What is geographic labor mobility?
Geographic labor mobility refers to the level of flexibility and freedom workers have to move from one region or location to another in order to find gainful employment in their field.
Key points to remember
- Geographic labor mobility refers to the ability of workers in a given economy to move around in order to find new or better employment.
- Labor mobility is determined by several factors, ranging from transportation options to living standards and other government-related policies.
- The rate of geographic labor mobility in the United States has steadily declined since the 1980s.
- Greater labor mobility is often associated with higher productivity and economic output.
Understanding Geographic Labor Mobility
Geographic labor mobility refers to the ability of workers in a economy move to find a new or better job. It can be compared to labor mobility, ie the ability of workers to change jobs or occupations, regardless of their geographical location. Geographic labor mobility can also be related to capital mobility or economic goods mobility.
There are several determinants of geographic labor mobility. The ease of movement and migration and the economic incentives to move are key determinants of the fluidity of geographic labor mobility in an economy. Physical, geographic and political barriers to movement are key factors that can make movement more difficult. At the economic level, a region’s size, distance and overall employment opportunities determine the geographic mobility of labour. At the personal level, however, the determinants of the individual’s particular personal situation, such as family situation, housing problems, Infrastructure, and individual education affect geographical labor mobility. An economy’s level of trade is also a direct factor in the geographic mobility of its labor force. For example, increasing the level of domestic and international trade necessitates the opening of offices and other institutions in various regions of a country, which increases employment opportunities in those places.
Other elements that affect geographic mobility
In addition to the main fundamental factors, there are other specific key factors that can make geographical labor mobility more or less available. First, the aggregate level of education influences the mobility of Workforcehigher education generally resulting in a greater ability to move around to find a job.
Personal and cultural attitudes also stimulate labor mobility. For example, if an individual employee has no motivation to seek use elsewhere they will not, resulting in low geographic labor mobility. Agricultural developments can also affect labor mobility as they push people from densely populated areas to less densely populated areas during busy seasonal periods.
Another key determinant is industrialization. Highly industrialized economies provide more blue collar job opportunities, which increases labor mobility in the economy. Specifically, an industrialized economy helps workers move from rural areas to large cities where there are more job opportunities.
Government policies can also strongly influence geographic labor mobility. In global economic terms, the European Union is actively striving to increase the geographical labor mobility of individuals by helping skilled workers to find jobs in other countries and to cross national borders to stimulate the economic growth of individuals, companies and countries. If a government wants to increase geographic labor mobility, it can take several steps. The country can support transportation options, help increase the standard of livingand advancing government policies that promote mobility within an economy.
A negative result of geographic labor mobility is brain drain, or the flight of human capital, from developing regions and nations.
Advantages and disadvantages of geographical labor mobility
Geographic labor mobility provides several benefits to a country’s economy. Chief among them is a better distribution of labor supply and productivity. When workers can move to where the jobs are, more workers find jobs and businesses can get the workers they need, where they need them. An economic study published in The Yale Law Journal in 2017 points out that geographical labor mobility facilitates the management of macroeconomic stability and that local barriers to mobility can make macroeconomic policy less effective.
On the other hand, while geographic labor mobility is promoted as an ideal situation in blackboard economic models, it also has its downside. Labor mobility is associated with the dissolution of local communities and the extinction of indigenous cultures as members migrate to seek economic opportunities and resettle in areas where they are culturally foreign. This tends to erode social capital both in the places workers leave and in new areas where they settle. The geographical mobility of labor is also the direct cause of the brain drainor the flight of human capital from developing regions and nations.
Geographic labor mobility in the United States
The United States presents an interesting case study of geographic labor mobility during and after the development of economic systems.
As the country expanded westward and new industries developed, geographic labor mobility was at its peak as new migrants and the existing population moved to economically promising locations. However, the rate of moving has steadily declined since the 1980s. According US census data, the rate of movement between states has fallen by nearly half since 1989 while the rate of mobility between counties has fallen by nearly a third. Indeed, even during the COVID19 pandemic, labor mobility trends have continued in the United States, with only 8.4% of people living in a different residence a year ago in 2021. , compared to 9.3% in 2020.
What is occupational labor mobility?
Occupational labor mobility is the ease with which workers can change jobs, often involving a new occupation or career path. Different from geographic labor mobility, labor mobility does not necessarily involve people moving from one place to another.
Why is labor mobility important?
Increased labor mobility is generally seen as positive for the economy. Greater freedom of movement tends to result in more productive and satisfied workers, lower unemployment and higher GDP.
Why is cross-border labor mobility controversial?
Opening borders and encouraging the geographic mobility of migrant workers is often a controversial topic. Critics say these lower-paid workers are effectively stealing jobs from outgoing citizens and can lead, in extreme cases, to overcrowding in some areas, straining public services and driving up the local cost of living. This can then fuel hatred and stimulate social unrest. Economists, on the other hand, often argue that migrant workers accept low-paying, low-skilled work that no one else wants or that would demand higher wages. A growing population also generally equates to economic growth and prosperity.
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