Beyond the myths of migration
The history of migration is that of peopleвЂ™s struggle to survive and to prosper, to escape
insecurity and poverty, and to move in response to opportunity. Migration is not a panacea
for development problems, but properly managed it can deliver major benefits in terms of
development and poverty reduction.
Global flows of aid amount to $68.5 billion per year. The United Nations estimates that the
Millennium Development Goals could be met if aid were increased to $100 billion per year.
A slight relaxation of restrictions on the movement of workers вЂ“ increasing the proportion
of migrants in the workforce of developed countries to 3 percent вЂ“ would deliver global
gains of perhaps $150 billion per year. Remittances sent home by international migrants
through official channels currently amount to $93 billion per year; with informal transfers
included, remittances are likely to amount to around $300 billion per year. Migration
delivers massive economic gains, which could be used for poverty reduction.
The costs and benefits of migration are distributed, unevenly, between and within
countries and social groups. The balance and distribution of costs and benefits depends
upon the nature of the migration in question, and on the links which migration establishes
between places of origin and destination. This report shows how governments and others
could - by shaping the nature of migration and the distribution of its costs and benefits -
make migration work for the poor. But first it is necessary to deal with some of the myths
which surround the subject.
Myth 1: Migration and migrants are problems to be dealt with.
Wrong. First, migration presents both challenges and opportunities. In their
determination to deal with the challenges, governments must not miss the
opportunities. Second, migrants are not problems. They are people trying to
improve their lives and must be treated accordingly.
Myth 2: There is a вЂњtidal waveвЂќ of migrants about to crash our shores.
Wrong. Migration is hugely important вЂ“ economically and politically вЂ“ because
of the links it establishes between countries. But migration remains the exception
rather than the rule. International migration has increased over the past 40 years,
but still only 2.9 percent of the worldвЂ™s population are international migrants.
Myth 3: Migration is primarily about people moving from developing
countries to developed countries.
Wrong. Most migration takes place within and between developing countries.
Fully 40 percent of international migrants move between poor countries, and the
number of migrants who stay in their own country far exceeds that of
international migrants. To compare: there are 175 million international
migrants; India has 200 million internal migrants; China has 120 million. As
regards refugees, two-thirds live in developing countries and more than a third
live in the least-developed countries.
Myth 4: It is the poorest, most desperate people, who migrate.
Wrong. The poorest people often lack the resources to migrate. If they do
migrate, they are likely to move locally. This has major implications for policy.
First, it cannot be simply assumed that policies to help migrants - particularly
international migrants - will also help the poorest people. Second, migration will
not be stemmed by lifting people out of poverty. Nevertheless, improvements to
governance in developing countries can reduce the motivation to leave, and - by
encouraging remittances and return - can make that migration which does occur
Myth 5: Migration harms the prospects of developing countries by causing a
Not necessarily. Migration can lead to a вЂњbrain-drainвЂќ which harms the
prospects of developing countries, but whether it does depends upon the nature
of migration and the links it establishes between host and home countries. Flows
of remittances and other resources, and the return of migrants with new skills,
can offset the loss of migrants and may even lead to a вЂњbrain-gainвЂќ.
How to make migration work for poverty reduction
Each stage of the migration journey offers entry-points for policy through which
governments - in the UK and other developed countries, in developing countries, and at a
multilateral level - can make migration work for poverty reduction.
Leaving and being left behind. Rich countries must not exacerbate the problems
of the вЂњbrain-drainвЂќ for poor countries. International recruitment вЂ“ including that
of nurses and teachers вЂ“ must be better regulated. The push factors which lead to
migration from developing countries must be addressed. And opportunities for
mutually beneficial arrangements вЂ“ вЂњtriple-winsвЂќ - for migrants, migrant-sending
and migrant-receiving countries should be explored.
Travelling, arriving and living. More effort must be put into tackling trafficking,
smuggling and illegal migration. Decisions about migrantsвЂ™ status must be made
fairly and quickly. Migrants must be enabled to live productive lives. Governments
in host societies must ensure that migrants are not denied access to services, that
migrantsвЂ™ integration into host societies is supported, and that migrantsвЂ™ rights are
Returning, reintegrating and circulating. Flexible systems of temporary and
circular migration, and ways of making return sustainable, should be established. If
such schemes are to deliver development benefits, then development stakeholders
must be involved fully in their design.
Resource flows: Remittances and the role of the diaspora.
Governments and others can shape and utilise the links which migration establishes
between home and host societies, links which include remittances and the diaspora
Managing migration for poverty reduction: Partnerships and policy coherence
Remittances. The onus is on policy-makers to encourage the flow of remittances,
to reduce the costs which migrants have to pay to send money home, and to
improve the investment climate in developing countries so that remittances can be
used productively and in ways which reduce poverty.
The diaspora. The diaspora and its members can be important agents of
development. Governments have much to learn from a deeper engagement with
the diaspora, its members and constituent organisations. The diaspora should be
involved in discussions on development strategies, voluntary remittance schemes
and sustainable return.
Managing migration, particularly for poverty reduction, is beyond any single nation state.
Effective and genuine partnerships must be established both bilaterally between migrantsending
and migrant-receiving countries, and at the multilateral level.
Migration relates to many other issues including security concerns, HIV/AIDS,
environmental degradation, international trade, agricultural subsidies, gender inequality
and arms exports. Policies which seek to manage migration will have impacts in other
areas, and vice-versa. Governments вЂ“ individually and collectively вЂ“ must do more to
ensure that policies on related issues are coherent and support development goals.
The Department for International Development (DFID) told us that the debate on
migration and development is at the stage where the trade and development debate was ten
years ago; people are beginning to say that there is a development dimension to migration,
but there is a lack of joined-up thinking at national and international levels, and some
resistance to connecting the issues. We share this analysis and hope that this report, and
DFIDвЂ™s commendable efforts, will ensure that it does not take another ten years only to
reach the stage we are now at as regards trade and development.