RR Corner: from sombre to humour!:Hierarchy of Needs: Migrants’ Perspective

By Ritesh(R) Chugh and Ripan(R) Sethi

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may ring a bell for some of you. Well, if it doesn’t, don’t be too concerned because RR will ring it for you! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (HoN) is a five-step process, in the form of a pyramid, which outlines what people want in life. The pyramid represents five basic needs of people – Physiological, Safety and Security, Belonging, Self-esteem and Self-actualisation.  In its true essence, people try to achieve one need or step of the pyramid at a time. The achievement of one step motivates people to reach for the next. The HoN theory suggests that people are motivated to achieve their basic needs first before moving on to the other complex needs up in the pyramid. The needs are hence arranged in an ascending order.

The HoN is applicable in many different motivational contexts and directs human behaviour. It is also equally applicable to new migrants in a country – Australia in our case. In applying the HoN to migrants, it is clearly observable that migrants progress on this pyramid too. Consider the example of international students in Australia, their basic need is organising shelter, then looking for a job to support themselves while they are studying, finding a stable job, getting married, creating social networks and so forth. Over time, when they have climbed the first few steps of the pyramid, they start focussing on self-esteem and self-actualisation. However, this progression in the pyramid is not restricted to international students too but any migrant for that matter. However, when migrants come to a new country they sometimes have to start from the lower steps of the pyramid, in spite of the possibility that they were higher on the pyramid in their home country. In the case of migrants, we hypothesise that the progress on the HoN pyramid is based on self-motivation rather than external motivation.

Even migration behaviour can be co-related to the HoN. Some people migrate because their first and second need is not being fulfilled adequately in their home country, as in the case of refugees who may be facing starvation or life-threatening situations back home. Reunifying with family and friends can also be a reason for migration, which fits the third level. People will also move when they are looking for fame and recognition, that their home country might not be able to offer, as in the case of sports players. And the need for self-actualisation that involves personal growth and self-fulfillment can also be a driver of migration.

Now look at people around you, migrants in particular! You will notice that everyone falls in one of the steps of the HoN. As you may observe, activities of people are directed at meeting the next level of needs only after some or all of their predecessor needs have been met. Everyone is engaged in different activities with an aim to fulfill their own needs ranging from initial adjustments as a migrant to partaking in community activities, social events and even participating in politics. A fluctuation between the needs also takes place as often movement between the HoN can be bi-directional depending upon personal circumstances.

Perhaps immigration authorities and other support agencies also need to look closely at this model and help new migrants settle down under. After all, migration is a dilemma of holistic national policies. Maslow’s theory can help explain migration flows but once people are here, how they go about fulfilling their needs is an issue of contention. Remember that every person’s motivation and efforts to quest the satisfaction of their needs will vary. Finally, progression through the pyramid is a learning journey that is also important to the acculturation process of new migrants.

It is now time to ponder where you fall in this pyramid!

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