Migration Hump and Development. A Look at Migration Patterns in Turkey and Mexico

Scientific Essay, 2014

12 Pages, Grade: 70


Table of Contents


Migration Hump

Migration and Development




Migration hump refers to the short term influx in migration instilled by trade and economic policies as compared to the expected migration trend without such initiatives. The migration hump theory, coined by Martin and Taylor in 1996, articulates that trade and migration are complimentary in short or medium term and substitutes in long term. Since 1991, there is growing recognition of the fact that the poorest countries are not the sending nations. People need resources to migrate, thus, initially developmental policies such as free trade and foreign direct investment enable people to migrate, however, in a long run same policies and additional remittances from diaspora empower countries to establish infrastructure to preserve their human capital and even instil return migration. However, one model does not fit all. In case of systematic failure of developmental policies due to internal or external pressures hump can transform into plateau, which means a state of continuous ‘brain drain’. This essay attempts to explain the notion of migration hump and plateau in relation to migration and development through optimistic and pessimistic views. The discourse explains the process of positive to negative migration through the example of Turkey and continuous excessive migration process through Mexico.

Migration Hump

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Figure1: Migration Hump (Martin, 1996: 45)

As seen in Figure 1, migration hump refers to the additional migration created by the trade reforms over a short period of time (Martin, 1996: 44). The straight upward line depicts the status-quo international migration in absence of such reforms. The curve depicts the initial short term influx and a substantial long term reduction in migration from sending country. The graph clearly shows that the area between A (outflow) is much less than B (inflow). The concept challenges the conventional wisdom that trade reform would create opportunities for people in short as well as long term resulting in immediate drop in outward movement or a migration trough (See Martin, 1996: 45; De Haas, 2007: 819).

While the idea of migration hump has come to be widely accepted in the migration research circles, non-migration scholars have argued that there is no empirical evidence for such a pattern (See De Haas, 2010). However, the historical analysis of European development shows a mass outflow of people during the industrialisation phase between 1850 and 1925. More recent examples within Europe are Spain, Italy and Greece. Similarly in Asia, newly industrialised economies like Malaysia, Taiwan and South Korea have witnessed same heavy outflow and inflow of migrants during alternative phases of economic reforms. South Korea witnessed a rapid pace of development and still in 1980s it saw a 25% increase in migration as compared to 1970s (Martin, 1996:46; De Haas, 2007:835; Castle, 2014:113-4; Massey et al., 1993:431). And in 2013 the country’s net migration was at 300,000 (World Bank Data, 2014). This reverse transformation from emigration to immigration, witnessed by almost all developed states (except migrant nations), occurs through a longer period of sustained development, which decreases wage gap between source and destination countries to 4 or 5 to 1 (Martin, 1996: 58). The gap does not have to completely disappear; migrant labourers generally have additional motivation to return home due to emotional bond and integration issues in destination countries (Martin, 2005:9-10).

Migration and Development

The crucial debate between migration and development is whether migration encourages development of the source nation or hinders it (Castle, 2014: 69). The two existing views are migration optimism, which relates with foreign aid through remittance, knowledge, technology, brain gain, liberalisation and modernisation; and migration pessimism, which relates to brain drain, exploitation of resources, unequal trade opportunities, systematic failure and dependency theory (De Haas, 2010: 229; Castle, 2014: 70-1). Optimistic sect projects the relation in terms of ‘migration hump’ and pessimistic sect in terms of ‘migration plateau’. However, according to Gereffi, the outcome depends on how a country manages external economic resources to create infrastructure and employment internally, thus impeding net emigration (Gereffi, 1989: 522)1.

At this juncture, it is important to clarify the definition of development. According to IOM, it is defined as “a process of improving the overall quality of life of a group of people and, in particular, expanding the range of opportunities open to them” (IOM, 2013:34). Similarly, for Amartya Sen ‘development is a process of expanding the substantive freedoms that people enjoy…the ability of human being to lead lives they have reason to value and to enhance the substantive choices they have’ (Castle, 2014: 69-70). Thus, by definition, development is supposed to increase people’s ability to choose country of residence and employment. Despite that, several policy initiatives undertaken during the 1990s seemed to have been formed with an assumption that short term development policies like foreign aid and trade reforms would rapidly reduce the allure of migration (De Haas, 2007: 826-7). North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was among the first policy steps taken to directly target migration through trade solutions. Countries participating in NAFTA seemed to hope that trade and migration are substitutes in long and short term. Instead, the agreement caused the number of unauthorised Mexican in US to increase form 2.5 million in 1995 to 11 million 2005 (Martin, 2005: 7). Eradication of poverty through trade reforms and other economic policies increases the access to education, infrastructure, security, media and other information sources, which tend to stimulate migration because they raise people’s aspirations as well as their actual capabilities to migrate (De Haas, 2007: 832). And eventually expansion of diaspora reduces the cost and risk of movement, inducing further migration through familial ties, friendships and increased awareness, creating a migration network (Massey et al., 1993: 449).

Trade reforms do not stand alone in process of development and increased migration, remittances sent back home by the diaspora contribute remarkably. Migration optimists view remittance as a medium of development and eradication of poverty. Empirical evidence suggests that in case of several developing nations remittance forms a substantiate part of GDP (Fig2). According to World Bank estimates for 2013, ‘remittance flows to developing countries are expected to reach $414 billion in 2013 (up 6.3% from 2012), and $540 billion by 2016. Worldwide, remittance flows may reach $550 billion in 2013 and over $700 billion by 2016’. Top of the chart, India, with $71 billion of remittances, is just short of three times the FDI it received in 2012 (Ratha, 2013:1). In times of volatile international market, remittances form a stable source of income for families and these funds are most likely to reach directly to the people who need it rather than to go through a long bureaucratic process, cutting off chances of corruption significantly (Wucker, 2004:37; Lindley, 2001:251). Some countries like Philippines create additional work force with labour export strategy with a focus on generation of foreign exchange through remittance (Castle, 2014:77). Furthermore, the money sent through remittances trickles down within communities, increasing local jobs through investment in construction, education and community programmes (De Haas, 2010:249, Wucker, 2004:37; Castle, 2014:76). Certain nations like South Korea, Philippines, Bangladesh and Pakistan have even tried to create a compulsory remittance scheme; however only South Korea succeeded (Wucker, 2004:40).

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Figure2: Top 10 recipients of remittances in 2012 (Ratha, 2013: 5)

Over time, sustained development and right policy decisions induce better job opportunities at countries of origin. When wage difference drops below 4 or 5 to 1, economic migration falls tremendously. However this drop is conditioned to sustainability of these jobs and government incentives for return migrants (Martin, 1996: 58). Several countries, which have gone through the hump in the past, have indulged in tactics to attract high skilled migrant workers. Olesen refers to four reasons for migrant return: 1) return of failure; 2) return of conservatism; 3) return of retirement; and 4) return of innovation (Olesen, 2002: 137). He argues that return of innovation, also known as brain gain, can be induced by only eradicating the reasons of migration, which could be a complex of lack of economic opportunities, bad governance, systematic corruption and even freedom of speech. According to De Haas, through remittance and their know-how (‘human capital’), return migrants become significant development actors. Such migration driven development then eventually takes away incentives to migrate, so that migration paradoxically becomes a medicine against migration (De Haas, 2007: 827). Return migration or reduction in migration can also result from change of opportunities in destination country. For example, in the post 2008 economic crisis world more high skilled workers and tertiary students are inclined to return to countries of origin due to better opportunities, relatively. According to a study by IOM, at least 70% students from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania (conventional brain drain sectors), do not see Britain as an avenue of permanent residence anymore and would like to return home after working for a few years (New Vision, 2013).


1 For further discussion on see: G. Gereffi (Dec. 1989), ‘Rethinking Development Theory: Insights from East Asia and Latin America’, Sociological Forum, Vol. 4, No. 4, p. 505-533.

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Migration Hump and Development. A Look at Migration Patterns in Turkey and Mexico
University of Sheffield  (Department of Politics)
The Politics of MIgration
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Migration hump, development, migration-development relation, turkey, south korea, mexico, us-mexico migration, german-turkey migration, india, global south, global north, underdeveloped nations, brain drain, africa, remittances, higher education, immigration
Quote paper
Arshi Aggarwal (Author), 2014, Migration Hump and Development. A Look at Migration Patterns in Turkey and Mexico, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/286322


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