Basic concepts related to Migration

The cultural, functional demographic variable called migration represents the geographic mobility of the population from one region to the other.

As this spacial mobility registers its influence on two geographic locations simultaneously, it is considered to be a more prominent geographic variable than even fertility and mortality.

This functional variable relates to the:

  • Source Region – where push factors may be working
  • Destination – where pull factors may be working

Though both the push and pull factors are considered to be perceptional. It is in accordance that behavior centered migration is also specified as a valid component in the migratory studies.

As per the East-West Population Study Centre, Honolulu, Migration involves more than a weeks’ time of the change of the residence. It includes several types distinguished on the basis of:

  • Time – Permanent and Temporary.
  • Causes – largely include Economic and Cultural.
  • Distance – largely includes International and Intra-national.

The analysis of migration in human geography relates to the work of three prominent scholars Ravenstein, Everett Lee and Zelinsky.

Ravenstein’s Migration Theories

Ravenstein as the first prominent propounder of theories on migration, based his analysis on the inter-national migratory trends existing across Atlantic in between 1885 – 1889.

On the basis of the analysis of the existing trends, Ravenstein concluded few of the self-defining theories on Migration that marks their validity in present profile. These theories highlight that:

  • Majority of the migration takes place for short distances (Distance Decay Effect)
  • Attractiveness of a destination decreases with increase in distance. (Gravity Law)
  • Big towns grow due to immigration.
  • Main cause of migration is economic.
  • Adults migrate more than the family.
  • Females migrate shorter distances, though males venture beyond.
  • Every major migratory movement also has a weak and opposite counter migratory movement.
  • Migration proceeds step by step.

Everett Lee’ Migration Theory

Ravenstein approach was consolidated as one specified theory called ‘Concept of Migration’ by Everett Lee in 1965. In his concept, Lee emphasized that migratory decisions seem to be an interplay of 4 factors:

  • Factors operating at the place of origin
  • Factors operating at the place of destination
  • Factors that operate as intervening obstacles
  • Factors that are all specific to the individual

As per the scholar, for the migratory decision to be taken and implemented, factors operating at destination should be strong enough not just to overrule the place belongingness working at the source region, but also to over-rule the inter-weaning obstacles, and satisfy individual specific requirements.

This approach of Everett Lee, though facilitated the consolidation of the fragmented theories propounded by Ravenstein, did not specify or elaborate the causes and consequences of migration.

It was in 1971, when Zelinsky came up with his Migration Theory, that covered up this lacuna in migration theories.

Zelinsky’s Migration Theory

Zelinsky propounded ‘Mobility Transition Model’ interpreting all the dimensions of the study of migration. His approach was to add migration in demographic transition, interpreting the changing trends of migratory volume with changing time.

He divided the study into four different levels:

  • International
  • Inter-regional (Intranational)
  • Rural – Urban (Intranational)
  • Urban – Urban (Intranational)

At all the four levels, Zelinsky has emphasized that High stationary stage, relating to the lesser life expectancy, stable population profile and absolute localized living of the population, relates to the minimal migratory movement.

It is the growth of population, growth of information about neighbouring locations and prevailing prospects, along with the growth of transportation links, that mark the beginning of migration after Early expanding stage.

Beyond this stage, migratory movement represents variable trends at variable scales.

  • At intra-national level, regional migration registers a decrease from the late expanding stage, largely because of the diffusion of regional development which minimizes the differences in the economic potential.
  • In comparison, the rural-urban migration continues to maintain a high level of migratory trend even after the late expanding stage, as rural areas make the implementation of fruitful economic development in long time perspective. Only on the success of rural development programmes, does this migratory trend shows signs of decline after low stationary stage.
  • In case of urban-urban migration, migratory movement never shows signs of decline, as it is the difference of the scale of economy that demarcates — town, city and megacity. It is this difference of scale that consistently maintains the perceptional attractiveness, generating this trend.
  • At international scale, migratory movements show similar trends as in the case of inter-regional migration. The difference is in the number of migrants and the causes of decline in migration. Compared to regional migration, inter-national migration involves less number of migrants due to the existing distance. The decline in migration after early expanding stage relates to strict implementation of immigration norms.

It is this analysis of Zelinsky that has been applied to interpret the global migratory trends in entire cultural history. These trends are divided into 2 prominent temporal categories with 1945 being considered as the transitional year.

  • Historical Migration (before 1945)
  • Modern Migration (after 1945)

Historical Migration and Modern Migration are distinguished in reference to the volume of migrants.

Mass movement of population in the general absence of strict immigration norms reveals regional to global dimensions. Historical migration includes wide range of prominent examples, along the following dimensions:

  • Voluntary Movement
  • Labourer Movement
  • Forced Movement
Voluntary Movement

Migration to the new world represents the most important historical migration, intertwined with the spread of Christianity and Caucasoid race. Though the voluntary movement were largely regulated by economic orientations, in the specified absence of prevailing push or pull factors, it is considered to be a separate category.

The voluntary migration involving Western Europe as its source region and Anglo-America, Oceania as significant destination, justifies its geographical value.

Labourer Movement

As the legacy of industrial revolution, Western European countries became the prominent destination for economically motivated industrial labour movement. The source region for such movement were Eastern and Southern European countries, facilitating the significant cultural intermix of this continent.

This category of economically motivated labour movement has a global dimension, as the legacy of introduction of plantation agriculture by the colonial settlers in the tropical and equatorial Islands. Among the prominent examples that attracted the agricultural labourers from neighbouring islands or far off main land, inducing cultural mix, includes:

  • Cuba, Trinidad, Tobago (Sugar Plantation)
  • Pemba, Zanzibar, Mafia (Clove Plantation)
  • Sri Lanka, Malaysia (Rubber Plantation)
  • Fiji (Mahogany Plantation)

It is these far-off destinations that attracted the population from the mainland, reeling under exploitive economic regime, that is generating a major cultural legacy in the present profile.

Forced Movement

Another important historical migration that forms the cause of racial mix, specifically in Anglo-American countries, is the Forced Migration or Slave Trade – This migratory movement involved Western Africa, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana as the prominent source regions and Anglo America as the prominent destination.

The sale and purchase of Negroid population as a commodity in the market significantly degraded their cultural identities. These slaves were transported to Anglo-America with the fundamental purpose of clearing forest, leveling of land and creating basic infrastructure.

The persisting social discrimination in Anglo-America can be traced back to this genesis of black population in that area.

Post second world war, more concrete political map of the world emerged, with large number of new independent countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. It lead to restricted mass movement of population - setting in global dimension of individualistic modern international migration.

Even in this phase there is a clear demarcate of transitional period where continuation of mass movement can be traced back. Majorly these movements represent retreat of colonial settlers and relocation of population in newly demarcated political units. In both these categories political, cultural, perceptional and actual PUSH factors were involved. For example:

  • The migration of Jewish population from Europe (and the creation of Israel).
  • Political partition of India leading to numerous relocations.
  • Armed annexation of Tibet by China, leading to migration of Tibetan people.

These represent the few prominent examples that sustain their political significance till date.

Post 1965, nominalizing of transitional global phase is outlined as contemporary phase of international migration. In this economic movement regulated both by Push and Pull factors, both temporary and permanent movements can dominate.

Pull Factors

The general equation of developing countries being the source area and developed countries the destination, registered a major change during 1980s when the Gulf countries evolved as strong destination for the people of South Asia and North Africa. It induced global exposure to the fundamentalist Islamic realm and it had a prominent geographical impact.

In terms of the geo-politically induced turbulence in the region, the economic attractiveness has significantly declined since 1990s.

Push Factors

The global migratory trends in the contemporary reference incorporates a significant variant that relates to the movement of refugees. It represents the mass movement of human population under the influence of Push factor. This category includes wide range of causes that largely involves:

  • Political turbulence
  • Natural Calamity
  • Food Security Concern

In accordance to UN commission on refugees, these strong mass movements regulated by forcing factors are largely deviated to most proximate geographic location.

Another defining characteristic is that refugees (the temporary immigrants) that are politically recognized form only one-tenth of the actual number of illegal immigrants. It is in accordance that these mass movements associate themselves with excessive increase in geo-demographic load of the destination. Moreover, they form the additional cause of enhancing geo-political sensitivity.

  • The political turbulence related mass movement from Arab world in present scenario makes up a significant example.
  • The most consistent location forming the example of this type of migratory movement however is Africa, where starvation and tribal conflict have been the prominent causes of Intra-continental international migration.
  • The prominent source regions of mass movement due to food security concerns include Somalia, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad, with Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) being the food secured country destinations.
  • The prominent domains of tribal conflict - Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, form the source region, with these populations largely migrating to Tanzania, Kenya as destination.
  • With political divide of Sudan, the mass movement, specifically along the carved out international boundary, adds to the international mass movement in this continent.
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