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Labor migration is the process of shifting a labor force from one physical location to another. Migrations of this type have sometimes occurred due to shifts in technology, the emergence of new industries, or the relocation of the main operational facilities of a given business. Thus, a labor migration may commence due to the interest of job seekers, or because a business has instigated a move that necessitates that labor also move in order to keep a job.
In many situations, labor migration takes place with the support of the labor force. A prime example is found in the first days of the automobile industry. As specific cities began to emerge as hubs of activity for the building of automobiles, individuals who were interested in working in that industry made the decision to move into those areas and seek employment with one or more car manufacturers. As the need for qualified workers grew, more people in outlying areas responded, thus increasing the population of those cities where the industry was firmly established.
Not all examples of labor migration have been voluntary, however. The commencement of the slave trade during the 17th century involved the involuntary transport of people from Africa to various colonies owned by England, Spain, France, and other key world powers of the day. Until the abolition of slavery in these areas, slaves were usually treated as chattel that could be bought or sold at will, and forced to move on at the whims of the new master.
Today, labor migration often occurs due to the expansion of a business into a new geographical area, or the relocation of existing facilities to a new area. In both situations, it is not unusual for employers to offer certain employees the opportunity to migrate to these new locations, and become associated with the newly opened facilities. Often, a portion of this type of labor migration will involve employees who have been with the firm for some time, and have proven their competency within their respective positions.
With labor migration involving the opening of a new location, it is not unusual for a business to offer qualified managers, IT specialists, and other employees with a firm grounding in company policies and procedures the option of relocating to the new area. This is beneficial for the company, as it places a core group of fully trained individuals in a position to successfully train new employees and thus increase the chances of a successful launch.
When the labor migration involves the closing of a facility and the opening of a new facility in another location, there is a good chance that the majority of the employees will be offered the chance to move and fill open positions at the new facility. Depending on the nature of the position and the standing of the individual employee, the company may offer incentives to make the migration, such as paying moving expenses or offering an increase in salary or wages to make the move. Assuming that most of the employees respond positively, the company benefits from not having to train new personnel to take over the open positions at the new location, thus saving a great deal of money and time.
A labor migration may involve the massive migration of large numbers of individuals to a new location over a period of time, or involve the movement of a selected few in a migration that is intentionally planned and executed with precision and in a very small window of time. In both situations, there is a good chance that the movement will have some degree of impact on the economic conditions of both the locations that are left behind and the areas where the migrants finally settle. While there is speculation that the establishment of the World Wide Web and the increased opportunities for telecommuting will inhibit future mass migrations to some degree, not many experts believe that modern communications will prevent migration from happening from time to time, even if that migration is no more than a move from one side of town to the other.