2015-16 Annual Report

This is the 2015-16 report of the activities of the UCD Gifford Center for Population Studies. Director Philip Martin accepted a five-year term effective July 1, 2012, and this report summarizes Gifford-supported interdisciplinary research and dissemination activities in 2015-16, when Martin directed the center on a recall basis.

Gifford-supported activities in 2015-16 assessed the impacts of population growth, including fertility, mortality, and migration, on a wide range of factors, from climate and agricultural systems to labor markets and the integration of immigrants. There were three major Gifford Center conferences and four faculty-student workshops. The newsletter-journal Rural Migration News was produced and distributed quarterly with the support of the Gifford Center.


There were three major Gifford Center conferences:

  1. Reducing Worker-Paid Migration Costs, December 7-8, 2015. An estimated 10 million migrant workers leave their countries each year to work in another. Most are legal and low-skilled, and many arrive abroad in debt because of the costs they incur when paying recruiters to obtain contracts for jobs abroad. If migrants pay an average $1,000 each to recruiters, moving workers over borders is a $10 billion a year business. This workshop explored incentives to reduce worker-paid migration costs by offering economic incentives to the recruiters who are intermediaries between employers and migrants so that they reduce their charges to migrants.
  2. Europe's Migration Crisis: What's Next. January 28, 2016. The European Union's 28 member nations received over 1.2 million asylum seekers in 2015, including a million in Germany and over 150,000 in Sweden. The US, by comparison, has been receiving 75,000 asylum applications a year. One reason for the upsurge was German Chancellor Angela Merkel's August 2015 announcement that Syrians could apply for asylum in Germany even if they passed through safe countries en route, prompting many migrants to use small boats to leave western Turkey for nearby Greek islands. Speakers addressed the challenges facing Europe, reducing the influx, reforming EU institutions, and integrating migrants, prompting a wide-ranging discussion.
  3. Water, Labor, and Immigration: Implications for California Agriculture. April 15, 2016. Scarce water, expensive land, and changing consumer preferences have increased the importance of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and horticultural specialties or FVH crops in the state's farm sales. Fewer Mexican newcomers to the farm workforce are prompting farm employers to take steps to (1) satisfy current workers, (2) stretch their productivity with mechanical aids and (3) substitute machines for hand workers, and (4) supplement the current work force with H-2A guest workers. It is not yet clear which of the 4-S responses to the labor landscape will be dominant.


The UCD Gifford Migration Workgroup brings UCD graduate students together with faculty in an interdisciplinary setting to discuss migration-related research.  Several 2015-16 workshops were held in Washington DC, where US has a facility (UC-DC).

  1. Labor Compliance in Food Supply Chains, April 1, 2016. Most buyers of fresh-produce items require grower-shippers to have preventive food-safety compliance systems in place to test produce regularly to ensure that residue levels are within safety tolerances and to have trace-back systems to quickly detect the sources of suspect produce. The purpose of this seminar was to understand how food-safety systems are evolving from voluntary to mandatory and to determine whether currently voluntary activities in farm labor compliance systems might become government-encouraged or –mandated.

    The three major components of compliance systems are goals and protocols, indicators and complaints, and audits. Goals acknowledge the importance of food safety or labor compliance to the growing operation and lay out protocols to prevent problems, indicators allow the goals to be assessed alongside complaints of violations and their remedies, and third-party audits provide snapshots of the operation of the compliance system. The most common labor compliance systems are collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) that spell out wages and working conditions and usually include grievance and arbitration mechanisms to resolve complaints that the CBA's provisions have been violated. There are relatively few CBAs in agriculture outside California, but the Fair Food Program (FFP) launched in 2011 by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the Costco-supported Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) that began to certify farms in 2014 are examples of voluntary labor-compliance systems, voluntary in the sense that in order to sell produce to particular buyers, farms must be certified by the FFP or EFI. These voluntary programs combine appeals to consumers based on decent treatment of workers with the self-interest of consumers in safer food.
  2. Australia's campaigns to discourage migrants: how effective? November 19, 2015. Australia developed a "Pacific solution" to migrants who arrived by boat from Indonesia and applied for asylum that involved sending them to island nations such as Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Nauru to make their asylum claims at Australia's expense. This workshop explored the usefulness of "overseas public information campaigns" to discourage boat people before they set out for Australia. It proved hard to evaluate the effectiveness of such campaigns because there is no census of people who are considering migrating to Australia and requesting asylum, so there is no way to know how many people were discouraged by the ads. Furthermore, organizations that receive and spend Australian government funds to develop and run the ads have incentives to enlarge the pool of potential migrants and to argue that the campaigns discourage migrants so that they continue to receive funding.
  3. Capabilities on the Move: Mobility and Aspirations. September 12, 2015. Migration is integral to development, and financial and social remittances can contribute to faster development, but migration is not the solution for underdevelopment. Mothering and mentoring are keys to ensuring that children become successful students and workers, and children in poor families begin to lag at an early age, and these early gaps persist into adulthood. Intervening early with "pre-distribution" rather than redistribution to overcome deficiencies, as with early childhood education, would do most to improve equality of opportunity.
  4. California Farm Labor. August 19, 2015. Three issues were discussed with state officials: the lack of new farm workers, so that crews that would have had 35 workers in the past today often have 30 or 32, fast growth in farm employment in selected commodities such as berries, and unions and drought. The UFW is the state's dominant farm worker union, with 7,000 active members and 25-30 contracts, including 10 in the Salinas Valley. California agriculture used about 33 million acre-feet to irrigate eight million acres in 2010, and the drought is expected to reduce water usage to about 30 million acre feet in 2015, prompting the fallowing of over 500,000 acres of crop land.

Rural Migration News

This newsletter-journal of 20,000 words, published in mid-January, April, July, and October, provides a summary and analysis of the most important migration issues affecting rural and agricultural areas of California and the US for 1,200 subscribers. Rural Migration News covers people- and labor-related developments in rural and agricultural areas of California and the US, with a special focus on immigration issues. Rural Migration News is produced with the help of graduate and undergraduate students, providing them with  training in data collection and analysis.


There are two Gifford accounts, 3-GIFFINA (student support) and 3-GIFENDO (program support). When Martin became director, both accounts were in deficit, prompting a conservative approach to spending such as securing co-sponsors for costly events. Gifford has been very successful finding co-sponsors, which has reduced the need for Gifford funds to maintain a very active program of conferences and workshops.

Plans for 2016-17

The Gifford Center plans a similar set of programs in 2016-17, viz, three major conferences that draw 100 or more faculty and students and workshops that feature students presenting work in progress to 20 to 30 other students and faculty.

Gifford Center operations are based on three principles:

  1. Gifford funding should help the UCD community to address population-related issues as specified in by the donor, as when Gifford support adds a population dimension to a conference whose main topic is migration or integration
  2. Gifford should be a low-cost operation that involves the Director working closely with UCD faculty and students to maximize the impacts of available funds. In practice, this means co-funding events and workshops rather than hosting only one Gifford-funded event a year, as was done previously
  3. Graduate students are supported when they present papers or provide remarks that can be posted on the Gifford web site, ending the past practice of providing support with no documented outcomes of that support

A Final Thanks

The John & Mary Gifford Endowment promotes interdisciplinary research at UC-Davis on many aspects of population growth, from feeding ever more people to managing migration between countries to educating and empowering women to influence population growth and distribution. Gifford support enables many UCD faculty and students to add a population dimension to their research and teaching programs that would otherwise be lacking, fulfilling the wishes of the donors, adding to the stock of knowledge, and enriching the world.