Monday, October 02, 2006

Celebrating Cities and Migrant Workers

World Habitat Day's theme for this year is "Cities: Magnets of Hope." The theme is chosen to commemorate how migrant workers, be it national or international, are increasingly coming in to cities. On one hand, cities may become strained. On the other hand, cities may be showered by "the gold dust of the economy." Are we going to complain, or take advantage of the situation? It all depends on how we view the in-migrating urban poor: as liability, or asset. (Don't forget to check out the Habitat Debate magazine on this topic)

I, for one, am in support of (low-wage) migrant workers coming in to areas/economies which are more capital-intensive than labor-intensive. My economic-geography professor once told this 18th/19th century story, when the U.S. was more labor-intensive (relatively more workable land than people), and Europe was more labor-intensive (relatively more people than workable land). The opening up of borders saw the migration of many (almost a quarter?) of Europe's working population into the U.S. Afterwards, low wages in Europe rose, and high wages in the U.S. dropped. In the end, both economies grew handsomely as production needs both labor and capital. Sorry for the lack of hard data. Don't have time to rummage through my old notes.

Anyway, I'm currently less in touch with the cyber world, as I'm doing a lot of traveling to the villages to see how effective telecenters (and ICT in general) really are for poverty reduction. Will share more about this later.

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