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Migration theory

Structures

The structural perspective, on the other hand, sees people's fate determined ultimately by structures - social, economic and political, that shape their lives.

Structural factors such as unemployment, or the influence of international media or population pressure, for example, or can be seen as 'pushing' emigrants from their homes and 'pulling' them to their destinations.

Structural explanations come in many different forms. One is the theory of 'dual labour markets'. This argues that capitalist development generates two distinct types of job. The first are the secure, permanent high-skilled and well paid jobs. The second are the temporary, hard, unpleasant tasks that no one wants to do, and which are also poorly paid. The latter are often called in English the 'three Ds' - dirty, dangerous and difficult. Unsurprisingly, most local workers avoid the 3D jobs.

Why don't employers simply pay local workers more to do the temporary or unpleasant jobs? Because if they increased the wages of the people at the bottom of the ladder, the people higher up would also want more pay in order to maintain their differentials. Better therefore to keep as clear a distinction as possible between the two sets of jobs - hence the 'dual' labour market.

Employers used to achieve this mostly by employing women or young people who were easier to control. Nowadays this is more difficult. A neater solution is to use immigrant workers, who are not so choosy about what they are prepared to do, and are less preoccupied with job security or a career path.

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Construction site in Madrid

Building site in Madrid. Construction is a tough and unpopular '3D' job.
Photo: Jose Manuel Holguín