Push factors come in many forms. Sometimes these factors leave people with no choice but to leave their country of origin. Following are three examples of push factors driving people to emigrate from their home country.
Lack of Jobs/Poverty: Economics provides the main reason behind migration. In fact, according to the International Labour Organization, about half of the total population of current migrants, 100 million women and men migrant workers, have left home to find better job and lifestyle opportunities for their families.(International Labour Office of the Director-General, 2008).
In some countries jobs simply do not exist for a great deal of the population. In others, the gap between the rewards of labor in the sending and receiving country are great enough so as to warrant a move. India has recently experienced a surge in emigration due to a combination of these factors.
The greatest challenge facing India is creating enough jobs for its burgeoning population. India’s unemployed have never been properly estimated, but they could total one hundred and twenty-one million (Index Mundi 2012). The number of skilled workers coming out of Indian universities has never been higher. Meanwhile, the number of domestic jobs available to them is minimal. Only about 0.7m jobs a year have been created in the past few years, most of them in the public sector. This will not keep skilled workers in the country.
Many instead go to the United States, where their skills and their lower wage demands are sought after by high-tech companies. In fact, about 40 percent of recent immigrants from India to the U.S. have been accepted due to employment-based preferences, thus showing the high degree of American corporation’s demand for Indian skilled labor (Alarcon, 2007). As the population grows at 20 million per year, and more and more students graduate from technical universities, India may experience a great deal more emigration.
Civil Strife/War/Political and Religious Persecution: Some migrants are impelled to cross national borders by war or persecution at home. Some of these migrants end up in receiving countries as refugees or asylum seekers. The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defined the qualifications for such migrants and bound signatory countries not to return these newcomers to places where they could be persecuted.
In 2010, the total number of refugees reached 43.7 million, of which were under the responsibility of the United Nations Commission for RefugeesThe agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. (UNHCR) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). This is the highest number in 15 years (UNHCR, 2010).
An example of this factor at work is the conflict in Tibet. During the first half of the 20th century, Tibet was ruled politically and religiously by the Dalai Lama, the head of the Tibetan Buddhist religion, but lived in the shadow of neighboring China. In 1950, Chinese troops took over the region, disassembling the existing political structure and persecuting religious figures, and in 1959 a Tibetan rebellion was brutally suppressed. Tibetan refugees assert that a million of their countrymen have died in the last half-century as a result of Chinese rule. To escape this fate, many Tibetans have fled over treacherous mountain terrain to India and Nepal.
In 2007, the Dalai Lama demanded from the Chinese authority “more autonomy for Tibetans to protect their culture.” In early 2008, negotiations between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama began again – with little result. The same year, the riots in Tibet once again escalated. With the protests spreading, many more Tibetans were killed in the process. March 2009 marked the 50th Anniversary of Tibet’s failed national uprising and the subsequent fleeing of the Dalai Lama and many of his compatriots across China’s borders. The political deadlock preventing these Tibetan refugees from returning to their country of origin seems to show little promise of easing any time soon. In fact, the Chinese government’s recent application of diplomatic pressure on the government of South Africa to deny a visa to the Dalai Lama is a telling example of the Chinese government’s unwillingness to budge on even symbolic gestures of religious or political freedom with regards to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (The Economist, 2009).
Despite the existence of many real conflicts such as in Tibet, however, many developed countries believe that would-be refugees and asylum-seekers are in fact mere economic migrants looking for an easier way to enter a rich country. For example, the United States has declared that most people from Haiti are leaving the country because it is the most impoverished in the Western Hemisphere and deny that social and political strife is widespread enough there to justify allowing Haitians into the United States. Haitians arriving in the United States after a dangerous trip by sea are therefore detained in secure locations and have to pass a rigorous examination of their qualifications as refugees or asylum-seekers or otherwise they are returned to Haiti.
At the same time, people arriving from Cuba are generally allowed to mix in with the population while awaiting a decision on their status, which is usually granted because they come from a Communist dictatorship. Haitian-Americans and their supporters have protested what they call an unfair distinction between the treatment of the two groups, but the U.S. government maintains that Haiti, though not a perfect democracy, is not a dictatorship such that Haitians deserve immediate consideration as refugees.
In a study by economist Kalena Cortes (2004) on the differences in economic performance between economic migrants and refugees in the United States, it was found that refugees have been able to assimilate into the U.S. economy better than traditional economic migrants. According to Cortes, this is most likely due to the fact that refugees are more likely to expect a longer stay in their country of resettlement, therefore increasing the incentive to invest in skills that will allow them to take advantage of long-term economic opportunities. This finding contradicts the popular notion that refugees exact a serious financial or resource-draining burden on their country of resettlement.
Environmental Problems: Environmental problems and natural disasters often cause the loss of money, homes, and jobs. In the middle of the 19th century, for example, Ireland experienced a famine never before seen in its history. By late fall 1845, the main staple of the Irish diet, the potato, was practically wiped out. With the government not clear on how to respond, people started dying of starvation. The famine killed hundreds of thousands and forced millions of Irish to flee. These emigrants were also encouraged to leave Ireland by their English landlords, who often rented out unseaworthy vessels that became known as “coffin ships,” and by the British government, which offered cheap fares to Canada. The large population of Americans and Canadians of Irish descent, especially in Boston, New York, and Chicago, can trace its ancestry to this period.
Other push factors include “primitive” conditions, natural disasters, poor medical care, as well as slavery and political fear.
For additional information on the conflict in Tibet, please click here: The Impact of Globalization on Tibet.
* Picture Source: www.picapp.com
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