Since Stephanie Heng was headed to university to do further work on the topic of forced migration, the research topic for her internship with Transient Workers Count Too was chosen to focus on a related question: How much volition do Bangladeshi men have when migrating to Singapore for low-wage work?

Neoclassical economy theory, she writes, simplifies migration decisions, suggesting that they stem wholly from differences in labour markets. Indeed, the need for a paying job, and (by Bangladeshi wage standards) a good salary too, is a key driver.

But invariably, social factors come into play too.

In her paper, Stephanie explores the social value attached to going abroad for work and the burden of familial obligation. She also discovers from her interviews with workers that due to corruption, even local jobs in Bangladesh, nominally available to those with the requisite qualifications, may not in fact be accessible. Effectively, is there any real choice but to leave the country?

She argues that volition in migration is not a binary, but a spectrum with differing degrees of constraints at work. Some of these pressures may well be subliminal — the men themselves may not be consciously aware that they are subject to these forces.

Stephanie’s paper (PDF, 7 pages) can be downloaded by clicking the icon at left.