Introduction to Migration: what is Migration?
Our world is very unequal. For many people around the world moving away from their home town or village can be the best — sometimes the only — option open to improve their life chances. Migration can be hugely effective in improving the income, education and participation of individuals and families, and enhancing their children’s future prospects. But its value is more than that: being able to decide where to live is a key element of human freedom. There is no typical profile of migrants around the world. Fruit pickers, nurses, political refugees, construction workers, academics and computer programmers are all part of the nearly 1 billion people on the move both within their own countries and overseas. When people move they embark on a journey of hope and uncertainty, whether within or across international borders. Most people move in search of better opportunities, hoping to combine their own talents with resources in the destination country so as to benefit themselves and their immediate family, who often accompany or follow them. Local communities and societies as a whole have also benefited both in places of origin and at destinations. The diversity of these individuals and the rules that govern their movement make human mobility one of the most complex issues facing the world today, especially in the midst of the global recession.
Who migrates and where? Numbers and flows
In its latest Human Development Report, the UNDP notes that most people move within their own country, almost four times as many as the estimated 200 million international migrants. Furthermore, just over a third of these international migrants moved from developing to developed countries.
Detailed statistical information on the movement of people can be found at the Migration DRC Database, which extends the data made available by the United Nations.
Why do people migrate?
* economic reasons (to find work, escape famine, etc.)
* social reasons (for a better quality of life or to be closer to family or friends)
* political reasons (to escape cultural/political/religious persecution or war )
* environmental reasons (natural disasters such as flooding, drought)
The migration dynamic reflects the interplay of push factors (which make the people leave their home) and pull factors (which make people move to a particular area). Here are some examples:
* lack of jobs and services
* poor safety or security
* high crime levels
* political or religious persecution.
* more jobs and services
* better quality of life
* low crime levels
* good food supplies
* better climate and fertile land
* less risk of natural hazard
* political security.
How do people migrate?
* Nearness and colonial history. Some migrants cross to the nearest country and if the distance is short they can commute. For longer distance migration, people often move along colonial paths towards ex-colonial powers, drawn by the language and a good knowledge of the culture.
* Networks and family. The choice of destination is often influenced by the existence of a network of contacts. This network is often provided by family members, since many receiving countries give priority to close relatives of existing residents.
* Labour brokers. Labour brokers (or recruitment agencies) are intermediaries that match the demand for jobs in the country of origin with the supply in the country of destination. Charges for finding a job are supposed to be regulated, but they are often very expensive for migrants. It usually takes three to twenty months salary for a migrant to enter a country and find work. Furthermore, the work often turns out to be very different from what was promised (e.g. lower position, smaller income, more work hours, unsafe conditions, etc.)
* Smugglers and Traffickers. Smugglers are like travel agents acting in an illegal manner (e.g. supplying false passports or bribing immigration officials). The difference between people being smuggled and people being trafficked is that the former choose to move, while the latter are either forced or deceived (e.g. when young women and girls are offered to work abroad in legitimate work and are then forced into prostitution).
Facts about migration and the economy
* For the impact of migration on the countries of origin, see the 2009 Human Development Report, pp. 71-83.
* For the impact of migration on destination countries see the 2009 Human Development Report, pp. 83 – 92.
* The World Bank writes that remittance flows to developing countries reached US$ 328 billion in 2008. Remittances grew rapidly during 2007 and 2008, but have slowed down in many countries since the last quarter of 2008. (From World Bank: Migration and Remittances Data, Briefing 10, July 2009) * Migrants have contributed to the growth in employment in most countries. However, the dominant mode of international labour migration is temporary low skilled contract migration. That means also, that migrants often fill the gaps in the workforce doing the 3D jobs (difficult, dangerous and dirty) and/or low-paid jobs.
* During a period of economic stagnation migrants are often the first to bear the brunt of redundancies as they often work in the least stable jobs, such as temporary, flexible or part-time jobs.
* International migration of skilled persons in principle contributes to building the recipient countries’ skills endowment, while entailing a loss in the origin country’s stock of human capital (at least immediately). Those two processes are commonly referred to as "brain gain" and "brain drain" respectively.
* In most countries, skilled emigration is situated within this bracket. The "loss" of qualified people surpasses 80% in small countries like Guyana, Suriname and Jamaica, among others. The situation is also alarming in sub-Sahara Africa and in Central America. Countries like Mozambique, Uganda or Ghana lose almost half of their base of highly qualified labourers.
* However, moderate "brain drain" of between 5 and 10% of the skilled population can have more positive than negative effects on the countries of origin. The costs of emigration can be partly offset by developments like higher enrolment in tertiary education, an increase in remittances and the eventual “brain gain” through the return of emigrants and creation of business and knowledge linkages between emigrants and home countries (leading to technology flows, investment, etc.).
* Instead of speaking about "brain gain" and "brain drain", the Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) promotes the notion of "brain circulation", in which migrants return to their own country, sharing the benefits of the skills and resources they have acquired abroad.
Further information: Demographic and Economic Trends: Implications for International Mobility. Philip Martin (2009), Human Development Research Paper
Regular or documented: are people "authorized to enter, to stay and to engage in a remunerated activity in the State of employment" (Article 5 of the Convention).
Irregular or undocumented: people entering and living in the country of employment without such authorization. It is the correct legal description for migrants in such situations.
Illegal or clandestine: often used to describe migrants to mean irregular or undocumented migrants, though there is now general consensus that expressions such as "illegal" or "aliens" to describe a human being is inhumane and has no legal basis.
More information on migration >> View the full December 18 directory of migrant organisations worldwide.