Migration: The Impact of Immigrant Workforce

Migration: The Impact of Immigrant Workforce
Migration: The Impact of Immigrant Workforce

Migration: The Impact of Immigrant Workforce


            Migration of people has the benefit of spreading several levels of workforce around the world. Both skilled and semi-skilled workforce is desirable in many parts of the world and may help in distributing some essential work practises that are missing in several parts of the world (Kaplan 2017). Immigration helps in replenishing labour needs in some countries that are experiencing low workforce due to the ageing population or low increase in the population that creates a gap in labour needs (Kochan&Finegold 2012).

The competitive nature of global marketplace requires companies to have highly skilled workforce in order to compete favourably. Some organizations are then forced to offer attractive packages to these workers to move them from their countries of origin, mainly developing countries.

            The migration of people has got many effects on both the home country and the destination country of the labourers. The influx of many labourers into a country may affect the minimum wage as employers will have a large pool of employees to choose from (Siddiqui 2012). The impact on home countries may include brain drain or low skilled workforce, causing slow economic growth due to inadequate expert workforce to accomplish essential jobs (Siddiqui 2012).

There is a multifaceted effect of immigration in terms of its contribution to the workforce. The effect may be positive or negative depending on where the migrants come from or go to and the type of labourers. This study seeks to find whether migrant workers can bring new practises and work performance standards to a country and whether they can be an asset to that country. 

Sources of Migrants

            There are several social, economic, political and environmental factors that may contribute to the migration of individuals. People have been migrating for many centuries from one region to another, and in doing so distributing their culture and practises around the world. There are several reasons why people migrate which may be poverty, political turmoil or socio-economic reasons.

  1. Poverty or poor economy

Poverty is arguably the highest cause of migration in the 21st century due to the huge imbalance between the poor and the rich. There is a great disparity between developed and developing countries, with the five richest countries in the world being 100 times richer than the ten poorest countries in the world (One America 2017).

The quest to run away from poverty and struggles that cloud those living in developing countries is very high. Additionally, skilled workers from developed countries in professions such as engineering, medicine, nursing and finance may want to move to countries where they can earn better wages, improve their skills, increase their knowledge, and experience better working conditions (Dayton-Johnson 2009).

The developed countries are often faced with massive corruption, nepotism, tribalism, unequal distribution of resources and embezzlement of public funds by public officials (Fokkema& De Haas 2015). Unemployed people in these countries may therefore migrate either to urban centres, or to developed countries where there is high wages and good working environments.

For example, in Haiti the average per capita income is around $400 per year, while in the United States an unskilled labourer can easily make that in a week (One America 2017). This forces many to seek out employment in these countries, which also helps them remit money to their families back at home and help them fight poverty. Poverty makes hundreds of Africans brave the dangers of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, when they board smuggling boats using their hard-earned money to Europe.

In 2015, more than 1600 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when their boats capsized as they were being smuggled into Europe from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria (Saunders 2015). The quest to run away from poverty makes people risk everything for good life abroad.

  • Political instability and armed conflict

In March 2017, the president of the United States Donald Trump banned the citizens of Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iran from accessing the United States (Whitehouse.gov 2017). These countries constitute the countries with very unstable political environments, as wars and civil wars are continuing in these countries due to various reasons.

The failed Arab Revolution in Syria left the country in political turmoil as the government is battling militias and terrorists from taking control of the country (Gharib 2017). The same is happening in Somalia and Yemen. These countries generate the largest number of refugees as they escape from their war torn countries towards safer environments such as the United States and Europe.

            Out of the 16.5 million refugees present in the world by 2017, 30% come from Syria (Gharib 2017). The bulk of these refugees come from the five mentioned countries, and are mainly hosted in South Sudan, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Uganda, Kenya, Sweden and Chad among other countries (Garib 2017). Among these hundreds of refugees are skilled labourers such as teachers, doctors, nurses, drivers, and government officers such as clerks, accountants and administrators. These refugees will most likely seek for employment in their new countries and will help in the economy of their destination countries.

Socio-economic factors

Apart from poverty and political turmoil, there are many other factors that influence the migration of people to other areas. Saunders (2015) found out that the Mediterranean migration crisis does not only come from poverty or political strife in Africa, but rather from high demand for labourers in Europe. He found that most of those who risked their lives to go to Europe were educated, ambitious, middle class and very far from being peasants.

These individuals would pay up to $2000 for a trip to Europe, showing that they could at least afford the large amount of money for a successful life abroad. Saunders (2015) also found that the illegal migrants from Africa were connected to individuals in Europe working in the same profession, and are not running away from something but rather following a certain opportunity in Europe.

Most people who migrate to successful economies do so to advance their social status, by getting jobs with good earnings, and some to seek for specific opportunities in business and investment opportunities (Awumbila, Owusu&Teye 2014). The oil business in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia has attracted a large number of expatriates into the region. The prospects of employment with better salaries, good lifestyle and better working conditions are the main reasons many expatriates from other countries go to the Middle East (Shaheen 2009).

The ageing Baby Boomers population in the United States and most European countries is creating a massive gap in employment as the group is retiring at an alarming rate and in great numbers (Kochan&Finegold 2012). This creates a wide gap in employment as there is need for skilled labourers in these countries to fill the employment gap.

Additionally, supplementary staff are needed mainly in the health and hospitality sectors to cater for the needs of this population, as their weakening bodies come with more needs (Bartha et al. 2015). The retirement of the Baby Boomers leaves many companies with the need to recruit workers to fill the gaps in middle skill jobs such as high skill manufacturing, nursing, computer technology, and accounting (Kochan&Finegold 2012).

Some people migrate to other countries hoping to improve their education or other statuses in life. For example, Legrain (2007) reports that some of the people living in London were in transition into better jobs, but had to spend some years learning English before venturing into better jobs in the UK, or other English speaking countries like the United States.

Most of the immigrants were from Asia, South America or Africa. Legrain (2007) also shows that many immigrants in the United States and UK end up upgrading themselves and getting into lucrative careers such as accounting, professors in universities, hotel managers and administrative assistants among others. Therefore, migrant workers help their countries of destination in several other ways too despite the setbacks many face.

Importance Migrant Workers

            Migrant workers serve as a ‘reserve army or labourers’ waiting to bridge any employment gap in seasonal peaks of production (Hardy 2009). In the United Kingdom and the whole European Union, many companies require seasonal job needs in various sectors such as agriculture, hospitality and service industries, attracting workers from Africa and Asia (Hardy 2009). According to Saunders (2015), the Mediterranean migration is usually seasonal because of the different job demands in European countries.

In 2008 for example, there was an increased Europe to Africa migration because of the economic recession that many European countries were going through. The migration erupted again in 2011 and 2014/2015 because of stable economic times in the European markets. Most of the people crossing were learned and professionals seeking to establish their lives in Europe.

Effects on Work Practises and Standards

            Migrant workers do not just fill the job deficiency gaps in their destination countries, but provide a quick way of providing professional and high skill workforce required by the destination countries (Foema& Haas 2015). After the great recession of 2008, many employers in the United States struggled to find individuals to fill gaps in the middle skills jobs as the large number of retiring Baby Boomers were creating huge employment demands in the job market and immigration reduced during this period (Kochan&Finegolf 2012). 

The discovery of oil in the United Arab Emirates in the 1960s created a high demand for workers to fill several sectors of the economy such as finance, accounting, hospitality, engineering and media among others (Soto &Haouas 2012). The UAE is the richest country in the world in terms of oil, accounting for 7% and 4% of the world’s reserve of oil and gas respectively as by 2011 (Soto &Haouas 2012). The local population of the Emiratis consist of less than 20% of the total population, which could not provide enough individuals to fill the high skill jobs required in the job sector.

The expatriate population in the UAE come from many countries, mostly from Asia and especially India (De Bel-Air 2015). The good salaries and better lifestyle in UAE attracts talented and highly skilled individuals from different countries in the world to fill job positions in the oil sectors and related industries. The thriving UAE economy has a lot to do with the high number of expatriate population that cover 95% of private sector jobs and 40% of public sector jobs (De Bel-Air 2015). The input of the migrant workers has put UAE to be one of the most vibrant economies in the world.

            Migrants have the ability to change the economies of certain countries to be outstanding in certain areas. The Software Industry of India is one example, where diaspora Indians in the American software companies travelled back home to form software companies in their country (Dayton-Johnson 2009).

Today, India’s software industry is the leading in Asia, and constantly collaborated with other companies in the USA to provide better services. Migrant workers have enabled the UAE to have a vibrant industrial sector, while the exquisite human resource practises in Qatar is mainly attributed to expatriates who run most of the country’s companies including multinationals (Koji 2011).

Bridging local skill gaps

            One characteristics associated with migrant workers is that their approach to work is always different from that of the local population. Koji (2011) notes that many citizens of UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia work in the public sector because they detest the working conditions in the private sector. The United Arab Emirates promoted the development of the non-oil sector in the 1980s to reduce the country’s reliance on the oil industry (Koji 2011).

Therefore, expatriates form 99% of the population in non-oil sector mainly manufacturing, construction, transport and low-skilled jobs as they are able to endure extreme working conditions. The need to make money and change their social conditions at home makes these individuals to brave all conditions to be able to succeed (Koji 2011).

            Carvalho (2015) notes that expatriate population helps in the economic development of a country as they contribute to the essentials of economic growth such as population, productivity and  participation. Most migrants are usually of prime working age and are ambitious, hardworking and skilled in one sector or another. As noted by Carvalho (2015), most Australian migrants are below 40 years old and above 20 years old.

They therefore form the best country’s asset in bridging labour needs, by filling gaps in the population. By using them, the country can advance economically as they provide additional labour in the deficiencies created by the local population.

            Another characteristics associated with migrant workers is that they are very hardworking. As opposed to the local population which may be choosy, they are able to adapt to the local working conditions and can endure very harsh working conditions in their host countries (Poulney 2015).

The position of Qatar to hold the FIFA World Cup in 2022 has attracted a hoard of expatiates mostly from Asian countries to work in the construction industry, as the country tries to beat the deadline of constructing world-class stadiums for the event (Poulteney 2015). Though there are instances of human rights violations, the working population in these projects is highly migrants as locals keep off the deplorable working conditions of the huge projects.

            Imai et al. (2011) notes that many migrant workers have a tendency to remit money back home to their families as they work abroad. This money is meant to uplift the living conditions of those left behind. These remittances helps in improving the credit rating of these countries and providing foreign currency that can be used to inhibit investor panic (Imai et al. 2011).  The remittances helps migrant workers to invest in physical assets in their home countries and improving the health and education of the local population.

Challenges Faced By Migrant Workers

            Migrant workers face a myriad of challenges in their journeys to uplift their living standards. They often face very difficult conditions of work and have few rights at their jobs (Siddiqui 2012). Poulteney (2015) notes that migrant workers in Qatar work for almost 16 hours, and their visas are often confiscated by their employers until they finish their contracts. These practises are however changing as the government seeks to impose tough penalties to employers confiscating their employees’ travelling documents (Tuxford 2016). Workers in Middle East though endure long working hours and often suffer from cardiac arrest and heat strokes.

             Some countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar deny migrant workers citizenship and are forced to leave the country immediately their contract ends, or when they are unable to get another job (Koji 2011). Some employers in some countries may also exploit migrant workers by offering them very low wages as compared to the locals. They may also deny them training, job related perks or health insurance coverage benefits.


            Migrant workers can be a great asset to a country. They may bring a lot of experience and good work practises that can aid greatly the economy of a country. They often migrate because of poverty, political instability or to improve their social status. This makes them better workers as they are hardworking and visionary, though this comes with challenges.


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