Migration and the Rural-Urban Continuum: Evidence from the Rural Philippines

Migration is an important livelihood strategy in the Philippines. In 1991, 26 percent of urban households and 13 percent of rural households received remittances from migrant parents or children. Although international migration has received more attention than internal migration, the latter is significant in the Philippines. Between 1980 and 1990, the number of persons over the age of five years who were not resident in the city or municipality they resided in five years ago, increased from 2.85 to 3.24 million. Recent migration flows are interprovincial, typically in the direction of Metropolitan Manila and surrounding areas, and are dominated by women. While the percentage of the population classified as urban increased from 36 percent in the mid-1970s to 52 percent in the early 1990s, roughly 80 percent of moves by a nationally representative sample of ever-married women were to areas no more urbanized than the migrant’s area of origin. This indicates that internal migration flows are quite heterogeneous. This is of interest to policymakers, who are paying increasing attention to the role of small towns and peri–urban areas as migrant destinations. For small and intermediate-sized urban centers, in-migration from rural areas could increase local opportunities for income diversification as well as decrease pressure on larger national urban centers. This paper explores the diversity of the experience of migrants to rural, peri–urban, and urban areas using a unique longitudinal data set from the Philippines. In 2003 and 2004, the Bukidnon Panel Study followed up with 448 families in rural Mindanao who were previously interviewed in 1984/85 by the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Research Institute for Mindanao Culture, Xavier University, and surveyed both a sample of their offspring living in the same area as well as a sample of those who had moved away to different locations. Parents (original respondents) and children who formed separate households in the same locality were interviewed in 2003; original respondents’ offspring that migrated to different rural and urban areas were interviewed in 2004. Thus, migration patterns were examined using the full listing of children of the original respondents as well as a special survey of 257 of their migrant offspring who were tracked down in 2004. This migrant survey focused on differences in the migration experience of males and females who moved to other rural areas, poblaciones (the administrative seats of municipalities or towns), and urban areas. We follow this with an examination of the determinants of children’s location, using the sample of all children. In addition to migration to rural, peri–urban, and urban destinations, we explicitly consider the case where the individual leaves his or her parental residence, but remains in the same village, as a locational choice. Our preliminary exploration into the migration decisions of young Filipino adults has shown that as destinations, poblaciones, peri-urban areas, and urban areas are very similar. Most migrants to poblaciones and urban areas have very similar reasons for moving—initially for schooling, then subsequently to look for better jobs, except for substantial numbers of male migrants to the closer urban locations in Bukidnon who tend to be poorly educated and work in low-wage construction and transport jobs. If poblaciones and peri–urban areas can offer comparable services to migrants from rural areas, they may be able to relieve congestion in major metropolitan centers like Cagayan de Oro and Metropolitan Manila. However, the occupational profile of migrants indicates that females in both areas seem to do better than males—perhaps because female migrants to urban areas are better-educated than male migrants. Social networks are important for migrants, particularly for the first move. While most first-time migrants move alone, they are most often financed by their parents and live with relatives in their new community. Later on, migrants increasingly self-finance their moves, and live with their families of procreation. Familial networks are thus very important for helping a migrant get settled into a new community. Lastly, we also find that rural areas, poblaciones, and urban areas systematically attract different types of migrants. Poblaciones and urban areas generally attract better-schooled individuals, partly because young people move to those areas to further their education, or because better-educated individuals move to these areas to find better jobs. Migrants to rural areas, on the other hand, move primarily to take up farming or to get married. Thus, it is no surprise that rural migrants, as well as those who opt to stay in rural areas, are less educated than migrants to poblaciones, urban and peri–urban areas. Does outmigration from rural areas thus constitute a “brain drain” that needs to be stopped? Not necessarily. If migrants are able to find better jobs in urban and peri–urban areas, and send remittances to their origin families, then migration is welfare-improving for those who have stayed behind. However, the occupational profile of migrants to poblaciones, urban, and peri–urban areas is quite diverse. A large proportion of male migrants to more urbanized areas ends up in manual labor/transportation work or crafts and trades, which are not high-earning occupations. Female migrants to poblaciones and urban areas may fare better. A large proportion of female migrants to poblaciones ends up working in sales occupations, while a larger proportion of female than male migrants to urban areas has professional and managerial jobs. Clearly, many migrants are unable to fulfill their hopes and dreams. This paper cannot answer whether migration is welfare-improving for the migrant or the family he (or more likely she) left behind. In further work, we will examine whether migration is a strategy that families use to escape poverty, bearing in mind that migration and education are both individual and family decisions.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-22

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