HOW IMMIGRANTS IMPACT THEIR HOMELANDS
By Susan Eva Eckstein, Adil Najam
Duke University Press Copyright © 2013 Duke University Press
All rights reserved.
Immigrants from Developing Countries An Overview of Their Homeland Impacts
Immigration constitutes one of the most important components of today's globalization. While not a new phenomenon, it has grown in scale and significance since World War II, especially since the mid-1980s. The number of countries from and to which people have migrated has grown dramatically, with women playing an increasingly important role in the world on the move, not merely as family dependents of men who attain work abroad but as laborers in their own right.
When moving to new countries, today's immigrants do not necessarily sever ties with their homelands. Through transnational engagement even the most humble of immigrants may transform the communities and countries they left behind. Governments and other institutions at times institute reforms to try to influence their impact. Their impact may be unintended and far greater than they realize, owing to conditions in which their home ties become embedded. Their impacts may be political, social, and cultural, even when their main impetus to migrate is economic.
This book addresses the homeland impacts that immigrants from developing countries have had. Most chapters richly detail the experiences of specific immigrant groups. These chapters are written by scholars with deep understandings of the immigrants about which they write. This is the first book of such scope. This introduction provides context for understanding the immigrant experiences detailed in the other chapters. It summarizes characteristics of emigrants, why they uproot, where they mainly resettle and why, and how in moving they changed their homelands.
Emigration from Developing Countries
Seventy-six percent of today's immigrants were born in developing countries. Mexico, India, China, and Turkey, concerns of the chapters in this book, rank among the top ten countries from which people have emigrated. Over 10 million Mexicans and Indians, 7 million Chinese, and 4 million Turks live outside their home countries. India and China, along with Brazil and Russia, constitute the so-called BRIC countries, perceived internationally as up-and-coming. The Indians and Chinese who emigrated in such large numbers felt that their personal lives would improve even more in leaving than were they to remain in their homelands, and they have contributed to the "economic miracles" in their respective countries by moving abroad.
The Philippines and Morocco, the focus of other chapters in this book, rank not among the top ten but among the top fourteen countries in numbers of émigrés. As of 2005, 3.6 and 2.7 million people have emigrated, respectively, from the Philippines and Morocco. These countries rank among the better-off developing-country economies, but their job and earnings opportunities failed to grow apace with their populations, and they do not offer opportunities comparable to those in richer countries.
Yet, none of the twenty countries with the largest out-migrations rank among the (thirty) countries with the highest percent of their populations living abroad, countries with the greatest proportional demographic losses. Jamaica ranks the highest in the world in the portion of its population living abroad. An extraordinary 39 percent of Jamaicans have emigrated. Two other countries addressed in these chapters, El Salvador and Cuba, rank among the thirty countries in the world with the highest percent of their populations having uprooted. El Salvador and Cuba rank seventeenth and thirtieth, respectively. Sixteen percent of Salvadorans and 11 percent of Cubans live abroad. Salvadoran out-migration spiraled as the country experienced a devastating civil war in the 1980s that made living in the country unsafe. However, other Salvadorans followed in the footsteps of those who took refuge abroad, initially for economic reasons but more recently also for security reasons, when gang violence became pervasive. They perceived their life-prospects to be better where their friends and relatives had resettled. The Cuban outmigration also began with a political exodus of opponents to the country's radical transformation after Fidel Castro took power, in 1959. However, out-migration expanded there as well to include economic migrants, especially after the country experienced a deep recession, when Soviet aid and trade abruptly ended, following the break-up of the Soviet Union. The Salvadoran and Cuban cases illustrate that motives for migration may be mixed and that they may change over time, in ways that will be shown to shape immigrant homeland impacts.
In addition, many former Soviet bloc countries, as well as countries in the Middle East, that experienced civil strife and civil wars, such as Serbia, Montenegro, and the West Bank and Gaza, rank among the countries with the highest rates of out-migration. Politically turbulent countries lose their populations to migration, if not to bullets. Refugees, persons who flee their homeland, fearful of religious, ethnic, or political persecution, were they to stay, account for 8 percent of world immigrants.
WHERE DO EMIGRANTS GO?
Where do emigrants resettle? In 2005, reports indicate that 42 percent of emigrants from developing countries, from the so-called Global South, had moved to high-income countries that were members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in the Global North. Another 12 percent had moved to high-income non-OECD countries. Since the late twentieth century, migrants from developing countries have moved in ever-larger numbers to the United States, Australia, and Europe. This book primarily focuses on this migratory flow from the Global South to the Global North.
Most developing-country migration used to be internal, not international—from rural to urban areas. This was especially true in Latin America, until the rates of urbanization in the region reached levels nearly as high as those in industrial, well-to-do countries, even though their cities did not offer comparable economic opportunities. The urban option closed down, especially after the neoliberal restructuring of many economies in the mid-1980s, for reasons detailed below. Under these circumstances, both rural and urban residents increasingly turned to emigration as their best hope.
There is a patterning to where immigrants from particular regions, and countries within regions, move. Table 1.1 summarizes this patterning. The percentage of people who have moved from poor to rich countries varies by region. Eighty percent or more of emigrants from Latin America, the Caribbean, East Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, and North Africa have moved to countries in the Global North, whereas only half of South Asian immigrants and no more than 36 percent of Central Asian and Sub-Saharan African immigrants have. In that immigration to the Global North is greatest from middle-income developing countries, the dynamics of global immigration keep peoples from the poorest regions disadvantaged. In 2005 middle-income countries accounted for 54 percent of immigrants to high-income OECD countries, low-income countries for only 12 percent.
And within regions, immigrants tend to gravitate to specific countries. Migrants on which chapters of the book focus illustrate the selectivity of migration. Mexicans, Philippines, Cubans, and Salvadorans have moved mainly to the United States, while Turks have moved mainly to Germany and Moroccans to France. South Asian Indians, however, have immigrated in large numbers to countries in diverse regions of the world, and shifted their destination countries over the years. They mainly migrated to Great Britain, after it colonized India, and to South Africa, and those who were Muslims fled to Pakistan after it became an autonomous country in 1947. In more recent times, Indians immigrated to Middle Eastern countries and the United States, with different classes of Indians moving to the two regions, laborers to the Middle East and high-skilled workers, on which Kyle Eischen's chapter focuses, to the United States.
The United States has been the magnet for the most immigrants. In 2005, 38.4 million foreign-born lived there, more than three times as many as lived in Russia, the country with the second-largest number of immigrants. Most immigrants to the United States (as well as to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) used to come from Europe, until opportunities there expanded, first with reconstruction after World War II and then with the formation of the European Union (EU), which allowed labor to move freely among member countries. A dramatic decline in the fertility rate in Europe led to a further drop in transatlantic immigration, and contributed to Europe's shift from a net exporter to a net importer of labor.
Against this backdrop, several European countries, including Germany, France, and Spain, as well as oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Canada, came to rank among the top ten immigrant-receiving countries. The immigration to Saudi Arabia reflects the growing complexity and diversity of destination countries, as select developing countries have become new nodes of economic development. Sparsely populated Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf oil states, has come to rely on foreign labor for oil-related activity, construction, and service work.
The demographic importance of immigrants in receiving, as well as sending, countries depends not merely on the absolute number of people involved, but also on the size of the native-born populations. Although immigrants have come to constitute about 10 percent of the population in high-income OECD countries (involving European countries, including some former Soviet bloc countries in Central Europe, and countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Turkey, and Japan), and 13 percent in the United States, they account for more than triple that percentage in some of the smaller, high-income non-OECD countries (Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Israel, and other wealthy Middle Eastern countries) and in several former Soviet bloc countries.
To a certain extent, refugee flows also differ when viewed in absolute numbers and relative to the size of the population of the country where they move. As of 2005, Germany and the United States ranked among the ten countries with the most refugees. But neither Germany nor the United States, nor any other high-income OECD country, ranked among the thirty countries with refugees accounting for most of their immigrants. Refugees accounted for 6 percent of German immigrants and for 1 percent of U.S. immigrants. In contrast, refugees accounted for 14 percent of immigrants to developing countries in general, and for 23 percent of immigrants to the least developed countries. Thus, the countries that can best afford to absorb the humanitarian costs of accommodating displaced persons do not assume their "fair share." Moreover, rich countries tend to acquire refugees in a regularized manner, by criteria they establish, whereas poor countries receive refugees mainly by default, their governments too weak to control who enters their borders. Because most refugees need to flee their homeland quickly when their lives are at risk, they mainly move to neighboring countries. Most such relocations transpire within the Global South. Nine of the ten countries with refugees accounting for the highest percentage of their immigrants are located in the Middle East and Africa. The other country is Armenia, in Eurasia. Also, the partitioning of India and Pakistan, within the Global South, unleashed one of the largest population movements in recorded history, as tens of millions of Hindus and Muslims (and, secondarily, other ethnic and religious groups) relocated across the newly formed borders, to find a safe religious haven, Hindus in India, Muslims in Pakistan.
HOW TO EXPLAIN THE PATTERNING OF IMMIGRATION?
While refugees demonstrate that the motivation for migration may be political, the key driving force is typically economic, rooted in differences in global opportunities. But whatever the reason inducing specific individuals to uproot, immigration must be understood in the context of macrohistorical and institutional processes. State policies, changing demographics, colonial legacies, and transnational social dynamics that immigrants themselves put in place all influence from where and to where people in today's world move.
The economic forces behind migration to the Global North have shifted over the years, as the world economy, and the role of specific countries within it, has changed. In some countries, immigrants have been central to how economies evolved, and in so doing they influenced subsequent migration flows. The massive migration to the United States in the early twentieth century, for example, was intricately associated with the country becoming the world's most dynamic industrial nation, on a small native-born population base. Then, after World War II, northern European countries rebuilt their industrial economies with so-called guest workers from North Africa and Turkey, the focus of Natasha Iskander's and Riva Kastoryano's chapters in this book, respectively.
By the time global immigration began to reach unprecedented levels in the 1980s, many of the manufacturing jobs in the Global North had disappeared, as companies relocated in poorer countries where labor costs were lower, including in the very developing countries from which many of today's immigrants come. The removal of barriers to trade and investment under global neoliberal restructuring led people with capital to relocate production wherever in the world they believed they could maximize their profits, and then export to global markets.
Under these circumstances, today's immigrants to the Global North move increasingly to high- and low-skilled service-based economies. They gravitate to work that native-born people would rather not do, or lack the skills to do, in sufficient numbers. Particularly noteworthy, women's growing participation in the labor force and the rise in life expectancy in countries in the Global North have contributed to a feminization of immigration. Women from developing countries have responded to a new demand to do work that women in the Global North previously performed, unpaid, as homemakers. Chapters in the book elucidate the range of high- and low-skilled service-sector jobs male and female immigrants from developing countries now do. They work as nurses, nannies, and maids, but also as high-skilled technicians and financiers.
Nonetheless, the increasingly service-based economies have not entirely eliminated demand for foreign labor for other work. Agribusinesses, for example, want immigrants for low-paid farm work, work that the native-born, with better options, resist doing.
People in developing countries respond to demand for their labor, and sometimes even create demand for their labor, in the Global North, largely because economic opportunities in their own countries compare unfavorably. This has been especially true since the neoliberal restructuring that began in the 1980s. Against the backdrop of the severe balance of payments deficits and associated debt crises, governments in developing countries introduced reforms, under pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), that caused living costs to rise, earnings opportunities to decline, income inequality to worsen, and, in many countries, poverty rates to rise. Victims of the reforms came to envision emigration as their best hope. The removal of trade barriers, for example, subjected developing-country economies to foreign competition that often worked to their disadvantage. Mexico is a prime example, as David FitzGerald's chapter shows. Implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1994, removed tariffs between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In Mexico, small-scale agriculturalists who could not compete with imports from U.S. agribusiness lost their means of livelihood. Perceiving few labor-market options in their country, farm laborers looked to the United States for work. Under these circumstances, Mexicans became the main immigrants to the United States.
Yet, no single economic rationality accounts for the economic forces at play. Immigration that serves the interests of certain groups may conflict with the interests of other groups. In particular, immigration that is rational from the vantage point of business, or, more accurately, certain businesses, may not be rational from the vantage point of governments. For example, employers who want a large supply of cheap, foreign-born labor to minimize their production costs, drive up fiscal expenditures for governments that address the social welfare needs of immigrants. Governments may also need to contend with antiforeign, nativistic political backlashes, especially during economic downturns. Native-born workers who believe that immigrants undermine their employment options and weaken their earning power at times channel their resentment politically.
Indeed, behind the "invisible" global market forces propelling migration are governments with their own priorities. Governments in the Global North have adapted their admit policies over the years, primarily due to their changing economic concerns, but also due to their changing political and humanitarian concerns. With their economies offering the best global economic opportunities, they are well positioned to determine whom they let in with legal rights, including how many people, from which countries, with what skills, and on what terms (that is, whether for a defined period of time or indefinitely). Peoples in developing countries are not free to decide for themselves whether to emigrate, where to move, and for how long.
Although governments in the Global North opened their doors to substantially more peoples from developing countries since the 1960s, they nonetheless remain highly selective in who they let in. Washington, for example, gives preference to skilled and moneyed entrants, and to relatives of citizens (after having allotted entry on the basis of national quotas that favored northern Europeans, between the 1920s and 1960s). Over the years, it used immigration as an instrument to maintain and advance its dominant position within the global economy. The Indian information technology (IT) immigrants Kyle Eischen describes in his chapter are beneficiaries of the skill bias of current U.S. immigration policy. So too are the Philippine nurses Rhacel Parreñas describes in her chapter. The demand for medical assistants increased when Washington instituted Medicaid and Medicare in the 1960s.
Excerpted from HOW IMMIGRANTS IMPACT THEIR HOMELANDS by Susan Eva Eckstein. Copyright © 2013 by Duke University Press. Excerpted by permission of DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS.
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