flows are replacing spaces as the site of economic and social organization, citizenship can no longer be attached to a single nation-state. About half the world’s countries now recognize dual citizenship: emigration countries benefit from the remittances, technology transfer and political support ensured by emigrants. Immigration countries benefit form this arrangement in terms of improving social relations and integration of minorities, preventing social disadvantage being connected to ethnicity.
Instead of conclusion: back to baby-farming?
The expression “baby-farming” was coined by satirical Irish clergyman Jonathan Swift as a solution to the problems faced by the Irish while suffering under English colonization: as a way to earn a living, it was ironically proposed that the only way for the Irish to make a living was to farm babies to sell to the English for consumption. As developed countries over the past decades have increasingly relied on imported labour, human exports have been sent to the factories of industrial countries (rather than the dinner table). A new transnational baby-farming can be proposed as a scenario of global migration in the future. Based on current trends, the future scenario possibly entails the following:
- Continuning drop in fertility rates will ensure the need for importing labour to compensate shrinking labour forces.
- Areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America will continue to be excluded from mainstream global economy, and while fertility rates increase, people will need to migrate to find work.
- Surveillance technology will make movement of people even harder and more dangerous than at present, resulting in the increasing deaths of those trying to reach developed countries to find work.
- Contract labour systems and exploitation of illegal workers and asylum seekers will continue and increase to ensure that there are enough unskilled workers available for fulfilling 3-D jobs (dirty, demanding and dangerous)
- Education policies in less developed countries will focus on providing skilled labour for rich countries
- Some families, if fitting the economic and cultural profile considered desireable by immigration countries, will be allowed to settle and replenish the aging population.
This radical scenario might not come to pass, but certainly the time of nation states with homogenous identities is past.
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