Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
The Migration of Qualified Workers
as an Obstacle to Development
José Luis Hernández

Capitalism has not developed normally or homogenously, but rather in a different way in each country, configuring itself based on the imperialistic relationships to which some are submitted by others. In developed countries, there is a separation between immediate labor, that is, on the one hand, manual labor, operator and executor of the activities within the productive process and, on the other hand, scientific work that generates inventions, processes and innovations applicable to the productive process, that is , general work . But in underdeveloped countries, this separation has not taken place. It is precisely this reason that confers the nature of underdeveloped countries (Figueroa, 1986).

These countries have industry and execute capitalist exploitation mainly through a relative surplus, but they do not do so with technology or methods generated in their own countries.

When acquiring the products of general work from developed nations, underdeveloped countries are performing an effective net transfer of value, because this type of purchase does not have a counterpart. It is buying without selling. This is an endless dynamic, due to the fact that accumulation in underdevelopment constantly needs improvements to the productive process by means of new machinery or more efficient methods of applying existing tools, new processes and organizational designs, administration and coordination, etc. The history of the Latin American region, and of Mexico in particular, demonstrates that as production becomes more dynamic, imports of the previously mentioned products also increase, putting the rhythm of growth and its social scope at risk.

Among the consequences of this transfer of value, it is interesting to highlight the reduction of investment capacity in underdeveloped countries and the increase in developed countries, beyond the limits of the normal development of capitalism. This reduces the capacity to create jobs in underdeveloped countries, while increasing this ability in developed nations, beyond the normal limits, which results in an absolutely redundant overpopulation in underdeveloped countries that do not have a space in the sphere of capitalist production, and as such, a surplus from the point of view of local capital. The generation of employment above the normal limits in developed countries, due to an overly high investment capacity, means that the industrial reserve army does not reach an absolute size, but rather a relative size, and at such levels that allow for comparatively high salaries with respect to those of the underdeveloped world.

All of the above provides the conditions for migration from underdeveloped to developed countries, confirming the stubbornness of the general theory, as the law of population operates on a global level, because absolute overpopulation in underdeveloped countries appears as relative overpopulation on the international level. International migration ends up as an adjustment mechanism for imbalances present in developed nations and underdeveloped nations with respect to the size of their overpopulation.2

The migration of qualified workers is unique, because given that there are no workshops for progress in underdeveloped countries, that is, spaces and conditions to develop research and innovation applicable to the productive process, the developed countries, in turn, given their overly high capacity for investment, have greater potential to attract this type of worker, especially the best . This further cuts off the possibility for underdeveloped countries to foster their own development. Parallel to the transfer of value through purchasing products of general work, underdeveloped countries also transfer the resources invested to educate this type of worker to developed countries. This reinforces the prevalence of underdevelopment and, as a consequence, the conditions for migration to continue.

Moreover, not all qualified workers who go to developed countries end up in workshops for progress . In reality, it has become clear that some of them work in special services, such as health or education, or on tasks that require a level of training, such as operating certain machinery or executing processes, or, as is the case for the majority, they are involved in activities that have no relation to their professional fields, but provide the incentive of a sufficiently high salary to encourage departure from the country of origin. In reality, this is the main reason why the majority migrate, because in developed countries, the value of the labor force is higher. Unemployment or precarious employment in the country of origin are also fundamental factors to keep in mind when studying the phenomenon of international migration.

The law of population discovered by Marx functions on a global level, if we take capitalism as a whole. But it also works differently on the regional level, as developed countries have difficulties in forming a reserve army, while underdeveloped countries have surplus populations that exceed the needs of valuation for local capital. In this framework, conditions develop that encourage international migration from underdeveloped to developed countries.

2 In underdeveloped countries, there are also other factors, such as wars, poor health care and nutrition, from which millions of families suffer, as well as strategies to control the birth rate, all of which have an effect on the magnitude of overpopulation.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 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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