118 Int'l Lab. Rev. 747 (1979)
Rural-Urban Migration and Government Policies in Low-Income Countries

handle is hein.journals/intlr118 and id is 761 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 118, No. 6, November-December 1979

Rural-urban migration
and government policies
in low-income countries
Peter PEEK and Guy STANDING*
It would seem an unremarkable statement that the migration of
workers from .the countryside to urban areas should be explained by
reference to the changing structure of agricultural production-that is,
changes in land tenure, type of employment, degree of commercialisation,
mechanisation, and related factors. Yet it needs to be made because of the
frequent attempts to explain migration purely in terms of relative wages
and incomes.' The fact is that average incomes (and even expected
incomes) may differ widely between areas without inducing a mass
movement from the lower-income area, or there may be small income
differences coexisting with a high rate of migration, or there may be an
increase in migration after- a fall in income differentials.
Indeed one could pose the question somewhat differently by asking
why there has been so little rural-urban migration in many parts of the
world despite stagnant or declining rural living standards and large rural-
urban  income  differentials. Some  neo-classical economists have
emphasised the deterrent effect of high rates of urban unemployment, the
psychic costs of moving, and the apparent lack of information. But what
they have signally failed to do is incorporate in their models of migration
the prevailing social relations of production in rural areas. These are
crucial. In many societies the relations between powerful landlords and
peasants have been such as to preclude the possibility of rural emigration
by the peasantry, while governments representing the interests of the
landowners have tolerated practices restricting population mobility and on
occasion have introduced legislation to restrict it further.
However, as countries have begun to industrialise, urban-industrial
interests have increasingly influenced official policies. And as governments
have come to play a more active role in stimulating industrial expansion,
* International Labour Office.

Copyright © International Labour Organisation 1979

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