Types of Migration full text

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People have always migrated for a variety ofreasons, However, in the last half- century three types of primary migration have been most common: permanent settlement migration, temporary labor migration and refugee move- ment. Each of these often led to family reunion, which often became the largest flow as a movement matured. The tendencies of the last two decades have been towards a diversffication, proliferation and intermingling of types of flows.

Highly-skilled migration is the type of migration currently most popular with governments of receiving countries, Since the I 980s, the United States, Canada and Australia have set up privileged entry systems to attract entrepreneurs, executives, scientists, professionals and technical specialists. More recently, Western European and some East Asian countries have followed suit (Findlay, 1995). Attracting Indian IT professionals has become a global competition, while the health services of countries like Britain could not run without doctors and nurses from Africa and Asia, This type of migration can represent a ‘brain drain’ — that is a transfer of human capital from poor to rich countries — but may also bring about technology transfer and cultural innovation for areas of origin. Since poor countries continue to turn out more graduates than they can employ, while rich countries continue to prune their education budgets, such migration looks certain to grow.

Low-skilled migration was crucial to post-1945 industrial growth in most rich countries, but is now generally rejected on the grounds that it is economically unnecessary and socially harmful, NICs continue to import unskilled labor, often for construction or plantation industries. However, this often takes the form ofsystematic use ofirregular migrants or asylum seekers, whose lack of rights makes them easy to exploit. It is one of the great fictions ofour age that the ‘new economy’ does not need ‘3-D workers’ any more. The reality as Saskia Sassen pointed out years ago (Sassen, 1988), is that global cities are based on dualistic economies, where the luxury consumption needs of elites create demand for new armies of low-skilled workers for construction, garment manufacture, food processing and service industries. The demographic and educational situation of local populations means that they cannot flilfil these roles, and low-skilled migrants are vital, Use of irregular migrants and asylum seekers has become a systemic need, which is covertly pursued by holders of economic and political power.

Forced migration is a broader term which fits better with current realities than the old notion ofthe individually persecuted refugee as laid down in the 1951 Geneva Convention. UNHCR-recognized refugees — about 13 million in 1 997 (UNHCR, 1997) — are now far outnumbered by the other types of forced migrants: asylum seekers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), post- conflict returnees, people displaced by environmental and natural disasters, and development displacees (people who lose their homes and livelihoods due to large dams, industrial projects, infrastructure developments and so on). Prior to 1990, refugee policies were closely linked to Cold War interests, With the end ofthe bipolar world order, receiving countries became much less will- ing to accept refugees and asylum seekers. At the same time, conflicts linked to the changing international order led to vast new streams of forced migration in Europe, Africa and Central Asia. There seems little hope that the sit- uation will improve in the foreseeable future, so that forced migration is like- ly to go on growing. Although most forced migrants remain in the poor countries ofthe South, attempts by a minority to reach the prosperous North have led to panic reactions, Draconian entry controls and restrictions on human rights and legal process have become threats to the new openness of the post Cold War world. Immigration authorities argue — correctly — that it is impossible to clearly distinguish forced migrants from economic migrants. This is because the failure to build strong economies and viable states in certam regions is a structural aspect of globalization, which is expressed in both the form of impoverishment and conflict.

All the above forms of migration continue to lead to family reunion. In the ‘classical immigration countries’ it was — at least until recently — seen as axiomatic that immigrants ofall types, once allowed to settle, should be entitied to bring in close dependents. This principle is now being eroded in Austraiia and elsewhere. In Western Europe, family reunion was not permitted under the labor recruitment systems of the 1 960s and early 1 970s, but took place anyway. Contract labor systems in the Gulfoil states and East Asia pro- hibit family reunion, but there are signs that it is getting underway despite the niles. In Western Europe it was the strength ofhuman rights and the welfare state that made family reunion unstoppable. In newer immigration countries these factors are less important, but lack of regulatory capacity together with the continuing structural need for certain types of labor may have similar effects (Kassim, 1998; Komai, 2000; Kondo, 2000).

All forms of migration have become closely linked and interdependent. Officially-encouraged flows tend to stimulate irregular movements. Permanent and temporary migration cannot be clearly separated and tend to stimulate each other. Under conditions of globalization, certain new types of migration are emerging, or older types are becoming more significant:

-One new type is the astronaut phenomenon, in which whole families move to countries like Australia and Canada for reasons of security or lifestyle, while the breadwinner returns to the country of origin for work, commuting back and forth across long distances. This type became prominent with regard to Hong Kong in the period preceding re-integration into the People’s Republic of China (Pe-Pua et al., 1998; Skeldon, 1994), but continues today affecting increasing numbers of countries.

-Return migration, though obviously not new, seems to be growing in volume as a result oftrends towards temporary or circulatory migration. Return migrants are important agents of economic, social and cultural change, and increasing attention is being paid to their possible role in development processes (Castles, 2000a; UN, 1998).

-Retirement migration is an emerging type of mobility closely linked to improvements in transport and communications. Increasing numbers of people from rich countries with relatively high living costs and unattractive climates are seeking to spend their twilight years in more con- genial surroundings. Western Europeans are moving to Southern Europe (King et aL, 2000), Japanese to Australia and New Zealand and North Americans to Latin America and the Philippines. This has considerable cultural impacts and also provides the basis for new service industries.

Finally, mention should be made of posthumous migration — a phenomenon that reflects the cultural and psychological complexity of the migratory experience. Many migrants make plans to have their bodies returned to their native soil for burial (Tribalat, 1 995: 109—1 1). Even if the dream of return in old age proves a myth, at least the bond with the homeland can be re-asserted after death. Again, improvements in transport — not to mention refrigeration technology — are crucial.