Due to recent events
Due to recent events, such as the Syrian refugee crisis and the separation of children from their families by the U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the U.S-Mexico border, human migration is at the forefront of global conversation. Many differing theories have been developed to try to explain this behaviour; however, despite the multitudes of theories and models proposed, no general theory of migration has been developed. It is doubtful that such a theory could ever be developed because migration is far too diverse be summarized by a single theory. Therefore, it is important to understand the differences between theories, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of each. This essay serves to explain two theories of migration, dual labour market theory and cumulative causation theory, as well as their respective strengths and weaknesses.
Michael Poire’s dual labour market theory contributes to a better understanding of contemporary realities and provides an explanation at the macro level. Essentially, this theory states that migration is caused by advanced industrial societies that have a constant demand for foreign labour, stemming from certain inherent characteristics within the advanced societies. These highly developed economies rely on foreign labourers “because American (and Western European) workers refuse to work at onerous jobs for barely survivable wages” (Osberg 1982). The native workers reject such jobs because they are “low-paid, unstable, unskilled, dangerous, demeaning, low-prestige jobs” (Arango 2000), thus foreign workers are required to fill these jobs, which “are no longer discharged—if they ever were—by women and teenagers”(Arango 2000). Because of this, the labour markets of advanced, industrialized, capitalist nations are split into two pieces, one which contains well paying jobs, with good working conditions, opportunities for advancement, benefits and formalized authority relationships, and a second segment which contains jobs offering the reverse, hence the name dual labour market theory. The jobs in the second segment are “insecure, low-paying jobs with little prospect of advancement, poor working conditions, and informal, personalistic work relationships” (Osberg 1982).
Piore argues that there is normally much more to work than money, that work roles define social roles, status, and rankings (Osberg 1982). Piore suggests that because most migrants view their move as temporary they can function purely economically. Migrants only view work as an instrumental means to gain income to take back to their country of origin in order to advance their status in that community. They are therefore willing to work and live under conditions that they would find intolerable and demeaning, if they were in their home. According to Poire, this fact makes migrant ‘target earners’, because they only intend to work long enough to meet their goal before they return back home (Osberg, 1982). Therefore, a consequence of paying migrant workers more, would be that they would have to work less to achieve their goal and would return home sooner, leaving the advanced society with a smaller labour force.
One of the benefits of this theory lies is that it explains why advanced economies have unstable and low productivity jobs, why local workers shun these jobs, why the local workers’ reluctance to occupy unattractive jobs cannot be solved through standard markets mechanisms, why foreign workers are willing to accept those jobs, and, finally, why such structural labour demand can no longer be filled by women and teenagers. Advanced economies contain unstable jobs because of the division of the economy into a capital intensive sector and a labour intensive, low productivity sector, causing the dual labour market system. As stated previously, native workers shun jobs in the second sector because they are low prestige and offer little to no upward mobility. This problem cannot be solved by raising the salaries of the jobs at the bottom because that would require the salaries of jobs higher up in the occupational hierarchy to be raised as well, resulting in inflation. Migrant workers are willing to take these low-wage jobs because when compared to the wages back home, they are usually higher, and because the status that matters to them is the one at home, not the one in the advanced nations. Additionally, these entry level jobs can no longer be filled by women or teenagers. This is because female work has become career-oriented, and lower fertility rates and longer education have caused a decrease in teenagers(Massey et al. cited in Arango, 2000). Dual labour market theory is quite useful because it explains all this however, its majority of its value lies elsewhere.
Most of the value of dual labour market theory lies in the fact that it highlights a crucial component of the occurrence of migration, mainly the inherent structural demand for foreign labourers in advanced societies. This theory also provides compelling justifications for this demand, and it eliminates the argument that native and foreign workers are always competing for jobs. However, it does not take into account other factors that could push migrants to leave home, like politics, war, environmental conditions, or religious persecution. Thus, dual labour market theory is only applicable in the economic sense. It also does not take into account that majority of migrants move of their own accord, and that recruitment is no longer an important mechanism of migration. Finally, dual labour market theory does not explain why nations, with similar advanced economies, have differing levels of immigration. So, while dual labour market theory has some perks, it is far from perfect.
The basic premise of another theory, cumulative causation theory, as stated by Massey et. al (1993) is that each act of migration changes the social surroundings within which further migration decisions are made, typically making additional movement easier and more likely. Migration networks are links between people that encourage more migration. These links help people convey information and link migrants with relatives or friends back home. Through such networks migrants have access to information, financial assistance, employment and housing, as well as other forms of support. Therefore, these networks alleviate the costs and risks of migration. They can even make further migration easier through demonstrations. Douglas Massey (Massey et al. 1987 cited in Arango 2000) argues that these migration networks should be seen as a form of social capital because they are social relations that facilitate access to other goods of economic value. These networks are an example of one way migration can change reality, in this case facilitating migration, and inducing future movement in other socio-economic processes. Cumulative causation theory is the idea that migration is self sustaining and perpetuating, involving the expansion of migration networks, which in turn can lead to more migration.
One of the benefits of this view of migration is that, unlike dual labour market theory, it takes more into account than just economy. Cumulative causation theory addresses the social aspect of migration that is not considered in many other migration theories. Migration networks are a main factor used to explain migration. One side of this is that family reunion makes up a large portion of migration. On the other side, as migration becomes increasingly difficult in the modern world, particularly because of President Trump’s travel ban, the creation of ICE, and the Syrian refugee crisis, these relationships and networks are bound to become even more important as entry to certain countries becomes more difficult. Therefore, one strength of cumulative causation theory is that it takes these networks into account. However, similar to dual labour market theory, cumulative causation theory does not account for other possible causes of migration, such as politics or war. Cumulative causation theory is also only applicable on a meso-level, so it cannot be easily used for greater scale, more generalized applications.
To conclude, dual labour market theory and cumulative causation theory are just two of the many migration theories that have been developed to try to explain this human behavior. Although fairly different, with dual labour market theory focusing on economic factors and cumulative causation theory focusing mainly on migration networks and relationships between people, both of these theories have strengths and weaknesses. Neither one can fully explain migration as a generalization, but both are useful in their own way. In my opinion cumulative causation theory is particularly useful given the current changes we are experiencing, such as increased aversion to migrants in certain counties, new policies such as ICE in the U.S., and the Syrian refugee crisis. Because it focuses on migration networks and how family impacts migration, cumulative causation theory is bound to play a larger role in future research, as migration becomes increasingly more difficult around the globe.