Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
The Migration of Qualified Workers
as an Obstacle to Development
José Luis Hernández *
Date received: February 16, 2012. Date accepted: June 25, 2012

Predominant approaches have not produced a satisfactory response to various questions regarding international labor migration from underdeveloped to developed countries. However, they almost always conclude that this dynamic is a problem. This article proposes an explanation based on the theory of accumulation, using the monopoly of developed countries on productive forces as a central explanation. This means that the law of population established by capital takes on different characteristics in these two types of countries. However, at the same time, its functioning on a global level provides an answer to the paradoxes and characteristics implicit to this phenomenon, and proposes a way to redefine them and overcome underdevelopment. These answers are also supported by the experience of various Asian countries.

Keywords: qualified migration, development, underdevelopment, law of population, reserve army.

The international migration of qualified laborers from underdeveloped to developed countries has been an extremely important phenomenon for our region. An explanation of this dynamic can be approached from the theory of accumulation, based on the law of population installed by capital, and starting from the fact that the expansion of productive forces on which accumulation is based in underdeveloped countries is carried out abroad. In order to support our explanation, we will specifically talk about Mexico, although this text does not provide an exhaustive analysis of the country.

In keeping with contributions from Víctor Figueroa (1986), in this article, development shall be understood as the expansion of objective and subjective productive forces, which results from the combination of and interaction among them. Subjective forces are the decisive factor, especially the science that is applied to production. This expansion is a human creation and is essentially systematic and organized.

To reach this point, capitalism had to separate scientific work from immediate labor and work of the mind from physical labor. This was precisely a new division of labor. The advance of scientific knowledge became a necessary condition for capital to obtain profits. Applied science for production is unavoidable for accumulation and its growing complexity and magnitude cannot be denied.

Separating scientific work from immediate labor indicates capital development. The absence of this separation signals underdeveloped capital. Countries that manage this separation by creating laboratories and workshops for progress are developed countries. Those where this separation has not come about are underdeveloped. Accumulation in the latter is mainly carried out using the products of scientific work generated in the former. The expansion of productive forces constitutes the base of production. For underdeveloped countries, this base is found outside of the country.

In places where productive forces are undergoing expansion, the State plays a crucial role as the facilitator and executor of scientific work, in close cooperation with the bourgeoisie and institutes of higher education. Some of the resources that make up the social fund from the State are used for this, and are considered capital in the sense that they contribute value. As a result, the State is a factor that is internal to the process of accumulation and the expansion of productive forces. The State is inseparable from these processes.

Moreover, using selective immigration policies, the States of developed countries provide qualified foreign personnel for their productive sectors, adapted to their growth needs. Without resorting to higher costs, they end up subsidizing local capital and its multinational firms, with responsibility on the country of origin.

Simultaneously, in underdeveloped countries, accumulation occurs using the base of products from scientific work produced in developed countries. This implies buying without selling. These are unilateral transfers of resources that generate favorable conditions for the migration of highly qualified persons. The condition of underdevelopment explains why scientific and technological training in these countries seems incomplete, due to the absence of scientific creation and innovation applied to production. The international migration of qualified personnel from these underdeveloped countries to developed countries is an obstacle for the former because, beyond implying the transfer of resources that were invested in educating these persons, it brings about the loss of personnel who are especially creative or innovative and who, under other conditions, could have fulfilled their potential in their countries of origin. In this way, in the field of scientific and technological development, the gap between one type of country and the other is only getting wider.

Our discussion surrounding these questions shall be divided into five sections. The first concerns the impact that the monopoly held by developed countries on the expansion of productive forces has had on qualified migration for underdeveloped countries, and how this labor mobility assumes different forms in various places. This situation tends to change in countries that have questioned this scientific-technological dependence. The second section presents the central theoretical pillars of how the law of population functions in installing capital on the global level. The third section discusses how underdeveloped countries do this, which allows us to see how capitalism tends to form a consolidated overpopulation that applies the same rules for the qualified and non-qualified labor forces. The fourth section alludes to the contradictions that arise from the condition of underdevelopment and are present for a large portion of the labor force with higher education; they are a surplus in the underdeveloped world while they form part of the active or relative labor force in developed areas, although they end up more like the unqualified labor force. The last section talks about the possibility of overcoming underdevelopment and redefining the means of qualified migration, taking various Asian countries as an example. Finally, this paper offers some conclusions.

* Professor and Researcher in Social Sciences at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, Mexico. E-mail: jels_hs@yahoo.com.mx.

Published in Mexico, 2012-2017 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 48, Number 191, October-December 2017 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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