Labour migration and migrants in urban Ghana

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
International Development and Cooperation Review, 2016, 8 (1), pp. 107 - 135
Issue Date:
2016-05-10
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The persistent increase in the number of people working or living on the streets in Ghana, and the resulting surge in the government of Ghana’s interest in urban streetism necessitate a study of the phenomenon and provide an opportunity to ascertain the recent claim by social economists that the institutional-structuralist approach to migration research is superior to the neoclassical and new economics of labour migration (NELM) approach for which limited empirical research at the urban level has been conducted. Drawing on published ethnographic studies and on a synthesis of other published existing data interpreted within the broad methodology of institutional-structuralism, the paper shows that neither the decision to migrate nor the decision to return is based on individual calculations alone. Similarly, rural poverty does not provide sufficient explanation for rural-urban migration. There are clearly push and pull factors in the process of migration, but these are institutional and structural rather than individual and household based. The experiences of migrants on streets in urban centres are diverse but most of them are underemployed rather than unemployed. Most intend to return to their origins, but whether they do so, when, and how are conditioned by the class of migrants and changing social institutions such as property rights that pertain in both the rural and urban contexts. For these reasons, policies framed around the assumptions in mainstream analysis of labour migration such as removing urban bias and enhancing rural development have merely re-enforced the process of uneven urban and regional development.
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