What is Migration? Part II

By | October 21, 2021

5: Migration and development

How are migration and development related? In the north, some claim that immigrants, among other things, take the work from the natives, that they contribute to pushing wages down and that they constitute a burden on the countries’ welfare schemes. Migration and development are inextricably linked. Both countries of origin and recipient countries will in most cases be financially benefited by migration, at least as long as it is controlled. According to UN reports, this applies to most countries, even though individuals experience the situation differently, cf. social contradictions related to immigration in several countries. But how often do we hear the “positive migration stories”? Some of the more visible effects of migration can be found in the huge range of ethnic restaurants, a more varied diet, new forms of music, changed clothing habits and other new cultural expressions.

In the labor market, recipient countries in the north have clear needs for immigration. Aging populations (aging, higher average age) with a relatively smaller proportion of working people and increased care needs are one. Another is the need for necessary special expertise. In addition, immigrants contribute to economic growth both as labor, as consumers and in taking jobs that other residents hardly want. Another factor is the so-called brain drain from south to north. Well-educated people migrate to the north with significant gains for a number of countries there, not least the United States, Great Britain and France.

According to beautyphoon, migrants often send money home , in fact so much so that the money that migrants transfer far exceeds public assistance from north to south. In 2004, this development assistance amounted to approx. $ 80 billion. In 2005, migrant revenues amounted to at least $ 167 billion – about NOK 1,100 billion. The real number is probably much higher since money conveyed through informal channels is not included. 70% of all long-term foreign investment in China is estimated to come from ethnic Chinese living abroad (UN figures).

In the country of origin, the migrant income will often help to give education and health a boost among the recipients – family, friends and others. In short: growth and poverty reduction. On the whole, the money will often lead to a vitamin injection in the local economies and contribute to achieving many of the UN’s millennium goals (see HHD 2005–06: 14). Through their return journeys (migrant tourism), many migrants transfer important knowledge and skills that they have acquired in the north and they act as initiators (entrepreneurs) in “their” local communities. In addition, migration can alleviate the pressure on the labor market that many developing countries experience as a result of strong population growth. Migration can thus act as a safety valve. On the other hand, brain drain will often drain countries of origin for highly educated labor, which the countries have invested in and desperately need for their own development. It is thought-provoking that more doctors from Malawi practice in Manchester (England) than in Malawi, or that 85% of all Filipino nurses work abroad.

6: Who migrates?

Apart from the cases where people have to flee and migrate out of sheer distress or unrest, it is mainly people with resources who migrate – often young people with some education and background from the middle class. It is also a key point that the poorest countries and the poorest people reap the least from migrant incomes. The migrants thus come to a lesser extent from the very poorest countries and groups.

Throughout history, migrants have mainly been men. This pattern has changed dramatically in recent decades, and today women make up almost half of all migrants. The increased proportion of women is positive from a development point of view – women send home a larger share of their income than men do. However, the increased proportion of women has also contributed to an increase in women-related problems such as trafficking (human trafficking to the sex industry) and heavily exploited domestic workers.

Where do migrants travel? Of today’s nearly 200 million migrants, about a third have traveled from one developing country to another. Another third have traveled from one developing country to a developed country. The last third has traveled from one developed country to another developed country. In 2005, 34% of migrants were in Europe, 23% in North America, 28% in Asia, 9% in Africa and 3% in Latin America.

7: Challenges

From many teams, it has been pointed out that globalization – with i.a. increased openness and interdependence between countries – also has its more challenging sides. The conflicts of others are coming closer to us than before, and not just through global media coverage. They become part of our political everyday life. When it escalates to, for example, Turkey in the internal strife there, there are soon demonstrations also in cities and countries where Turks and Kurds have settled. We find similar phenomena related to many of the conflicts in the world.

Domestic and foreign policy are today intertwined in a completely different way than before. Many thus believe that governments’ room for maneuver is being narrowed nationally, and that politics is becoming more dependent on international interaction and cooperation – not least in issues related to migration. The UN meeting in September (cf. the introduction) is one example of such international cooperation. With increased openness between the countries, recipient communities are also being introduced to new challenges. Gender equality and the gender role pattern in the recipient communities are challenged in the encounter with a number of other cultures. Crime among migrants, gender-based violence and forced marriage have become part of the political debate that can help to put minds to the boil and to raise doubts about the success of integration.

Many countries are experiencing problems with the integration of migrants. But like the dance tango, integration requires participation and positive commitment from both parties. Lack of tolerance or lack of respect for human rights, whether in the case of recipient communities or migrants, does not at least help to solve the problems. Nor prejudice and xenophobia.


A populous “country”

“International migrants would have been the world’s fifth most populous country if all migrants lived in the same country.”
State of World Population 2006 (UN).

Migration in many forms:

Few migrant stories are identical. In general, we can still distinguish between

  • settler migration: Foreigners who are allowed to settle in a country for a longer or unlimited period, and who can work with what they want.
  • migrant workers (most): Foreigners who are granted permission by the authorities in the recipient country to work there for a limited period – often also limited to a specific type of work as seasonal workers or specialists.
  • migrant students: Persons with (time-limited) special permission from the recipient country to follow a specific course or study at (accredited) educational institutions there.
  • Refugees and asylum seekers: A refugee is someone who rightly fears persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs or affiliation with a particular social group. An asylum seeker is someone who, on their own and unannounced, asks the authorities in a country for protection and recognition as a refugee.

Foreign tourists – who in many cases must have visas – fall outside the groups mentioned above.

Migration 2