Magoosh GRE

Different perspectives of the problem. Policy responses to the problem. (Migration).

| March 14, 2015

1. Introduction

The following looks at the social problem of migration, examining its basic nature, looking at different perspectives on problems it involves, and also analyses policy responses to these problems.

Immigration policy is concerned to regulate the admission and exclusion of non-members of a state. It can be seen as a function of the sovereignty of states (Schachar 2003), which is a legally defined concept in which authority is prescribed by law (Hashmi 1997). Policy regarding immigration is also usually premised on a meaningful concept of citizenship, under which the world is divided into those who belong to a nation and those who do not (Schachar 2003). Immigration policy also sees legal status and personal identify as intertwined (Dolejsiova and Lopez 2009)

The existence of immigration policy, and tight controls on who can and cannot become a citizen, mean in practice that millions of people around the world work and live in countries where they cannot become citizens; often they have multiple identities and feel that they belong both in the country of origin and the country of residence (Anthias 2002).   This is exacerbated by other contemporary practices, for example the migration of contract labour, which can be defined as temporary movements of workers across national borders, and organised by either government or employers. The impact of contract labour migration is felt across the globe and particularly in Western Europe, the USA, and (more recently) the developing world including Nigeria, China and Latin America (Castles 1995).

2. The Nature of the Social Problem Caused by Migration

Although most societies experience immigration, it is more pronounced in the developed world. The nature of the social problems caused by migration can be explained through looking at the case of migration to the United Kingdom. The UK has had three distinct waves of mass immigration over its recent history. It was also the first place to experience the effects of labour immigration on a large scale when numbers of Irish workers came to the UK in the mid 19th Century. Between the end of the 19th Century and the First World War, Russian Jews settled here, and the post war period has seen mass immigration also (Travers 1999), with “a rapid and quite unprecedented demographic and cultural transformation” (Spencer, 1997). Large numbers of people from the New Commonwealth (that is, former British colonies in the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa) came to the UK looking for better economic opportunities. Many subsequently brought over dependants. Each of these three waves was associated by negative public reaction to the new immigrants. There were also calls for immigration control (Holmes, 1991). The arrival of Irish workers for example attracted widespread prejudice, with the people being depicted as an inferior race, and as polluting the English national character (Holmes, 1991). Similarly, the Jewish immigrants were viewed in a hostile manner, and publicly depicted as “strange and inassimilable” (Travers 1999, p. 11), with a suggestion that they were making the job and housing markets overly competitive (Travers 1999). The emergence of new factory towns after the industrial revolution provided work for both the indigenous UK population leaving the countryside and for immigrants. The working conditions were typically poor, and living conditions were also inadequate. This led to poor health, high rates of child mortality, and shorter life expectancy. As wages were low, frequently both men and women worked (Castles 2000). In the third wave of immigration, people from the New Commonwealth were also met by prejudice and hostility from sections of the public. For example, the UK saw incidents of racial violence in May and August 1948, as well as July 1949, in Birmingham, Liverpool, and Deptford (Spencer 1997).

The problem was exacerbated when, after the Second World War, the British government brought in nearly 100,000, mostly male workers from refugee camps and from Italy through the European Voluntary Worker (EVW) scheme.  While this scheme saw migration tied to the existence of designated jobs, included no rights to family reunion, and also provided for deported where conditions were not met, it still saw an increase in the migrant population of the UK, although it only lasted until 1951, when it was recognised that it was easier to use colonial workers. Consequently, through the 1950’s and 60’s, many black and Asian workers found unskilled manual labour positions in various industries. There was geographic segregation, and inner cities particularly were marked by pronounced ‘White’ and ‘Black’ regions. The low status given by the unskilled jobs made social mobility more difficult, exacerbated by educational and social disadvantage. To some extent, migrant workers, particularly women, were in demand in certain industries like textiles and clothing and electrical goods, as their labour was cheaper, and rights not well protected (Castles 2000).   Women in particular have suffered from migration. Their rights were often ignored, where they existed at all in earlier legislation, and they were often more affected by sexual exploitation and abuse. This was particularly the case for undocumented migrants, who lacked the protection given to those who were legitimately resident in the UK (Select Committee on Economic Affairs 2008).   Labour migrants have typically been restricted, either because they are subject to force, or because they are denied rights enjoyed by other workers, or because of more insidious social inequalities. They typically cannot therefore compete under equal conditions. Even where migration is voluntary and legal, other forms of discrimination exist, for example institutional and social discrimination may impact upon the equality of migrant workers (Castle 2000) The migration of workers from New Commonwealth countries to the UK declined considerably in the early 60’s, partly because of the introduction of severe restrictions through the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962. However , most of the Commonwealth immigrants had to came to stay, and were joined by members of their extended family until this was restricted by the 1971 Immigration Act (Castles 2000).

By the end of the 20th Century, social inequality and insecurity for migrants had been made worse by the decline of the welfare state. Since the 70’s, rights of workers have been eroded, and the social basis for society in decline (Castles 2000). In the 21st Century, migrants are still coming to the UK. A new wave of East European workers have become known for doing the jobs which UK nationals seem unwilling to take on (Welsh Affairs Committee 2009).

In summary, the problems caused by Migration are various. Not only does mass immigration invoke racial prejudice leading up to violence in some cases, migrant workers work in poorly skilled and untrained jobs, and suffer lower quality housing, social isolation and are disadvantaged educationally (Castles and Miller 1993)

3. Social Perspectives on Migration

The following section looks at different perspectives which can be taken on migration and the problems it causes. Above has demonstrated that the waves of immigration to the UK were primarily economically motivated, although political considerations and government strategy also had a part to play. For many years, international migration was not viewed as central theoretical or political issue. For example, although migrants were subject to some form of categorisation into permanent settlers, foreign workers or refugees, it wasn’t until the late 19080’s that the impact of migration began to be considered in depth (Castles 2000). A variety of perspectives have been adopted. Some see migration as a function of power relationships in society. Cohen (1987) for example suggests that contract labour migration may be seen as one form of ‘unfree labour’, through which a group of workers is controlled by a regime which limits their rights compared with other workers.     It has also been suggested that the import of labour from less-developed areas was a form of neo-colonialism, with immigration being used to provide low-cost labour and maintain the third world in a state of dependency. At the same time, migrant labour was used to undermine the gains of the labour movement in industrialised countries, although at the same time, migrants enjoyed the same rights as British citizens (Castles 2000).

Others suggest that immigration and the role of migrants needs to be seen in a wider context, taking into account all the conditions under which immigrants live, and including education, medical health, and housing facilities, as well as social services and social benefits, cultural amenities, leisure activities and membership of trade unions and voluntary associations. A full understanding of migrants and immigration needs to be holistic in approach (Juss 1993).

Others have commented on the ways in which migrants are assimilated into the host population once they arrive. Migratory movements are usually initiated by the existence of links between the host country and the country from which migrant’s journey. The links are complex and can include ties due to colonialism, politics, trade, investment and culture (Castles and Millar 2003) There has been an ongoing debate about whether migrants should adopt the culture of the home country, or whether a multicultural perspective is preferable. Multiculturalism as a model was first developed in Canada in the 1990’s, aiming to “help minority groups preserve and share their language and culture, and to remove the cultural barriers which they faced in society” (Valtonen 2008, p. 68)

4. Policy Responses to Migration

Just as there are a number of perspectives on immigration, so has government in the UK taken different approaches to managing migration.   It has been suggested that government policy regarding migration can be divided into two categories: indirect policies, and direct policies. Indirect policies are those policies which aim to ensure that migrants are able to enjoy equal rights in different areas including housing and education. Direct policies are those which directly affect the working and home lives of migrants, for example include voting rights for resident non-citizens and mother tongue classes at school (Castles 2000).

The modern control of immigration into the United Kingdom begins with the Aliens act of 1905. Prior to this there was no existing statutory regulation of immigration (Juss 1993). As wave after wave of migrants arrived in the UK, stabilization facilitated gradual improvement in the socio-economic situation and the civil and political rights of immigrants. At the same time, managing migration is complex, and is a drain on resources (both financial and cultural).   The Aliens Act (1905) was added to by the Alien Orders of 1920 and 1953, which stipulated that aliens would only be admitted to the UK subject to certain conditions. For example, migrants who wanted to work in the UK would have to have a work permit issued by the Ministry of Labour. These permits were difficult to obtain, and could be had only for certain, limited, types of work, where UK workers were not available.

The Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 was introduced to outlaw discrimination based on gender, and particularly to address the extent to which women were treated unfairly in society. Once this protection had been given to women, including the right to take action in courts and industrial tribunals against employers and others, an opening was created for legislation to protect migrants against discrimination (Joppke 1999).

In addition to legislation such as the above, the UK has also introduced a number of policies to improve the employability of migrants, for example vocational training and anti-discrimination legislation. Above was shown that migrant workers often found themselves in unskilled, low pay jobs, and hence ended up in cheap housing in working-class areas. They were also unable to enjoy the benefits of social networks established over years, which long-term residents are able to use. There was also a pressing need to counter discrimination for example from landlords, who either did not want to rent to people from ethnic minorities or charged them higher rents. Latterly, there has also been a focus upon increasing integration of migrants, including English classes and translation services (Castles 2000).

5. Conclusion

Over the last five centuries, mass migration has played a major role around the world, and particularly in the UK. It has been shaped by a complex network of influences including colonialism, industrialisation, the emergence of nation-states and the development of the capitalist world market (Castles 2000). Mass migration has been in existence since the mid 18th century, and while the phenomenon of workers travelling to find better opportunities remains the same, the form has certainly changed. Global migration is certain to go on increasing for the foreseeable future, and it is therefore important to construct a stable and cohesive long-term policy on its management.     There are a number of different perspectives which can be taken on the nature of migration and the impact on the host country: for example, the debate about multi-culturalism. It is clear from the UK case that steps need to be taken by government to ensure that migrants are treated fairly, can access job opportunities and can feel at home in their chosen destination.


Anthias, F (2002) ‘Where do I belong? Narrating collective identity and translocational positionality’, Ethnicities, 2:4, 491-494.

Castles, S (1995) ‘Contract Labour Migration’ in R Cohen (ed.) The Cambridge survey of world migration, Cambridge University Press, UK pp. 511-515

Castles, S (2000) Ethnicity and Globalization, SAGE, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Castles, S and Miller, M (1993) The Age of Migration: international population movements in the modern world, Palgrave Macmillan, USA.

Castles, S and Miller, M J (2003) The Age of Migration (3rd edition), Guilford Press, UK

Dolejsiova, D and Lopez, M A G (2009) European Citizenship – In the Process of Construction: Challenges for citizenship, citizenship education and democratic practice in Europe, Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg 2009.

Hashmi, S H (1997) State sovereignty: change and persistence in international relations, Penn State Press, USA

House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee (2009) ‘Globalisation and Its Impact on Wales: Second Report of Session 2008-09’, The Stationary Office, London

House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2008) ‘Economic Impact of Immigration: 1st Report of Session 2007-08: Vol. 2 Evidence: House of Lords Paper 82-II Session 2007-08’, The Stationery Office, London

Joppke, C (1999) Immigration and the Nation State, Oxford University Press, Oxon.

Juss S S (1993) Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, Biddles Ltd

May, M, Page, R and Brunsdon, E (2001) Understanding Social Problems: Issues in Social Policy, Blackwell, London.

Shachar, A (2003) ‘Children of a Lesser State: Sustaining Global Inequality Through Citizenship Laws’, The Jean Monnet Program, NY School of Law, NY.

Travers, M (1999) The British immigration courts: a study of law and politics, The Polity Press, Bristol.

Valtonen, K (2008) Social work and migration: immigrant and refugee settlement and integration, Farnham, Hants


Category: Essay & Dissertation Samples, Social Sciences Essay Examples