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Social Development Working Paper No.

MIGRANTS, LIVELIHOODS, AND RIGHTS:


THE RELEVANCE OF MIGRATION IN
DEVELOPMENT POLICIES

Arjan de Haan
Social Development Department

February 2000
CONTENTS

Preface i

Introduction: reassessing migration 1

1. Migration and deprivation 3

Labour migration : predominantly young men? 4


Are migrants poor, and the poorest? 6
Rural-urban migrants 8
Box 1: theories of migration 10

2. Livelihoods and migration 11

Poverty, inequality 11
Capabilities 13
Vulnerability 14
Environment 15
Box 2: estimates of migration and remittances in Africa 17

3. Migration as a social process 18

Migration, household, gender 19


Agents of social change 21

4. Can and should policies support migration? 24

Box 3: Migrants, migration laws, human rights and HIV/AIDS 26


Box 4: Strategies for improving migrants’ livelihoods 27

Notes 29

Bibliography 34
Preface

This paper aims to inform development policy debates with an improved understanding
of migration. The paper starts from the idea that these debates pay too little attention to
the contribution of migration to poverty reduction: policies tend to ignore migration, or
have the implicit or explicit aim to reduce migration. The paper identifies possible
negative aspects of migration, including increasing inequality and other effects on those
who stay behind, but the emphasis is on the positive role migration plays for poor
households. Building on new literature on sustainable livelihoods, the paper argues that
we need a better understanding of the capabilities and strategies of poor people, in their
own perspective, and that this will help to improve development policies.

DFID’s White Paper of 1997 referred to migration in several respects:

• large-scale population movements triggered by conflict, forming a threat to security


and livelihoods;
• the rural poor migrating to cities finding life there equally hard;
• and intentions to help developing countries manage migration flows as beneficially as
possible, through conflict prevention, humanitarian assistance, and broad-based
growth - but not through using resources to reduce voluntary migration.

The present paper develops some of these issues. It focuses on voluntary or economic
migration, particularly rural-rural migration which tends to be most relevant for poor
people. Review of the literature reaffirms the White Paper statement that policies should
not aim to reduce voluntary migration. But it also brings to the fore the opportunities to
enhance the positive contributions of migration. This paper develops a view of migrants
as agents of change, economic as well as social. It stresses the lack of rights of migrants,
in international contexts but also at the national level, and how this limits migrants'
livelihoods opportunities.

This paper is the outcome of a workshop organised by the Poverty Research Unit,
University of Sussex in June 1998. This focused on two issues: (1) the relationship
between migration and livelihoods, and (2) conceiving migration as a social process,

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rather than as just individual and economic reactions, or as societal ruptures. Workshop
conclusions were summarised by Glynn Jones and the present author, and published
separately. This was made possible with the financial assistance from the Seedcorn Fund
of the Social Development Department of DFID, which also commissioned the present
working paper. The co-organiser of the workshop, Ben Rogaly, has provided significant
input to the current paper, as have the presenters and discussants at the Sussex
workshop. I owe Bridget Dillon, Rosalind Eyben, Barbara Hendrie, Mike Scott, Janet
Seeley, Francis Watkins, and Sushila Zeitlyn for comments and suggestions. Opinions
expressed are mine only (so are the errors), and do not necessarily represent DFID
policy.

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INTRODUCTION: REASSESSING MIGRATION

Migration tends to be seen as problematic, in academic and policy debates, and in the
popular press. It is often seen as the consequence of ruptures, of environmental disaster,
economic exploitation, or political or civil tensions and violence. And it is often
perceived to be a cause of problems, like environmental degradation, health problems,
‘brain drain’, political or social instability, declining law and order, and unravelling social
fabric and support systems. Section 1 of this paper - though arguing that there is no
direct link between migration and poverty - describes manifestations of such problems,
including the denial of refugees' and labour migrants' rights.

But the main argument of the paper is to emphasise the positive aspects of migration,
that tend to get less attention. The paper is not a ‘celebration of migration’,1 but intends
to contribute to a more positive assessment of population mobility. This is done through
two main arguments. First, the paper shows the importance of migration for the
livelihoods of many individuals, households and communities, throughout the world, and
throughout time. Whereas analyses of migration in countries in the South, as in 18th or
19th century Europe, have focused on rural-urban migration, this paper emphasises
migration between rural areas, and how migrants continue to maintain links with their
areas of origin. Reassessing migration in this way helps to enhance our understanding of
peoples’ livelihood strategies, the diverse, varied and active way in which people
combine different sources of livelihood, often straddling economic sectors and
ecological zones. These issues are discussed in Section 2.

Second, the paper stresses the need to understand migration as a social process (Section
3). Migration is part of active livelihood strategies, but is also determined by social
context, and is determined by social norms and structures. Household composition,
gendered ideologies and social contacts and networks determine who migrates, and who
can profit from opportunities arising elsewhere. Migration tends to be less disruptive of
social structures than often assumed. Migrants are agents of change, economically,
technologically, but also socially and politically: migration may reinforce ‘traditional’
structures, ideologies and support networks, but migrants also create new identities.

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Is this relevant for policies? The fourth and final section of the paper argues it is. A main
conclusion put forward is that an understanding of the role of migration may help to
make policies more relevant to peoples’ livelihood strategies, and more sensitive to the
negative consequences of measures that restrict migration. Understanding how
migration is structured may help devise measures in which migration can be supported,
building on the ways groups have facilitated migration, and thus build on people's
capabilities and assets. Work remains to be done in developing specific policy measures
and instruments that can do so, and the paper will discuss some of the possibilities.

Though there may be more refugees world-wide now than at any time before,2 this
paper pays little attention to forced migration, political or environmental refugees, or
forced evictions. Sometimes, forced and ‘economic’ migration are inter-linked, when
forced migration builds on patterns established earlier, or flights initiate new livelihood
strategies.3 Also, the circumstances in which many migrants live and work question
categories like voluntary. On the other hand, immigration policies during the last
decades have sharpened the boundaries between refugees - described by the 1951
Geneva Convention as people with 'a well-founded fear of persecution' - and economic
migrants.4 In any case, the questions regarding the two forms of migration are
sufficiently different to warrant separate discussions.

Thus, the central focus of this paper is migration as part of people’s strategies to
enhance their livelihoods. Because of an interest in poorer groups of people, there is
some emphasis on national or internal migration, and on rural-rural migration (though in
Latin America urban-urban migration tends to be more important than in Asia and
Africa), and less on international migration.5 But the geographical categories are less
important than understanding the role migration plays in livelihood strategies. In fact,
geographical distinctions can limit our understanding of livelihoods. Assessments of the
importance of migration are often based on an idea of different economic areas, rather
than conceptualising areas of origin and destination as a singular economic space where
people carry out livelihood activities and from which they derive income. Migrants often
effectively link village and town, origin and destination, and continue to circulate
between, as a study of burkinabè women and men put it, “hoe and wage”.6

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1. MIGRATION AND DEPRIVATION

Images of migrants differ. On the one hand, migrants tend to be seen as rational
economic agents, able to judge differences in opportunities and rewards at home and the
place of destination. Recent economic theories have emphasised the role of households,
and migration strategies as elements of collective portfolios of activities and income
sources. In the political arena and the popular press, images of international migrants as
those able to profit from opportunities, including welfare state provisions in the West
tend to predominate.

The reverse image is of migrants as victims of economic deprivation, political or social


discrimination, or environmental degradation. Historical studies of population
movements in the South have emphasised slavery, indentured labour and colonial
exploitation forcing people to move. Southern African migration literature has focussed
on the effects of Apartheid. Critical development studies have stressed increasing
landlessness, capitalist transformation and the need for poor rural people to leave home
villages in search for opportunities elsewhere. A 'historical-structural' analysis of
migration from Mexico for example emphasises the manipulation of labour in the
interest of developed countries, and remittances as only a minor compensation in the
highly unequal process of exchange between core and peripheral societies. The box at
the end of this section provides an overview of theoretical approaches to migration.

Ideas of the effects of migration, or the contributions of migrants, also differ. Popular
opinions and public statements about immigrants swing between ideas of users of
provisions in the ‘host community’, to contributors to economic welfare and cultural
diversity. Migrants are welcomed when demand for labour exceeds supply, but debates
switch to an emphasis on limiting immigration when the demand-supply balance tilts to
the other side.7 Environment is often a concern in the context of large number of
refugees, who have been seen as resource degraders, but studies have also pointed out
that refugees like others adopt sustainable strategies. HIV/AIDS similarly is one of the
concerns in discussions about migrants, as sexually transmitted diseases spread more
rapidly if populations are more mobile.

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All these portrayals can be realistic, and contain some truth. The differing opinions are
often related to contrasting political or ideological positions, but there are empirical
reasons as well. Migration streams differ to a great extent, making it impossible to
generalise about characteristics of migrants. This section - drawing on a random set of
studies from around the world - reviews some of the variations in characteristics of
migrants in different migration streams, providing insights into links between migration,
gender and poverty.

Labour migration: predominantly young men?

How gender influences migration processes is discussed in some detail in Section 3; here
the focus is on the gender composition of migrations. Overall, the majority of labour
migrants probably are young, 'able-bodied' men, but variations between and within
regions, and in different periods of time, are large. Also, as women move for marriages,
which can equally be considered a form of labour migration even if women 'only'
contribute to domestic production and reproduction, a focus on 'labour migration' tends
to understate the participation of women.8 The migration of children is also significant,
and increasingly documented: young children migrate with their parents,9 as well as
individually and through trafficking rings.10

An estimated 70 to 85 per cent of Chinese rural labour migrants are male (70-80 per
cent are 30 years or younger). But this is not universal. In poor counties the
participation of women was somewhat higher in less poor households, and in Anhui a
local migration tradition caused an almost equal gender balance in migration.11
Differences within India are also striking. My research in Calcutta showed much higher
female labour migration by women from southern Orissa and Andhra Pradesh as
compared to women from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. This confirms other studies showing
contrasting patterns of female rural-to-urban migration: the North has lower rates of
female migration, similar to patterns of female participation in West Asian and North
African Arab countries, whereas the pattern in southern India resemble those of
Southeast Asia.12 In Africa also, labour migration, particularly over greater distances
tends to be dominated by young men, but female migration is high in many places,

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including Ethiopia, Congo, Botswana, Kenya and Mali. Male migrants predominate in
northern Benin, but women are predominant in the centre and south of the country.13

International migration streams are similarly diverse. During the 1960s and 1970s much
migration to western Europe from former colonial countries was dominated by men, and
so is migration to construction and other jobs in the Gulf states. But women cross
borders in large numbers as well, often in segregated labour markets. Women from the
Philippines and Sri Lanka for example migrate for service oriented jobs. Domestic work
is the most highly demanded occupation for women in many countries.14 The number of
women among the international migrants is hardly less than the number of men: in 1990
world-wide an estimated 57 million women were ‘foreign-born’, forming 48 per cent of
the total ‘stock’ of migrants.15

Some people have argued that female migration is increasing compared to men’s. This is
undoubtedly true for migrations for some kinds of activities. Global shift towards a more
service-intensive economy and more labour-intensive manufacturing for exports have
increased demand for female labour.16 Research in Bolivia, The Dominican Republic and
Mexico shows high rates of female migration from rural to urban areas, to work in the
maquila industries for example (as well as in domestic jobs), while men in rural areas
tend to migrate more for rural temporary jobs.17 Female employment in garment
factories in Dhaka has probably increased rural-urban migration by women, though the
large majority of migrants remain men.18 Female migration is thought to have increased
in Africa as a result of economic crisis and structural adjustment programmes, though
empirical evidence for this is not strong; in any case, it should not overshadow the fact
that women have always contributed to household’s livelihoods, including through
migration.19

Thus, composition of migration streams are diverse, and may be changing over time.
Also, both motivations for, and returns from migration may differ. For example, female
migration in Mali tends to be related to the desire to earn money for dowries,20 whereas
migration by men to earn cash for the bride price, particularly perhaps in polygamous
societies, may predominate. In China, a woman’s age and marital status are more
important in determining whether she migrates or not than a man’s, and single female

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migrants in northern China tend to remit a lower proportion of their income than
married male, married female and single male migrants.21 Women and men can have
different patterns and motivations of remittances, for example related to different rules
of inheritance, as has been shown for Dominican immigrants in the US.22 Women’s
income from migration tend to be worse than men’s.23

Gender is perhaps the most important form of social differentiation that influences
migration (see Section 3), but it is not the only one. Migration streams are usually
strongly segmented. It is very common to find groups of migrants that have come from
the same areas. Within Calcutta’s jute mills, there were and still are strong
concentrations of labourers from districts in western Bihar and in south-eastern Orissa
(and not south-west Orissa, now among India’s poorest districts, or Bengali districts
nearby). Migration is very common among the Bambara ethnic group in
Dalonguebougou in dryland Mali, and less among the Fulani and Maure in that
particular area.24 Causes of such segmentation are complex, and historically determined.
What matters, for the discussion here, is that such segmentation may lead to unequal
access to opportunities.

Are migrants poor, and the poorest?

The exploitative conditions in which migrants live and work has been documented
seminally by Jan Breman. He has described changing labour relations in western India
since the 1960s, focusing on unskilled labourers wandering around in search of rural
seasonal or urban informal sector work, extreme conditions of work in the sugarcane
harvesting in south Gujarat, paltry wages, make-shift tents in which migrants live, and
employers’ preference for cheaper and often more docile outside labour. In the same
region, research by Mosse et al. describes the absence of nearly half the adult population
from the upland tribal districts, to work in mostly unskilled, casual and low paid jobs,
and the high rates of female participation.25

Even within this context, patterns are not uniform. Families that are slightly less poor
and somewhat more food-secure migrate less often with the whole family. They send
out young men, for relatively short periods and short distance, and combine migration

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with agricultural work in the home village. The poorer migrate more often with all
members of the family, for longer periods. Among these groups female migration tends
to be high. Whereas for the poorest families migration is an option of last resort, and
often a reaction to indebtedness, those who are less destitute use migration as a means
to reduce vulnerability and for some investment in agriculture.

Diversity of patterns is the rule. In China the educational level of rural migrants is higher
than the average. Migrants tend to have more special skills, though survey data from
Hebei province in 1987 indicated that migrants come from households suffering
‘absolute disadvantage’ in farming.26 In Zimbabwe, households with migrants have less
cultivated land than households without migrants, but they have slightly more
education.27 Research in India has emphasised that the poorest and landless are least
likely to migrate, and that migrant households are socio-economically and educationally
better placed than others.28 But in different states differing dynamics exist: in Bihar the
landless were more prone to migrate, in Kerala the middle peasantry migrated more,
while in Uttar Pradesh all except the large landowners have high rates of out-
migration.29 And the dynamics may change over time: in Palanpur in western Uttar
Pradesh, higher castes were prominently represented among migrants in the early 1980s,
but lower castes had migrated more in earlier years.30

None of these findings are as surprising as they may look, or contradictory. The
following issues are central in understanding links between migration and poverty:

• There is often an unresolved question of causality: are migrants richer or more


educated because they have migrated, or do they migrate because they are better-off?
Recent IDS research shows that the first migrant from Zaradougou in the Sudan-
sahelian zone of Mali to Côte d’Ivoire was not from one of the better-off households.
But it has become an effective strategy to improve households livelihoods, and now
migration is closely linked to households’ wealth. This is partly a consequence and
not a cause of migration.
• The poorest have most need to improve their income, but at the same time are less
able to migrate. Migration needs investment, for transport, for food during the

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journey, bribes for employment officers or officials implementing immigration and
settlement policies, and it needs contacts - assets that the poor are less likely to
possess. Household composition may play a role, as households with fewer earning
members may be less likely to take up opportunities for migrant work. Also, migrants
do not necessarily come from the poorest areas, as physical infrastructure is crucial
for people to migrate, particularly if they do so on a more regular basis.
• The kind of work, distance, in short access to opportunities is central, for the
composition of migration stream in terms of gender and other socio-economic
differentiation, and for who profits from migration. That both the poor and the rich
migrate is not a paradox, as the last will migrate only for the more rewarding
occupations, whereas the poorest have access only to least-skilled and worst-paid
jobs. This is strikingly illustrated in the differences between international and internal
migration: only the better-off in the South can afford the investments (often
thousands of pounds) for travel or to pay the touts who will illegally, and without
guarantees, take them abroad.

These issues make the analysis of migration difficult, but it is important to understand
the complexity and diversity of migration, its role in the livelihood strategies of
households, including also the possibility that migration increases inequality.

Rural-urban migrants

As cities grow, urban poverty is becoming increasingly relevant. UN estimates suggest


that over 90 per cent of world population growth over the next 25 years will be in urban
areas. By 2025, half the population in Asia and Africa may be living in cities, and more
than 80 per cent in Latin America. With this, the total number of urban poor is growing.

Urban poverty may belong higher on the agenda of development agencies that in
presently is, though poverty incidences are usually higher in rural than urban areas. But
research on rural-urban migration suggests two other points. First, while migration
constitutes only a small part of urban growth (at present most urban growth comes from
natural population growth), rates of urbanisation do not reflect all migration that takes

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place. Much rural-urban migration - as rural-rural migration - is of a circular character.31
Studies in South Asia, Africa and (though perhaps less so) Latin America show how
migrants continue to maintain links with their rural areas of origin. In the southern
African context, or colonial India, this has been attributed to policies that restrict the
settlement of migrants with their families. But many studies also show how this
circulation is part of rural households' strategies to maintain or improve their livelihood,
how work in cities help them to keep their small plot of land, to 'invest in agriculture' as
a Bihari migrant in Calcutta put it, and sometimes moderately improve their situation.

Second, migrants in urban areas are not necessarily among the poorest - even though
images of rickshawpullers, garbage pickers and prostitutes suggest differently. Income
of migrants in urban areas is not always lower than that of people born in cities,32 partly
perhaps because their migrant existence make them put up with longer hours and more
exploitative conditions. Initial differences may be made up over time, as research in
Tanzania showed.33 And the poorest people from rural areas have less chance to make it
to cities, particularly if skilled formal employment provides a small number of jobs, and
are more likely to migrate over shorter distances, and within rural areas.

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Box 1: theories of migration

The following scheme summarises the central emphases in various theoretical approaches to migration.

Determinants of Effects: Unit of analysis


migration
Individual Household / family Institutions

Economic Positive Todaro Stark, ‘new


Push-pull economics’
Negative Marxism
Structuralism
Sociological/ ---------- Structuration theory ----------
anthropological
---------- Gender analyses ----------

Economic approaches focus on individual behaviour, and emphasise positive aspects of migration.
Famous is Todaro’s (1969) analysis of rural-urban migration. Push-pull models are an extension of this.
These analyses assume that migrants act individually according to a rationality of economic self
interest. The decision to move to cities would be determined by wage differences, plus expected
probability of employment at the destination. In the ‘new economics of migration’, Stark (1991)
extended the Todaro model, by emphasising households rather than individuals as units of analyses,
and remittances as an inter-temporal contractual arrangement between the migrant and the family.

Marxism and structuralist theories focus on political and other institutions that determine migration,
and tend to emphasise the negative consequences. Authors like McGee (1982), Standing (1985), Protero
and Chapman (1985), Breman (1985), and Rubenstein for Mexico (1992), challenge the individualistic
emphasis in the analyses of Todaro and others. They see labour migration as inevitable in the transition
to capitalism, and emphasise the advantages of migrant labour for capitalist production, and the
instrumentality of migration in capitalists’ control over labour. Migration is not a choice for poor
people, but the only option for survival after alienation from the land.

Sociological and anthropological approaches, including gender analyses portray more complex pictures
of migration. Recent theories have emphasised that analyses need to incorporate both individual
motives, institutions and the structural factors in which the migrants operate, in the form of a
‘structuration theory’ (Chant and Radcliffe 1992). The analysis builds in, e.g., an awareness of cultural
underpinnings, including about ‘destiny’, ‘myths of origin’, and ‘honour’.

Gender analysis has made a crucial contribution to understanding the institutions that structure
migration processes. Gender is seen as “an essential tool for unpicking the migration process” (Wright
1995, Sinclair 1998). There is now more emphasis on differential migration responses by men and
women (themselves context dependent), gender discrimination in returns to migrant labour, and the
gendered nature for motives of remitting, as determined by gender-differentiated inheritance rules.

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2. LIVELIHOODS AND MIGRATION

Migration is best understood as one of the strategies adopted by individuals, households


or communities to enhance their livelihoods. This strategy is much more common than is
often assumed, and has been so throughout history. For example, research suggests that
during the 1930s as many as two-thirds of peasants in northern Vietnam moved around
in search for work during part of the year. 34 Census data from some districts in Bihar
indicates that one out of every two households had a migrant labourer at the beginning
of this century. The box at the end of this section provides some idea for Africa, but it
should be stressed that there tends to be little quantitative information about migrants, as
they often escape counting in surveys and censuses.

The approach adopted here contributes to debates around the concept of sustainable
(rural) livelihoods.35 This concept developed during this decade, and has gathered
popularity among donors and academics. It emphasises the need for a multi-disciplinary
and people-centred approach, and that the livelihoods of people are not restricted to one
particular economic sector. This section describes evidence of the contribution of
migration to livelihoods, in terms of poverty and inequality, capabilities, vulnerability,
and sustainable use of the environment.

Poverty, inequality

As indicated, poverty is not necessarily the main cause of migration, and poverty-
migration links are complex and context-specific. The contributions of migration to
reducing poverty are equally complicated. The literature has not solved the question
how migration and development in general are related. Some ‘stylised facts’:

• There is consensus that migrants tend to help to increase the welfare in the areas of
destination. Migrants often contribute much to the economy of the host society, have
high rates of labour force participation, and tend to be skilled.
• But there is little evidence that migration helps to reduce economic inequalities
between areas of origin and of destination. Economic expansion may be dependent on

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cheap migrant labour, while the areas of origin may suffer a decline in agriculture in
the face of the loss of young wage-earning men.
• With development of the home area, migration does not necessarily decline -
development and migration may very well accompany each other.36

Research on the effects of migration on areas of origin is relatively scarce, but it is clear
that out-migration usually does not radically transform poor areas. Remittances are
thought to contribute relatively little and the absence of the most productive members of
households might have negative repercussion for agricultural development. However,
contributions of migration are more significant than this suggests. First, analyses of
continuing poverty in areas of out-migration need to consider the counter-factual: it is
assumed that migration keeps the home area in poverty, but poverty could be worse if
migration opportunities did not exist.

Second, effects differ, and the environment to which remittances are sent back matters
much. Research on migration to Britain from two Punjabi districts, Jullundur in India
and Mirpur in Pakistan showed striking differences in economic success. Jullundur was
booming, and Mirpur was stagnating. In the first, remittances facilitated local
entrepreneurial activity, while a similar flow of remittances precipitated economic
decline and dependency in Mirpur.37

Third, macro-level studies do not necessarily square with evidence at micro level.
Empirical studies show that migration reduces the uncertainty of a family income,
provides investment funds, and livelihoods for those with small plots. My research on
Bihari migrants in Calcutta showed that income from migration has for generations
provided an inseparable part of households that remain based in rural areas. Even though
poor households have less access to opportunities, income from migration may form a
more important part of their income that that of the better-off, as research in Kenya
showed.38 Returns are often hidden as well, as they may go straight into paying-off
debts, or spent during annual festivals like Meskel in southern Ethiopia.

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Migration helps to reduce poverty, even though in many cases it does not radically
improve living conditions. But as access to opportunities are not randomly distributed, it
may also contribute to increasing inequality. The research in Kenya quoted above does
not contradict this: though remittances are less important for the rich, they might still
contribute to increasing inequality. In the case of Indian rural to urban migration, it has
been emphasised that better-off migrants are ‘pulled’ towards better job prospects, while
the poor are ‘pushed’: “‘push’ and ‘pull’ migration are twin children of inequality in the
same sort of village; but they are also sources of new inequality.”39 Research in Pakistan,
Bangladesh and the Philippines indicates that international migration increases
inequality, whereas internal migration is more likely to reduce it.40

Capabilities

Material gains are only a part of what migrants obtain and bring back, and only one of
the reasons - though usually the main one - why people leave. Education is a very
common motive for migration, but many labour migrants come back with some newly
acquired skills as well. Sometimes these amount to little more than speaking a little in a
foreign language, like migrants from Mali who picked up a few words of French in cities
in Côte d'Ivoire. Sometimes practical skills help returned migrants to set up trading or
other activities, and occasionally to improve productivity in agriculture. Migrants tend
to invest in education and other community activities, and help to build or teach in
schools, through remittances or after their return. Like the material returns from
migration, these educational gains may also increase differentiation and inequality, as
was shown in Western Kenya.41

In the livelihoods’ framework (as adopted by DFID), ‘social capital’ is one of the five
types of assets, and much debate has been generated around its meaning. The term
captures the idea that social bonds and social norms are an important part of the basis of
people’s livelihoods. If it is recognised that the material gains from this form of ‘capital’
is only one aspect of what matters in social relationships, this can be a useful metaphor.
The terms has as yet found little entry into migration studies, except for a recent World
Bank publication where migration is thought - wrongly - to be associated with a loss of
social capital.42

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Though the term has hardly been used, social analyses of migration have shown how
access to migration depends on social capital or contacts, how links between home and
host community are maintained, and how migration helps to increase the migrant’s
social capital, through experience gained abroad, and his or her investment in social
relations, honour and status. International migration "creates a series of umbilical links
between geographically separated communities".43 Punjabi migrants in England continue
to be well informed about, and influenced by affairs in their home villages; sometimes
they even fly the bodies of the deceased back home. For Pakistani labour migrants in
Manchester, gifts are the vehicles for objectifying the continued relationship between the
migrants and their natal homes.44 But the gains in social capital may be as unequally
distributed as material gains: though the poor also may gain status at home, their
migration may be more likely to lead to a loss of social networks at the place of origin,
as well as isolation in insecure living and working environment.

Vulnerability

Much of the literature has linked migration to insecurity of the rural economy. Labour
migrants are vulnerable to changes in labour demand, or political changes, manifested
for example in the retrenchment and forced repatriation from countries hit by the East
Asia crisis and during the Gulf war.45 However, from the perspectives of migrants and
their communities, migration has a function of reducing vulnerability. Effective
migration strategies helps people to reduce the risks of seasonality, harvest failure, etc.

An extreme expression of how migration helps to reduce vulnerability


was encountered in research near Mafikeng in South Africa, where the
father of a successful household moves between his two sons' and his
brother's houses: "When you have a family, they shouldn't be clustered in
one place because, when they die, they all die. When they are in different
environments, trying to make a living, they won't all die at the same
time."46

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Amounts of remittances tend to be small. It is common to find, as IDS research did in
Ethiopia, older people being dissatisfied with young migrants who go out and come
back with nothing except for clothes for themselves, and have spent their income just to
feed themselves. The potential of migration to radically transform social and economic
situations should not be overstated. But a focus on tangible monetary returns neglects
other aspects that help to reduce vulnerability. Young men that are absent and do not
eat from the common pot may be a help to households in coping with periods of food
insecurity. Also, earnings by young women may not contribute directly to the household
income, but the accumulation for marriage expenses imply significant household savings.
Circulation of labour, for example of young women, between households, also provides
the necessary labour in times of harvest. Research by SOS Sahel (discussed below)
emphasised that contributions may look small, but are still vital to food security and
diversification of risks. Finally, the out-migration of youngsters may help to reduce
tensions within households, and thus help to keep them together in the long run.

Environment

In recent years, there has been increasing emphasis on environmental refugees, those
who are being displaced because of environmental change.47 Some have argued that
numbers of environmental refugees have exceeded those displaced by war. Conversely,
environment is also a concern in the context of large number of refugees, who have
received the label of ‘exceptional resource degraders’. Indeed, the direct environmental
implications of large-scale refugee movements may be serious, with declines in
vegetation near refugee camps, changes in soil and water balances, etc. But recent
publications have pointed out that this notion is flawed, and that refugees like others
adopt long-run sustainable strategies.

There is relatively little information about the way out-migration affects environmental
management in the migrant's area of origin. Again, migration does not usually lead to
radical transformation of agriculture, and it is better to see it as a central part in the
maintenance of rural people’s strategies. There are cases where the loss of labour
decreases the chances to maintain agricultural strategies, or where this is difficult to do
for those who stay behind, particularly in smaller households and when those who stay

15
behind do not have access to necessary inputs and services. Migrants have also played
innovative roles, including for example the introduction of double cropping or
mechanisation. The recovery of the Akamba lands over several decades was to a
significant extent - and particularly in the later stages of recovery and less labour
intensive agricultural intensification - achieved through migration and remittances,
though migration also contributed to polarisation in landholdings.48

Impacts of migration depend on the context, like seasonality of movement, educational


levels of migrants, the length of time spent away, assets, and social structures and
institutions allowing women and others to pursue activities previously reserved for men
and household heads. In three of the four case studies by SOS Sahel (El Ain, Sudan;
Passoré, Burkina Faso; Diourbel, Senegal) migration had little impact in agricultural
investment, but in Bankass, Mali, where more fertile land and less population pressure
allows for more investment opportunities in agriculture, migrants did buy carts, ploughs
and animals. Women in Passoré were forced to work longer in the communal field, and
had less time for their own land, while in Diourbel, where labour is less scarce, the
absence of men was not that much felt. Out-migration may have negative effects on
agriculture, but with the right environment, enabling for example women to take on
essential roles as men leave, or support from the men who stay behind (as was most
common in the four SOS Sahel case studies) migrants invest in agriculture and the
environment in a rational manner.

16
Box 2: Estimates of migration and remittances in Africa

In the late 1980s, of an estimated 80 million international migrants world-wide, almost half of these
may have been in Sub-sahara Africa (despite containing only 10 per cent of the world’s population):
between 17 and 35 million. Migratory flows probably increased during the 1980s, as economic and
political conditions increased interregional disparities. The numbers of refugees in Africa increased
from 2,700,000 in 1980 to 6,800,000 in 1995.

West Africa is an area with long traditions of population mobility. Survival strategies have depended for
centuries on movements in search of new land and pastures, for trade and conquest. Forced labour and
colonial taxes increased the need to earn cash and increased population mobility. At present, an
estimated one-third of West Africans live outside their district or village of birth, and - excluding
Nigerians - about one-tenth outside their country of birth. Over 3 million immigrants live in Côte
d’Ivoire (about a quarter of its population), mainly from Burkina Faso and Mali. As much as two-third
of Nigerian households may have out-migrants. Migration directions have changed since the colonial
period, but mobility remained the rule rather than the exception.

Southern Africa equally has been marked by high rates of population mobility, and colonial and
Apartheid policies have strongly determined movements. In the 1980s, women were estimated to
constitute 65 per cent of Zambia’s rural population, as an indication of rates of male out-migration. In
rural Botswana at the end of the 1970s, one-third of adult males and one-quarter of adult females were
absent. 8 per cent of Lesotho’s 1980 population was estimated to have migrated to South Africa, and 13
per cent of its 1986 population was registered as absent (since the early 1970s migration to South Africa
has been declining).

East Africa has a history of labour migration, internationally from Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire to
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania, from Malawi and Mozambique to southern Africa, and from Sudan and
Eritrea to the middle East. During the 1980s, one-third of Kenyan rural household heads were
estimated to have out-migrated. A Rapid Appraisal Survey in Eritrea in 1993-94 noted the heavy
reliance of villages on seasonal migration of young men to nearby towns, the movement of some to
Saudi Arabia, and migration of entire families with livestock during years of poor rainfall.

Estimates of remittances vary hugely. Urban-rural remittances in Africa have been estimated to
constitute between 10 and 13 per cent of migrant workers’ incomes. Migrants in urban areas in Kenya
remit between 13 and 22 per cent of average income earned. An overview of Africa’s rural non-farm
sector showed that in areas which are not close to major cities, migration earnings constituted 20 per
cent of total non-farm earnings, whereas it was as high as 75 per cent of total non-farm earnings in
areas close to major cities. International remittances - world wide estimated to be US$71 billion, more
than total official aid - during the 1980s, financed 80 per cent of the current account deficit in
Botswana, over 50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings in Lesotho, and 70 per cent of total
commodity export earnings in Sudan.

The consequences of economic crisis and structural adjustment on migration have been diverse. Though
net rural-urban migration may have decreased, reasons for this are complex and total migration has not
necessarily declined. Studies in Kenya and Zambia and the Niger PPA have shown that adjustment led
to a decrease in rural-urban migration. Returns from migration have generally decreased. But study in
Nigeria suggests that crisis and adjustment has not stemmed rural-urban migration. Rural-urban
networks have come under pressure, and circulation actually increased. Migration from Zambia’s
Northern Province declined during the 1980s, at a time when urban employment was decreasing, but
this coincided with rapid commercialisation brought about by the promotion of maize cultivation.

Sources: references in de Haan 1999.

17
3. MIGRATION AS A SOCIAL PROCESS

One of migration's undesirable effects that is often quoted is that it destroys social
bonds, unravel the social fabric. In southern Africa, where the links between migration
and apartheid, and uneven capitalist development have been central issues in debates,
this theme has been particularly strong. Since Wilson’s work on northern Rhodesia in
the early 1940s, many studies exposed the way in which oscillating migration unravelled
the social fabric and undermined traditional leadership structures. Schapera’s research
on the Tswana concluded that migration undermined social cohesion. Adepoju, in the
introduction to his edited volume on family, population and development in Africa,
states that migration is eroding day-to-day mutual support among family members. This
view of declining social structures is consistent with conceptualisations of migration that
focus entirely on its economic motivation.

Many studies now emphasise that migration need not be associated with such a decline
of social structures and values. In 1942, Read already stressed that migration did not
bring the negative effects that were expected in Malawi. Watson argued that
participation in the Zambian colonial economy actually strengthened social cohesion and
that co-operative labour relations were able to survive in the absence of men. Van
Velsen showed that absent male workers played an important role in sustaining
traditional practices in the rural areas because it was in their interest to counteract the
instability of a temporary urban existence, through continued ownership of land and
maintenance of social networks.49

Migration, apart from contributing to livelihoods, also is part of social networks, and is
usually consistent with communities’ values and norms. This section describes, first,
how migration is determined by social structures, with a focus on household forms and
gendered ideologies that are among the most important factors determining the
dynamics of migration. Second, it describes the contribution migrants make to changing
social structures, by creating new identities, but also by reinforcing old ones.

18
Migration, household, gender

Above the term household has been used without a definition. It was suggested that
economic theories that incorporate households in the analysis are improvements upon
theories focusing on individuals, and that household and gender ideologies determine
who migrates, and who is able to profit. To illustrate this, this section describes
migration strategies in the context of three different types ('ideal-types') of household:
nuclear types of households; fluid household structures as in Zambia or Botswana; and
more clear-bounded large units as in West Africa. 50

The first form of household structure is the nuclear type of rural households, common
in Kenya and highland Ethiopia for example (both areas with high population density,
and relatively high degrees of commercialisation) and in much of South Asia.
Particularly with high population density, small households like larger ones need to send
out migrants. Research has shown that nuclear households have been able to develop
effective livelihood strategies that straddle different rural areas, as well as urban and
rural areas. But a comparison with more extended households also suggests that
migration strategies are limited by this form of household. As male migrants in northern
India said, they could only leave when there were other people to take care of the rest of
the family - those with small families or households, despite being poor, may not be able
to migrate, or their migration strategies may be less effective. Also, as research in Mali
showed, effects of a young men being absent may be particularly harsh on the smallest
households, and the receipt of remittances is considered a poor substitute for the young
man’s contribution to filling the family granary.51

A second type of households is marked by a fluid family structure, as in Zambia,


Botswana or Lesotho. In such households, labour and food are commonly shared, and
matrilineality is combined with male out-migration. Research in these areas has
questioned the notion of household as a residential unit from which people depart, and
return back to. In this case, one might argue that migration - rather than being a
disruption to normal household life and composition - constitutes the very form of

19
households. Movement of people between households (residential units) is the norm
rather than the exception.
Field work in a village west of Gaborone - where men tend to establish their own
household only when they are forty - showed multiple forms of co-habitation,
overlapping social units that characterise social organisation, and varying and conflicting
claims on men, which change over their life course. Social arrangements are fluid, links
between households and individuals, and between different households, multiple.
Lolwapa can be translated with household, and refers to the physical compound, but
also to the social unit or extended family whose members may be residing elsewhere.
They may have another dwelling at the agricultural land, and members of the household
may be residing in the compound or at the lands, but also at the cattle post - often far
from the village - in town, or in South Africa.52

A life history in this study illustrates the complexity of social links as they
relate to migration strategies. Mothudi's mother never married, and he was
raised in his grand-parents lolwapa. He herded cattle, and after his
grandfather's death the grandfather's brother took him to Gaborone to
become a driver and helper. His mother moved back to her parents
household, to live with her widowed mother and one of her own daughters.
Despite the physical separation, Mothudi contributed to his mother's
household, as well as giving money to sisters living with kin in the village.
But he also gave money to the mother of a child he had fathered, who was
living with her parents. Mothudi also maintains an economic base in the rural
areas, would be dependant on his kin for work in case he returns, and has
inherited cattle that is herded by his mother's brother herds in the remote
west of the district.

In the third case, of the extended households in West Africa for example, migration
dynamics are determined in yet another way. Research by IDS in South Mali showed
how Senoufou households manage to straddle two agro-ecological zones, owning small
plantations in Côte d'Ivoire. Senoufo have traditionally organised themselves in
complex, extended households, related by patrilineal kinship, and headed by its oldest
male member. Members of the same household cultivate a common field and eat from a

20
single granary. Individual wealth is rare, and individual income generation has a negative
association. Well-managed large households are associated with well-being in
participatory rankings. Migration decisions are household decisions. Heads of
households decide about the migration of their sons or nephews – and their wives. This
is an economic investment, but also has a social function, alleviating the frustration of
young men and allowing them some independence within the household structure. There
is always the possibility that the young men use the opportunity to establish their own
household, but in many cases households in Zaradougou have remained unified, while
increasing the number of plantations in Côte d’Ivoire.

The research in Mali put little emphasis on migration as an economic household


strategy, but emphasised household management and hence the social functions of
migration. It also sheds light on the relationship between household size and poverty,
and the role of migration in this. As other West African research suggests, large
households are better-off. This is partly a normative issue, since large households is the
norm. But the migration strategies indicate the economic advantages of such large
households: large households offer opportunities for the head of the households to
devise efficient strategies (they are also essential in the social maintenance of the
household, to avoid conflict, and perhaps even to delay marriage), and the absence of
migrants can more easily be adapted to.

The argument here is not one of causality, regarding links between migration and
poverty or well-being. Household forms do not entirely preclude migration options, or
determines directly the kinds of effect they have. But different household forms may lead
to different migration strategies. Linking migration to poverty is not impossible, but this
needs to be sensitive to the social dynamics of which migration is a part, in this case the
forms of households, and the meaning ‘migration’ has within the context of norms about
household forms and formation.

Agents of social change

Migration is part of social structures, and migration movements are consistent with
social norms and rules. But migration also influences these social structures and norms.

21
The preceding section argued that migration helps to enhance 'social capital', it broadens
networks, helps people to establish contacts, and returns from migration often has as
much a symbolic function - enhancing one's status - as it enhances material livelihoods.

The effects of migration on social change are diverse. They can both re-inforce
'traditional' norms and establish new practices. The increase in single-male urban
migration in late colonial (northern) India was accompanied by changing social
constructions of gender, in the context of a devaluation of women's labour, and spread
of dowry and purdah (seclusion of women).53 Research among contemporary
international migrants in particular often shows how migrants aim to maintain traditional
norms - often reinforcing or inventing them in the process. Marriage for South Asian
communities in the UK for example tends to be within own communities, including with
partners from the areas of origin. First generations establish cultural and religious
symbols in areas of destination, which can perhaps be interpreted as a process of closure
in the face of racism in the 'host' society.

But these practices also point to the way migrants transform societies at home and at the
'host community'. English food habits have undergone large changes due to communities
that have arrived since the Second World War. In some cases, kinds of food (pizza,
chicken tikka masala) where invented in new areas of destination rather than being part
of the tradition of immigrants. What were once sub-cultures, in language, dressing, etc.,
have become mainstream youth culture. Migrants in Calcutta have maintained their own
identities, communities, languages, patterns of residence, religious symbols, and political
differences - after various generations of (circular) migration from rural communities. In
the case of migrants from western Bihar, migration has given rise to, and now is
embedded in a culture of migration, including for example the literature of Bhikari
Thakur or songs by women in which the leaving of men and its consequences, positive
('pots of golds') and negative (men's concubines, women having children with other
men) are central.

The social processes in which migration is embedded, and its social consequences, are of
course ambivalent. It can help to reduce social tension, as in the case of the household
management strategies discussed above. But it may also increase these. As argued

22
above, single male migration in northern India may have contributed to increasing
gender differences. Also, migration may lead to changes in consumption patterns and
norms, and create new forms of social differentiation. Migration of young women to
factories and urban areas, research in an Indonesian transmigration area for example
shows, was resented. But it was accommodated within local rules and norms; indeed,
these considerations can change over time, work and migration can obtain more
acceptable meanings as migration becomes institutionalised, and the economic role of
young female migrants may be enhanced.54

Thus, migration can be socially embedded in many different ways, and the changes in
social structures that arise from migration can vary greatly. It may be important to
emphasise that such cultural changes and inventions come arise in situations of
insecurity and discrimination. Even so, some of the changes can have negative effects,
for example for women. But what this suggests is that it would be wrong to perceive
migration as occasions which disrupt social structures. Migration is embedded in social
norms and structures, and in turn reinforce these. Partly because of this, it is possible for
policies to support migration, as the next and last section describes.

23
4. CAN AND SHOULD POLICIES SUPPORT MIGRATION?

The argument so far can be summarised as follows. First, the paper described the
complexity of the composition of migration streams. Who migrates, and who profits,
depends on a range of economic, social, cultural and political factors. The second
section described the effects of migration, that are equally complex - though the
possibility that migration increases inequality was highlighted. This argued that, even if
'effects' of migration cannot be easily identified, migration needs to be seen as a common
element of livelihood strategies. The third section developed the idea of migration as a
social process, how social structures determines the dynamics of migration, and how
migrants are agents of social change.

This section discusses the implications of this for policies, arguing that policies should
aim to support migration, and that negative implications of policies should be more
central in debates. The first implication is that policies should be based on a recognition
of the centrality of migration for the households' livelihoods, rather than assuming that
people are sedentary and immobile. Policy makers often see migration as undesirable,
and a threat to established lifestyles. For example:

• Governments in urbanising countries often want to slow down or reverse rural-urban


migration.
• Policies in Zimbabwe after independence encouraged urban workers to choose
between rural and urban areas – though workers continued to attach much
importance to rural landholdings.
• Similarly, the Department of Land Affairs in the Northwest Province of South Africa
insisted that applicants for land through the land redistribution process make a full-
time commitment to the enterprise - despite land owners dependence on multiple
sources of livelihood.55
• China established strict controls over population movements, officially to ensures that
peasants would not experience the effects of capitalism and flood into the cities;
extreme controls have been abolished, but China still fears its ‘floating population’.56

24
• After periods of extreme forms of control on population mobility, Ethiopia’s current
government has not given up the hope to limit urbanisation and settle its nomadic
population.
• Agricultural or rural development policies tend to ignore the movement of people.
The West African gestion de terroir is explicit in the conceptualisation of the space of
livelihoods, as being limited to a particular area. Integrated rural development has
tended to do the same.
• More general, development policies tend to emphasise countries as the field of
operation, though many vulnerable groups live spread out across borders.

China and Ethiopia may have been exceptional, but the desire to reduce migration is
common. In the literature, discussions of policies that can reduce ‘migration pressures’,
including trade, investment and development aid, are popular. Employment programmes
in India, for example, often have the aim to prevent migration of labour. And indirectly,
policies have greatly interfered with population movements, like colonial policies that
created a need for cash earnings and provided opportunities, colonial and post-colonial
policies that created border which often greatly interfered with the livelihood strategies
of groups straddling different zones.

The argument put forward here is that policies should be supportive of migration, rather
than implicitly or explicitly aiming to reduce it. This does not apply in all cases: there are
forms of migration that occur in such exploitative circumstances that the aim should be
to stop this and provide alternative means of livelihoods to the migrants. It is essential to
distinguish ‘worst forms’ of migrant labour from those that provide essential
contributions to their livelihoods. In the second case, for example, providing access to
health and education facilities seem crucial as recognition of the contribution and rights
of migrants.57

25
Box 3: Migrants, migration laws, human rights and HIV/AIDS

A UNAIDS paper presented at a meeting in December 1998 emphasised the need to review restrictive
migration laws that limit in their view effective AIDS prevention, care and support, as well as the need
to review human rights violations (such as discriminatory policies associated with HIV screening)
which contribute to migrants’ vulnerability to HIV infection. Failure to respect human rights of
migrants (regarding free circulation, asylum, being accompanied by family members) may have
unanticipated effects on the health of migrants, and public health in general. Migrants, particularly
refugees and ‘undocumented migrants’, often occupy vulnerable positions. They are often forced into
unsafe working conditions and accommodation, and exploited for meagre wages. They are unable to
buy health services, or are denied access to local services due to their legal status. Isolation from the
family increases vulnerability to AIDS. “As long as illegal and undocumented migration continues to be
viewed only in relation to security and national interests, public health will be neglected.”

Source: UNAIDS, Programme Coordination Board, ‘Migration and HIV/AIDS’, Paper presented at the
second ad hoc thematic meeting, New Delhi, 9-11 December 1998.

Understanding the role of migration may help to make policies more relevant to peoples’
livelihood strategies, and more sensitive to the negative consequences of certain
measures. The establishment of borders - essential of course in the establishment and
identity creation of nation states - may cut migrants off from part of their livelihoods.
Expulsion of migrant workers obviously does the same. Provision of opportunities at
home will provide people who otherwise migrate for unskilled and uncertain jobs
elsewhere, is likely to reduce migration by that particular group. But generally, as
evidence quoted in this paper shows, development is not likely to reduce migration,
although it may change its composition. It is important that livelihoods approaches
builds in an understanding of the contributions and possibilities of migration for
livelihoods, and that development or poverty reduction programmes do not aim to
reduce migration for its own sake, or see reduction of migration as an indicator of
success.

Few policies relate directly to migration, particularly at the national level. Positive
examples, relating to international migration, include the employment bureaux like in
Bangladesh and the Ministry for Malians abroad, that help to provide information and
facilitate migration movements. The West Africa ECOWAS protocol on free movement
of people also helps (or helped) households to maintain or improve their livelihoods, that
historically in many cases crossed current borders. A variety of countries - including for
example Turkey, the Philippines, South Korea, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Jamaica etc. -

26
have implicitly or explicitly encouraged emigration. There is much experience, though
little documented, with institutional support provided by governments. Some countries,
and some provinces in China, have established labour-export agencies to manage control
recruitment, train potential migrants, explore new labour markets, encourage rich
countries to employ their workers, and provide bilateral agreements on behalf of their
workers. Whereas international remittances are often difficult, and informal channels
preferred, some countries have financial programmes to attract remittances. A few
countries, like Sri Lanka, provide migrants assistance in readjusting after work abroad,
and some have special programmes to attract back emigrants who have acquired high
levels of skill or wealth.

The informal institutions that structure migration processes provide an opportunity for
policies that aim to support livelihoods, in terms of, e.g., providing information about
migration opportunities, facilitating remittances, and enhancing the productive impact of
remittances. A focus on the institutions helps to show that migration does not
necessarily lead to a decline in norms, or break-down in networks than in Mali and
Bangladesh. Design of support to migrants, and of support to the contribution of
migration to livelihoods, could very well depart from an understanding of these informal
networks, and build on them.

Box 4: Strategies for improving migrants’ livelihoods

Research in Western India shows the importance of seasonal labour migration for the livelihoods of
Bhil farming families. Rural development projects will not be able to provide an alternative to the
central function of migration, though they may change migration patterns. The research emphasises
how migration is linked to long-term debts, and how this decreases the chances that migration helps
households to improve their social end economic situation. Thus, a policy priority is to aim for reducing
the costs of migration (not reducing migration itself). The suggested strategy for this consists of:
• Increasing the productivity of poor migrant labourers, by de-linking it from debt and high interests
- savings and credit programmes building on ‘self-help’ groups, with low-cost credit through
banks.
• Improve the bargaining power of migrants in relation to recruiting agents, and increase direct
access to employers, improved information, and co-ordinated group responses, for example
regarding conditions at work.
• Enhance migrants' awareness of labour legislation and rights, through training, discussions with
government labour offices and NGOs supportive of migrant worker’s interests.
• Practical measures to improve conditions of employment, arrangements for child care, health and
hygiene, and education.

27
Source: Mosse et al., op. cit.
Policies should focus on enabling environments, enabling migrants to build up their own
livelihoods, and express own identities. In rural areas with large scale male labour
migration, gender-sensitive policies are called for to assist those staying behind to
enhance their livelihoods and reduce vulnerability. In the case of environmental refugees,
who like others develop long-term sustainable strategies, the important policy question
is to provide the means of doing so. In closed refugee camps - though often inevitable -
these means are clearly not there. Denial of rights of migrants - relating to free
circulation, requesting and obtaining asylum, and being accompanied by family members
- in international contexts but also at the national level, limits migrants in building their
own livelihoods. Immigrants without legal status - and again these policies itself might
be inevitable - are not able to build up own means of existence; histories of immigrants
who are able to do that clearly show that they contribute significantly to the ‘host
society’. And even in the case of ‘conservative’ cultural strategies adopted by
immigrant, it is likely that they are at least partly the result of the insecure environments
in which they have lived, of racism and discrimination; more enabling environments
might very well result in other strategies designed less at protection.

28
NOTES

1
R. King, ‘A Celebration of Migration’, Professorial Inaugural Lecture, University of Sussex, 30
January 1996. Another recent positive account of migration is R. Skeldon, Migration and Development.
A Global Perspective (Harlow: Longman, 1997a). Main reasons for hesitating to celebrate migration
include continuing discrimination and vulnerability of migrants in ‘host societies’ (despite many
success stories of immigrants), and evidence that out-migration does not always have positive impacts
on the people left behind, and can lead to increasing inequality.

2
There may be as many as 20 million international refugees at the end of the 1990s, and an equal
number displaced within their own countries. Numbers have increased since the 1970s. Every year at
least 10 million people world-wide are forcibly evicted, described by the Commission of Human Rights
Resolution 1993/77 as a "gross violation of human rights, particularly the right to housing" (UNHCR,
Forced Evictions and Human Rights, Fact Sheet No.25, Geneva: www.unhchr.ch/html/menu6/2/
fact.htm, 1997).

3
S. Davies, Susanna, Adaptable Livelihoods: Coping with Food Insecurity in the Malian Sahel
(London: Macmillan Press, 1996). Circular migration between the rural areas of former KwaZulu and
metropolitan Natal has been described as search for work as well as fleeing political violence and
escaping personal conflict; W. Smit, ‘The Rural Linkages of Urban Households in Durban, South
Africa’, Environment and Urbanization (Vol.10, No.1, 1998).

4
Debates about indentured migration during the colonial period - characterised as a new system of
slavery - took almost reverse positions: critiques emphasised the forced nature of labour recruitment,
while defensive voices stressed the contribution of migration to reducing poverty in poor villages.
Modern forms of slavery still exist, on a large scale, such as the trafficking of girls and women for
prostitution (e.g., Human Rights Watch, A Modern Form of Slavery. Trafficking of Burmese Women
and Girls into Brothels in Thailand, New York, 1993). Rights of refugees and migrant workers relate to
free circulation, requesting and obtaining asylum, and being accompanied by family members

5
Total numbers of international migrants have been estimated at 125 million, of which more than half
migrate between developing countries (A. Singh, and J. Donecker, ‘DFID Migration Policy Paper’,
Mimeo, May 1997, London). International migration may have increased particularly after the end of
the Cold War, that “held world emigration rates at artificially low levels” (D. Massey, ‘International
Migration at the Dawn of the Twenty-First Century: The Role of the State’, Population and
Development Review, Vol.25, No.2, 1999, p.311).

6
D.D. Cordell, J.W. Gregory, V. Piché, Hoe and Wage. A Social History of a Circular Migration
System in West Africa (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996).

7
The percentage of states that adopted policies to lower immigration rose from 19 per cent in 1986 to
35 per cent in 1993 (UN, Dpt. Of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 1998, World
Population Monitoring 1997. International Migration and Development, New York, p.115). Changes in
European policies are discussed by, e.g., Minority Rights Group International, Refugees in Europe. The
Hostile New Agenda (London, 1997). South African policies have become increasingly anti-immigrant
(W.C. Chirwa ‘“No TEBA ... Forget TEBA”: The Plight of Malawian Ex-migrant Workers to South
Africa, 1988-1994’, International Migration Review, Vol.31, No.3, 1997), Ghana expelled many
workers in 1969, Nigeria some 2 million in 1983, and the Ivoirian public has become “increasingly
xenophobic” (M. Winter, ‘Migration in the Central Sub-Region of West Africa: Trends, Issues, and
Reflection’, Report prepared for ODA, 1997). The 1969 Organisation of African Unity Convention on
refugees has had limited impact in preventing abuse by governments of African refugees (The Lawyers

29
Committee for Human Rights, African Exodus. Refugee Crises, Human Rights and the 1969 OAU
Convention, New York, 1995).
8
On the other hand, research in Malaysia showed that family migration decreases women's propensity
to work, perhaps because of increasing (husband's) income, and because geographical mobility
separates the family from childcare and family support (A. Chattopadhyay, 'Family Migration and the
Economic Status of Women in Malaysia', International Migration Review, Vol.31, No.2, 1997).

9
The next sub-section indicates that this may be more prominent among poorer migrants. But it is
relevant to note that the emergence of a single- and adult-male migrant labour force in the large-scale
industry during the late-colonial period was accompanied by a long-term trend of devaluation of
women's labour, changing gender ideologies, and decreasing child- and female labour force
participation (S. Sen, Women and Labour in Late Colonial India. The Bengal Jute Industry,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).

10
For example, trafficking of children is documented by the Center for Legal Research and Resource
Development in Kathmandu, and by Human Rights Watch, op. cit.

11
H. Mallee, ‘In Defence of Migration: Recent Chinese Studies on Rural Population Mobility’, China
Information (Vol.10, Nos 3-4, 1995/96). Local authorities continue to control migration. Authorities at
the destination side have erected barriers in terms of job discrimination, and removal of migrants.
China’s ‘floating population’ or ‘tidal wave’ of rural migrant labour has generated much debate in
press, academic and policy circles. See for example K.D. Roberts, ‘China's “Tidal Wave” of Migrant
Labour: What Can We Learn From Mexican Undocumented Migration to the United States?’,
International Migration Review (Vol.31, No.2, 1997).

12
A. de Haan, Unsettled Settlers. Migrant Workers and Industrial Capitalism in Calcutta (Hilversum:
Verloren, 1994); A.N. Singh, ‘Rural-to-Urban Migration of Women in India: Patterns and
Implications’, in: J.T. Fawcett et al., Women in the Cities of Asia. Migration and Urban Adaption
(Boulder: Westview Press, 1984).

13
K. Brock, and N. Coulibaly, ‘Sustainable Livelihoods Project: Mali Country Report’, Manuscript,
(Brighton: IDS, 1999); V. Golaz, Les Migration Internes au Kenya 1979-1989, CEDEP Etudes No.6
(Paris, 1997); K.J. Guingnido, Croissance Urbaine, Migrations et Population au Benin, CEDEP Etudes
No.5 (Paris, 1992).

14
M. Sagrario Floro and K. Schaefer, ‘Restructuring of Labour Markets in the Philippines and Zambia:
The Gender Dimension’, The Journal of Developing Areas (33, Fall 1998).

15
UN, World Population Monitoring 1997, op. cit. Total numbers of foreign born does not represent
labour migration very well, as economically non-active are also included (though one might argue that
‘family migration’ is also ‘labour migration’; Cordell et al., op. cit., p.10). Family reunion in western
Europe after the labour migrant influx in the 1960s has probably increased the percentage of women.

16
In the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Thailand women form a larger proportion of migrants
than men; R. Skeldon, ‘Rural-Urban Migration and Its Implications for Poverty Alleviation’, Asia-
Pacific Population Journal (Vol.12, No.1, 1997).

17
Q.T. Wodon, 'Poverty and Policy in Latin American and the Caribbean', Mimeo, The World Bank,
LCSPP, October 1999.

18
IDS research in 1994 and 1997, led by Martin Greeley and Kazi Ali Toufique, indicates that about 5-

30
6 per cent of migrants were women, though with differences between villages, and female migration
may have been under-recorded; these findings will be summarised in A. de Haan, et al. ‘Migration and
livelihoods: case studies in Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Mali’, forthcoming IDS working paper, 2000.
19
A. Adepoju and W. Mbugua, ‘The African Family: An Overview of Changing Forms’, and S.
Findley, ‘Migration and Family Interactions in Africa’, both in: A. Adepoju, Family, Population and
Development in Africa (London: Zed Books, 1997). But already in the early 1980s it was indicated that
in Zimbabwe the role of women had become increasingly important; D.W. Drakakis Smith, ‘The
Changing Economic Role of Women in the Urbanisation Process: A Preliminary Report from
Zimbabwe’, International Migration Review (Vol.18, No.4, 1984).

20
R. David, Changing Places: Women, Resource Management and Migration in the Sahel (London:
SOS Sahel, 1995); Brock and Coulibaly, op. cit.

21
Mallee, op. cit; L. Song, ‘The Role of Women in Labour Migration: A Case Study of Northern
China’, Mimeo (Oxford University: Institue of Economics and Statistics, 1996).

22
B. de la Brière, A. de Janvry, S. Lambert, and E. Sadoulet, ‘Why Do Migrants Remit? An Analysis
for the Dominican Sierra’ (Washington: IFPRI, Food Consumption and Nutrition Division, Discussion
Paper No.37, 1997).

23
For example, ‘undocumented’ migrants in the US improve their earnings and occupational status
over time, but improvements tend to be greater for mean than for women; M. G. Powers and W. Seltzer,
‘Occupational Status and Mobility Among Undocumented Immigrants by Gender’, International
Migration Review (Vol.32, No.121, Spring 1998).

24
Brock and Coulibaly, op. cit.

25
J. Breman, Wage Hunters and Gatherers. Search for Work in the Urban and Rural Economy of South
Gujarat (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1994); and research in the context of DFID-funded
participatory agricultural development; D. Mosse, S. Gupta, M. Mehta, V. Shah, J. Rees and the KRIBP
Project Team, ‘Brokered Livelihoods: Debt, Labour Migration and Development in Tribal Western
India’, presented at the workshop on Migration and Sustainable Livelihoods, Sussex, June 1998.

26
Mallee, op. cit. A 1987 survey found that permanent out-migrants are much better educated than
seasonal migrants; L. Song, ‘Is Rural to Urban Migration of Labour Worthwile in China’, Mimeo
(Oxford University: Institue of Economics and Statistics, 1997).

27
N. Amin, ‘Labour Migration and Remittances: Production and Food Security Effects in Chirau and
Magondi’, Mimeo (1999). Women who migrate to Nairobi are also slightly better-educated; cf. Golaz,
op. cit.

28
J. Connell, B. Dasgupta, R. Laishley, and M. Lipton, Migration from Rural Areas: The Evidence
from Village Studies (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1976); K.N.S. Yadava, S.S. Yadava and R.K.
Sinha, ‘Rural Out-migration and its Economic Implications on Migrant Households in India - A
Review’, The Indian Economic Journal (Vol.44, No.2, 1996/97).

29
A.S. Oberai, P.H. Prasad, and M.G. Sardana, Determinants and Consequences of Internal Migration
in India. Studies in Bihar, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1989).

30
P. Lanjouw and N. Stern, ‘Agricultural Changes and Inequality in Palanpur 1957-1984’ (London:

31
LSE, DEP No.24, 1989).

31
A useful overview of links between rural and urban areas is: C. Tacoli, ‘Rural-Urban Interactions: A
Guide to the Literature’, Environment and Urbanization (Vol.10, No.1, 1998).
32
The literature suggests that in many cases there is little wage discrimination against migrants, though
Burmese workers in Thailand are thought to earn about one-third of a Thai worker’s wage (Human
Rights Watch, 1998, op. cit.).

33
W. P.M. Vijverberg, and L.A. Zeager, ‘Comparing Earnings profiles in Urban Areas of an LDC:
Rural-to-urban Migrants vs. Native Workers’, Journal of Development Economics (Vol.45, 1994).
However, analysis of DHS data in 15 cities showed that child mortality disadvantages of migrants is
more pronounced among migrants who have lived in the city for many years than among recent migrant
(M. Brockerhoff, ‘Child Survival in Big Cities: The Disadvantages of Migrants’, Social Science and
Medicine, Vol.40, No.10, 1995).

34
A. Dang, S. Goldstein, A McNally, 'Internal Migration and Development in Vietnam', International
Migration Review (Vol.31, No.2, 1997).

35
Ian Scoones, Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: A Framework for Analysis (Brighton: IDS Working
Paper, 1998); D. Carney, Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: What Contribution Can We Make? (London:
DFID, 1998); F. Ellis, ‘Household Strategies and Rural Livelihood Diversification’, Journal of
Development Studies (Vol.35, No.1, 1998). Dropping the adjective rural is I believe consistent with the
principles of the livelihoods framework, as livelihoods can be and often are partly urban-based.

36
The argument about continuing and increasing inequality has been put forward for example by
Cordell et al., op cit., for migration from Burkina Faso to Côte d'Ivoire during the 1950s and 1960s.
But the migration history of the Punjab in India suggests that relative successful development does not
preclude out-migration (combined with in-migration from poorer Indian states). In Japan emigration
continued during industrialisation and urbanisation (Skeldon, op. cit., 1997a, p.95), and most East
Asian countries are net emigration countries despite being among the richest economies (Singh and
Donecker, op. cit).
37
R. Ballard, ‘The Context and Consequences of Migration: Jullundur and Mirpur Compared’, New
Community (Vol. 11, No. 1/2, pp.1983).

38
A.C. Knowles, and R. Anker, ‘An Analysis of Income Transfers in a Developing Country’, Journal
of Development Economics (Vol. 8, 1981).

39
M. Lipton, ‘Migration form Rural Areas of Poor Countries: The Impact on Rural Productivity and
Income Distribution’, World Development (Vol.8, No.1, 1980).

40
R. Adams, ‘Non-Farm Income and Inequality in Rural Pakistan’, The Journal of Development
Studies (Vol.31, No.1, 1994); unpublished data from Bangladesh collected by Martin Greeley, IDS,
Brighton; E.R. Rodriguez, ‘International Migration and Income Distribution in the Philippines’,
Economic Development and Cultural Change (Vol.48, No.2, 1998).

41
E. Francis, and J. Hoddinott, ‘Migration and Differentiation in Western Kenya: A Tale of Two Sub-
locations’, Journal of Development Studies (Vol.30, No.1, 1993).

42
M. Schiff, Trade, Migration and Welfare: the Impact of Social Capital, Policy Research Working
Paper, No.2044 (Washington: World Bank, 1999). This mistaken diagnosis is linked to suggestions that
immigration countries are therefore justified in putting up immigration restrictions - as mentioned

32
above most research suggest that, if migrant are allowed to participate in economic and social life, they
contribute greatly.

43
Ballard, R., 'Migration and Kinship: The Differential Effect of Marriage Rules on the Processes of
Punjabi Migration to Britain', in: C. Clarke, C. Peach and S. Vertovec, South Asian Overseas.
Migration and Ethnicity (Cambridge, 1990, p.224).
44
P. Werbner, The Migration Process. Capital, Gifts and Offerings among British Pakistanis (New
York, 1990).

45
A description of the exploitative conditions of migrant workers in Asia, the lack of legal protection,
and their vulnerability during the East Asia crisis, is provided by Human Rights Watch, Bearing the
Brunt of the Asian Economic Crisis. The Impact on Labor Rights and Migrant Workers in Asia
(www.hrw.org/reports98/asiabr/, March 1998).

46
Elizabeth Francis, Rural Livelihoods in Madibogo, Multiple Livelihoods and Social Change Working
Paper No.6 (University of Manchester: IDPM, 1999).

47
The following is based on R. Black, Refugees, Environment and Development (Harlow: Longman,
1998). The terminology refugee is significant, because of its implications for asylum.

48
Research on the Machakos case was carried out initially by Tiffen et al., and later by Murton..

49
Read’s work is quoted in Chirwa, op. cit.; W. Watson, 1958, Tribal Cohesion in a Money Economy,
Manchester University Press; J. van Velsen, 1959, ‘Labour Migration as a Positive Factor in the
Continuity of Tonga Tribal Society’, Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol.8 No.2.

50
Described in more detail in de Haan, 1999, op.cit. (drawing on work by Ann Whitehead for
example). This means by no means denying a possible link between migration and poverty, but it
suggest how this link is mediated by social forms and norms.

51
Research in central Mali by Toulmin, quoted in Brock and Coulibaly, op. cit.

52
N.W. Townsend, 'Men, Migration, and Households in Botswana: An Exploration of Connections
Over Time and Space', Journal of Southern African Studies (Vol.23, No.3, 1997). Murray's work in
Botswana emphasised that a focus on households as residential units is problematic.

53
Sen, op. cit. She argues that in late colonial Bengal, differences between men's and women's earning
sharpened, as men earned cash in the city, while women worked in the rural economy.

54
Becky Elmhirst, 'Daughters and Displacement: Migration Dynamics in an Indonesian
Transmigration Area' (preliminary research findings), Paper for the workshop on Migration and
Sustainable Livelihood, Sussex, 5-6 June 1998.

55
Francis, op. cit, p. 9. This ESCOR-funded research in Madibogo near Mafikeng emphasises the
reliance on remittances and pensions, and the need for diversified livelihoods in a risky farming
environment.

56
The 1995 Labour Law gives migrant workers the same rights as other workers, but application and
enforcement is thought to be lax. The Beijing city government ‘Document No.1’ of February 1998,

33
stipulates a list of jobs permitted to migrant workers (forbidding others), and that official city dwellers
must be recruited before those without permanent residence permits (Human Rights Watch, 1998, op.
cit.).

57
On-going ESCOR/DFID-funded research in West Bengal looks at policy makers' perceptions of
migrants, and migrants' access to health and education as well as security; B. Rogaly, J. Biswas, D.
Coppard, A. Rafique, K Rana and A. Sengupta, 'Seasonal Migration for Manual Work in Eastern India.
Notes from District Profiles: An Interim Research Report', University of East Anglia, August 1999.

34
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39