BA Economics – Theory of International Migration

Migration is an essential part of the development of society. Traditionally people migrate from territories where conditions of living are poor to territories where they can count for higher standards of living. In the modern world, the labor market plays probably determinant role in the migration since the movement of human capital, to a significant extent defines the main directions of the migration. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the migration of the Turkish population from Turkey to countries of Western Europe where they hope to start a new and better life. At the same time, the Turkish migration to Europe was and still is defined as labor migration since Turks migrated to Europe, often illegally, to find a job, while later their family members joined them and Turkish community grew more and more numerous.

On analyzing the migration of Turks to Europe, it is worth mentioning the fact that since the beginning of the mass migration of Turks to Europe, their destination were the most developed countries of Europe, namely Germany. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Table 1, which shows that Germany is the main destination for Turks.

Table 1: Turkish population in the main European host countries in 1996

Host  country

Population of Turkish origin in thousands


2,014.3 (66.4%)


261 (8.6%)


260.1 (8.6%)


142.2 (4.7%)


119.0 (3.9%)


79.4 (2.6%)

United Kingdom

58.2 (1.9%)


35.7 (1.2%)


35.7 (1.2%)


15.0 (0.5%)


10.0 (0.3%)

Total (Western Europe)

3,034.5 (100%)


The labor migration was the major moving force which pushed Turks to Europe. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the Neoclassical economic theory which suggests that international migration is related to the global supply and demand for labor (Soysal, 1994). Nations with scarce labor supply and high demand, such as Western European nations, will have high wages that pull immigrants in from nations with a surplus of labor. Another theory, segmented-labor market theory, implies that First World economies are structured so as to require a certain level of immigration (Mandel, 1989). Thus, developed economies are dualistic: they have a primary market of secure, well-remunerated labor force and a second market of a low-wage work for immigrants, such as Turks. Also, it is worth mentioning the world-systems theory which argues that international migration is by-product of global capitalism (Smith and Edmonston, 1998). To put it more precisely, contemporary patterns of international migration, such as migration of Turks to Western Europe, tend to be from the periphery (Turkey) to the core (rich nations ”“ Western Europe) because factors associated with industrial development in the First World generated structural economic problems, and thus, push factors in the Third World.

Finally, it is worth mentioning Harris-Todaro model which explains rural-urban migration (Harris and Todaro, 1970). At this point, it is possible to explain the migration from Turkey which used to be mainly agricultural country, to Western Europe which was leading industrial region of the world, which now undergoes structural changes to transit to post-industrial socioeconomic system.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the migration of Turks to Western Europe was mainly motivated by economic factors. Turks moved to Europe in search to better job opportunities, while national labor market could not meet their demands, while European market needed labor cheap force. In such a way, Turks meet the general trend in the international migration, when emigrants from poor countries move to rich ones.

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