Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The case for labor mobility

Here is my Mint op-ed today that points to an underlying suspicion of migration in our development discourse and explains why we need to overcome it.


KP said...

Dear Gulzar,

I connected your column to a recent report


where Russia is contemplating population redistribution to about 20 cities.

Urban agglomeration by design or by an organic growth is somewhere between government influenced and "natural". Though I hesitate to even formulate how that could be defined.

I briefly dabbled in reading sociologists like Pierre Bourdieu and Arjun Appadurai to understand social dynamics(power/dominant cultures/gloalization)and it did leave me feeling not entirely convinced with policy induced migration ( not to suggest that you are recommending that).

One, of the worries though is a market mediated approach to culture - the best idea / best culture defined by its popularity or viability in the market place is the one that survives ( like competition between competing toothpastes) - all mediated through the media.

The advantages of migration to urban areas is the possibilty of narrowing the destructive ecological footprint and increasing efficiency - by focusing services / delivery and maintenance - to a few regions.

While your article focuses on the positive externalities of migration, there is also a strong counter argument that views migration as an outcome of a discriminatory policy edifice.

And let me end on a more personalized look at the situation, where people with skills to live off the land in rural / forest areas, migrate to take up work in infrastructure projects, it sometimes cuts of their life skills that allow them to survive within their natural home environments.

I am not sure that if migrating from one lowly paid environment to another - is really an advancement?


gulzar said...

thanks KP, there is an important issue u raise here. i am for not a moment suggesting a market-mediated, no-holds-barred migration process. there are also several negative externalities (and negative manifestation issues).

i situate the debate on migration in the larger economic context - one in which urban areas offer greater economic opportunities, more so now, both for higher incomes and more effective utilization of human capabilities. and there is ample historic and current evidence to support this. the costs need to be carefully studied and mitigated with appropriate policy interventions.