This year’s Human Development Report under the theme, “Overcoming
Barriers: Human Mobility and Development” breaks new ground in applying a human development approach to the study of migration. The report’s findings cast light on some common misconceptions.
For example, migration from developing to developed countries accounts for only a minor fraction of human movement. Migration from one developing economy to another is much more common.
Most migrants do not go abroad at all, but instead move within their own countries.
Yet discussions about migration continue to typically start from the perspective of flows from developing countries into the rich countries within Europe and North America.
The report estimates that approximately 740 million people are internal migrants-almost four times as many as those who have moved internationally.
To put in context a snapshot of the Rwandan labour market you will find a common practice of people switching offices without necessarily getting career advancement.
The majority of people who have moved will admit that the principle reason behind their move is fuelled by promises of “greener pasture”, often citing poor human resource management at their current places of work.
In most institutions there isn’t a proper system to reward staff based on their performance at the workplace. On the contrary, promotions and rewards to labour tend to depend on “technical know who” and interpersonal relationships at the workplace.
Some employers make it difficult or impossible for labour to acquire more skills needed to move up the income ladder.
Yet any skilled labourer will naturally want to work in an environment that can develop and improve their skills.
Labour will also move seeking sufficient compensation from an employer in proportion to their contribution to the organization.
This constant movement of labour has adverse implications on the productivity of the labour and the institutions that they desert.
First of all, it is costly for any company to continue recruiting staff. At the same time it reduces labour efficiency as the person who normally leaves his/her workplace is most likely skilled.
However, when skilled labour signals that they intend to leave or even leave basing on the failure of the current employer to meet their obligations, their decision is often met with a lot of resistance.
Some employers go as far as refusing to recommend them for the next job. Others come up with all excuses to hold them back from moving. If employers were mindful of their duties and obligations to their employees they would minimize constant migration of labour.
Employers blaming workers are missing the point. Well managed and sufficiently rewarded skilled labour will often stay put.
The global economic crisis has led to layoffs affecting so many workers; however employers should seize the opportunity to institute a New Deal for employees.
With the recovery, many of the same underlying trends that have been driving movement of workers will resurface, forcing more people to move. It is vital that employers institute better working conditions and salary packages for workers to prepare for this.
The author is a journalist with The New Times