Analysis of the turning point theory in migration

Hausarbeit, 2015

16 Seiten, Note: 1,3

Silvana Vialova (Autor)


Table of contents

0. Introduction

1. Turning point theory

2. Labour migration flows from Indonesia
2.1. Migration policies in Indonesia
2.2. Movements, Naturals Disasters, Economic Situation
2.3. Migration Patterns

3. Locating Indonesia within the Turning Point Theory

4. Difficulties of the Turning Point Theory

5. Conclusion

6. Literature index

0. Introduction

“Most people would prefer to live and work in the countries where they were born and raised. Migration than occurs because those who moved see better prospects for improving their material or spiritual conditions outside their own communities or countries, otherwise they would have stayed.” (Abella and Ducanes 2014: 247)

People are migrating with the hope of gaining a better well-being outside of their home country, thinking that while being abroad, they will be able to find what their own country cannot give them. As Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world there are of course many citizens with different ideas about what well-being means. But it can be supposed that quite a high number is not satisfied with Indonesia as a home country due to the rising numbers of emigrants over the years. Neither, a declining fertility rate, nor rising education, an improving health system or a better transportation system could stop this trend so far (Ananta and Arifin 2014: 31f), alt- hough scientists entitled the country as a “sleeping giant” just waiting to awake (Tirto- sudarmo 2003: 4). The crucial question now to ask is, when Indonesia is going to awake, when the immense outflow of labour migrants will stop, the economy will de- velop and the people will decide to rather stay in their country than to leave - when will Indonesia receive more migrants that it is sending? Scientists analyzing this pro- cess of change have developed a theory for migration transition that tries to explain under which circumstances a country can become a migrant receiving one and which different stages it has to undergo. The one I am referring to in this paper has been de- veloped by Tsai and Tsay. Focusing on Indonesia as a migrant sending country I want to deal with the question in what extent the turning point theory of Tsai and Tsay is able to explain Indonesian migration flows to other countries.

In the first part I want to describe the turning point theory developed by Tsai and Tsay in detail. After that I will cater to three different examples that influence the Indone- sian migration process. First I will give an insight into Indonesian migration policies, and then discuss phenomena such as the financial crises, social unrest and natural dis- asters, and thirdly I will examine more in depth some of the reasons for which people migrate and their most common destination countries. In the third part the migration theory is applied in case of Indonesia and its location within the theory is defined. The following part illustrates the deviations of the theory as well as some of its criticisms. And in the end I will draw a concluding picture of the theory and give an outlook to its potential possibilities.

1. Turning point theory

Already 22 years ago the International Labour Organization (ILO) held a conference about “turning points in labor migration” (Abella and Ducanes 2014: 247). In the framework of this conference various theoretical approaches on turning point theory have been developed. These should describe the development of a country from most- ly being a sending country of labour migrants to being a labour migration receiving country. In all theories this turning point is reached through development (ibid.: 247). I am now referring to a turning point theory developed ten years later by Tsai and Tsay (2004) that is based on the eclectic approach to turning points in migration made by Pang (1994). The theory divides the development of becoming a migrant receiving country in three different stages, each of them marked by another turning point. These turning points are defined by the particular relation of economic development, foreign direct investments and international labour migration in the investigated country. Thereby the economic development of a country is dependent on the amount of for- eign capital that is invested from more developed countries and in the dimensions of migration flows (Tsai and Tsay 2004: 95). At the lowest stage of a country’s develop- ment it would not experience any foreign direct investment due to the lack of trading ties with other countries and its low attractiveness towards foreign investors due to only few infrastructure and skilled workers. This comes along with little knowledge and information of the local population about living standards and wages in other coun- tries and nearly no financial means that would allow the people to migrate. So for in- ternational labor migration and foreign direct investment a minimum development level of a country is necessary. When this level is reached a country may experience capital inflow, which can be supported by the government through policies that attract investors. Once the people have the financial means, but still no or only few employ- ment opportunities in their home countries, they will start to go overseas and so the country becomes a migrant sending country (ibid.: 96 f). During this first stage of the turning point theory described by Tsai and Tsay there will be an increase of foreign direct investment inflows and labor migration outflows (ibid.: 99). According to Pang the first turning point is reached when the out migration arrives at its maximum, meaning theoretically 100% net out migration (Pang 1994: 86). The time a country needs to reach this turning point depends on the size of the population, historical and political issues and the rate of job creation in the sending country. The thesis of Pang is that , in a country with a higher rate of job creation women will get more quickly into workforce that causes a decline of the fertility rate, which then leads to less unem- ployment (ibid.: 86). The next stage will be reached by a declining rate of capital in- flows and migration outflows (Tsay and Tsai 2004: 99). Such a phenomenon will only occur if the economic development of a country rises. The rise of the economic devel- opment, on the contrary, is dependent on foreign direct investment and international labour migration. The latter does not only have an impact on the economy of the mi- grant sending country but also on the destination country. The destination country uses cheap foreign workers to counteract the labour surplus, especially in sectors that are less popular among the local population, but has also to deal with social problems occurring due to the new ethnic heterogeneity and higher social costs. The sending country may get affected through less unemployment in its own country and remit- tances sent by the migrants. Unfortunately most of these remittances are not spent in a way that significantly affects the economic development (ibid.: 96 f). This also shows that the development of migration flows depends not only on the economy and poli- cies of the sending, but also on such of the receiving countries (ibid.: 97). A third pa- rameter, the foreign direct investment, concludes the complex interaction that shapes international labour migration flows. The capital inflows in a country affect its migra- tion flows in a direct way through creating jobs or giving the financial means to emi- grate, as well as in an indirect way through contributing to the development of a coun- try (ibid.: 98). If these three components interact in a particular, productive way, mi- gration outflows are likely to decline and so are capital inflows.

The second turning point is reached when there is a balanced proportion of inflow and outflow of people as well as capital (Pang 1994: 87). Thereby the two aspects do not need to be reached necessarily at exactly the same time (Tsai and Tsay 2004: 99). The achievement of this second turning point also depends on other variables such as a country’s policies, its employment rate or the attitude people have towards work (Pang 1994: 87). The balance between inflow and outflow of migration and capital than culminates in a reversal of the signs. So in stage three the country becomes a net labour receiving country and an outward investing country.

The third turning point is reached when net in migration arrives at its peak. (Pang 1994: 88,Tasi and Tsay 2004: 99). Abella and Ducanes emphasize that turning points are only called like this when they are sustainable and not just a currently occurring phenomenon (Abella and Ducanes 2014: 248). They analyzed turning points in different countries with regard to their net migration flows within a time period of five years. One result of their research is that with a particular level of income in a country, it is less likely for people to emigrate. This income level is estimated by them as a per capita GDP PPP from around 8.000 US Dollar (ibid.: 254-259).

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

(Tsai and Tsay 2004: 99)

Graphics to illustrate the different stages of the migration transition as a so called Investment-Migration-Development Path.

2. Labour migration flows from Indonesia

Migration in Indonesia is not only a current phenomenon, but has always been part of the country’s history. There have been Arabic, Indian and Chinese traders settling in Indonesia, the European colonization and thereby migration from Indonesia to the Netherlands and highly mobile groups migrating within Indonesia. Moreover the state’s transmigration and emigration policies have led to an increase of migration flows within and from Indonesia (Tirtosudarmo 2009: 3 f). The reasons for which peo- ple migrate are variegated. They leave their places of origin to study in another coun- try, to live an adventure, to marry or to seek employment, just to name a few exam- ples. The latter reason for migration is the most powerful one for Indonesian citizens.

Together with the Philippines, Indonesia is a major sending country of labour migrants in Southeast Asia. This is due to political, socio-cultural and economic relationships and processes between Indonesia and other countries. In general, the lack of or the de- mand of work in a country determines the migration flows. Statistical data from 2009 provides a list of major countries that receive Indonesia labour migrants: Malaysia, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia ranked from place one to three, followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, Brunei Darussalam, United Arab Emirates, Oman, South Korea and Bahrein. These countries have received from nearly 90,000 workers (Malaysia) to more than 5,000 workers (Bahrain) in the year 2015 (IOM 2010: 9). To understand and explain Indonesia’s current stage of migration according to the turning point theory, I want to describe more in details three different factors that influence migration movements. My first explanation deals with the migration policies of the country itself and migra- tion policies of destination countries. My second point is the occurring of political or social unrests, natural disasters and the economic crises in recent history and finally I also want to expand on the reasons for which Indonesian citizens migrate, their cur- rent situations, their destination countries, as well as the impacts their migration might have on Indonesia.

2.1. Migration policies in Indonesia

As mentioned before, migration has been a phenomenon in Indonesia for decades. Often politics had an indirect impact on these migration flows for example due to the economic situation, social unrest or the political system. Nevertheless the government only hesitantly began to develop a direct migration policy. Especially after the fall of the Suharto regime and with the early post reform period an active focus on migration policy issues by the government began (IOM 2010: 11). The first law (Ministral Decree No. 204/ 1999) dealt with issues such as the protection of labour migrants, the coordi- nation between recruitment agencies and the government, strengthening the agencies and especially facilitating and improving the migration system and empowering the Indonesian migrants. This clearly shows the aim of the government: encouraging their citizens to seek labour abroad. In the next ten years steadily new laws have been adopted to improve the regulation of the recruitment agencies, the protection of the workers abroad and their training before leaving the country (ibid.: 12). Especially the establishment of private recruitment agencies should make it easier for Indonesian citizens to work overseas.


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Silvana Vialova (Autor), 2015, Analysis of the turning point theory in migration, München, GRIN Verlag,


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