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PPGPortal > Home > Concept Dictionary > K, L, M > Labour Migration

Labour Migration 

Cross-border movement for purposes of employment in a foreign country.

(International Organization for Migration. "Labour Migration."


Professor Ito Peng explained in lecture that labour and migration issues are multi-dimensional and interconnected.  The mobility of human resources is a new global concern.  There is a free flow of goods in a global economy – but also a flow of humans. Low skilled and high skilled workers, in particular, move around the globe.

Labour mobility is affected by “push” and “pull” factors. Push factors include poverty, lack of jobs and opportunities, low wages, and a lack of positive incentives. Pull factors include jobs and income, opportunities for career advancement, and better wages and living conditions.

There is an interconnectedness of race, gender and power. In the past, mostly males moved around the globe – low skilled males for manual labour and high skilled males for medicine and engineering jobs. But now, labour migration is increasingly feminized. This has occurred with a shift in the economy from manufacturing to service-based jobs. With welfare state retrenchment, there is increased demand for care services. These changes alter family dynamics between mothers and children, husbands and wives, etc. There may be emotions such as guilt, jealousy and love.

Labour migration brings about potential changes in the home country. Once a migrant labourer returns home, they bring back new culture and understanding. They also bring back acquired skills and resources.

Migration may represent the exercise of agency: women freely moving across borders in order to support their families and/or escape domestic abuse, war, famine, and other calamities in their home country. Or, contrarily, some view migrant labour as low-wage, low-prestige, and underappreciated.

Joya Misra, Jonathan Woodring, and Sabin N. Merz argue that migration choices are shaped by their institutional context—including labor market and immigration policies and their implementation, as well as international legislation. For example, both sending and receiving countries may be interested in prompting temporary migration, as opposed to permanent resettlement. Such patterns ensure remittances to sending countries, while limiting the long-term responsibility for receiving countries. Indeed, in recent decades, temporary migration has become increasingly common. Migration flows are also shaped by the political and historical context.


Misra, Joya, Jonathan Woodring and Sabine Merz. 2006. "The Globalization of Carework: Immigration, Economic Restructuring, and the World-System." Globalization. 3(3): 317-332.


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