Labor Migration Challenges in Economic Planning: A Case Study of Astana

Article excerpt


Although labor migration is as old as the history of human civilization, its patterns have changed over time. The most prominent factor affecting labor migration in recent decades has been the end of the Cold War and integration of the ex-communist centralized economies into the global free-market system. The end of the cold war removed a major barrier against the free trade and consequentially, globalization of business spread economic developments around the world, created job opportunities, particularly in industrial sectors, which led to migration of many people who were in search of a better life. Newly independent countries have emerged and many have been, or are in the process of, integrating into various trade packs of the free market system. This labor migration has taken place at various levels. Cross-country migration of labor from less developed to more developed countries have been intensified by exodus of labor from many ex-communist (particularly Eastern European) countries to Western Europe and the United States. Economic and political challenges of this trend go beyond the scope of this paper. At the domestic level, labor migration has rushed from rural areas to cities where industries are located. Although this is not a new trend, it has been a major planning concern for developing countries in recent years. This work studies the attributes of this domestic migration and the challenges it has created for economic and urban planning. The article outlines the results of a study conducted to understand the migration patterns into the newly established capital city of Kazakhstan, Astana, for planning purposes.


History of labor migration goes back to the dawn of civilization. However, concrete statistical data on migration became available only in the 20th century. Limitation of national approaches, language differences, and lack of cooperation among various agencies have further complicated estimates (Harzig, 2008). A cornerstone in migration studies was the creation of the United Nations, which led to the availability of more reliable information (Hoge, 2006). From 1990 to 2005, the number of migrants in the world rose from 155 million to 191 million, three percent of the world population (Hoge, 2006). From 1985 to 2005, the number of international migrants in industrialized nations more than doubled from 55 million to 120 million (Marting 2008). This group sent $232 billion home in 2005, of that $165 billion went to developing countries (Hoge, 2006).

Migration is as old as the history of man. At earliest stage of social development, members of tribes migrated looking for opportunities to hunt and find better places to live. Over thousands of years, people have migrated to avoid natural disaster, war, famine, ethnic and religious persecutions, economic hardship, lack of work, and to find a better and more suitable home. As civilization grew, migration expanded in scale and geography from domestic to international to global. This trend particularly intensified during the last century when travel, communication, and education made migration easier and more attractive.

The 20th century witnessed unprecedented growth in migration. Political, economic, cultural, and technological forces all played their roles in expansion of migration. The end of the Cold War led to integration of the Easter European and Central Asian countries into the Western economic community. Following the success of the Common Market, regional economic treaties such as NAFTA and ASIANA mushroomed. The European Union was created signaling the green light for globalization of large and medium-size companies. Development of new technologies such as Internet, mobile phone, and other communication advances created new virtual organizations that made globalization a reality for even smaller companies. Satellite technology made television programs and other similar services accessible to the world population and promoted the creation of a global culture (Haton, 2008). …