A major four-year research project, involving field work in seven countries, shows that people who migrate from developing countries greatly increase their own income and bring many benefits to their families and communities back home.
The study, run by Indian based Global Development Network (GDN) and the UK think tank theInstitute for Public Policy Research (ippr), found that negative impacts on development such as ‘brain drain’ are usually counter-balanced by other positive impacts.
In the report ‘Development on the Move’ published 21 May 2010, it is argued that migration should not be viewed as a ‘problem’ for development.
Migration allows people with few alternatives to improve their standard of living, to send money back to their families and communities, and enhance wider development outcomes.
The project involved field work and research in seven countries – Colombia, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Jamaica, Macedonia and Vietnam, surveying almost 10,000 households.
Examples of positive impacts identified in the report include:
- Typically between 70 and 90 per cent of migrants are reported to have experienced an increase in their real disposable incomes while abroad, the majority seeing large increases.
- Money sent home by migrants can aid development at home. On average, more than half of the migrants from the countries studied remitted money home and in countries like Jamaica a third of all households receive some remittances.
- These remittances can have important benefits for recipients. For example, in Colombia households that receive remittances are 12 per cent less likely to be below the national poverty line than those who do not.
- Households with migrants can spend more on important things like health and education. In Ghana, households with absent migrants spend US$107 more per year on education than those without. In Jamaica, each additional returned migrant in a household increases healthcare spending by more than 50 per cent.
- However, while migrants are often sending money home this does not act as a deterrent to work among remaining family members. For example, in Georgia and Jamaica having an absent migrant reduces the likelihood that anyone in the household is unemployed by around a third.
- Many emigrants from developing countries return with new resources, skills and networks. In countries like Ghana and Macedonia, the report estimates of a ‘rate of return’ of around a third. In Jamaica, returned migrants make up almost 10 per cent of the entire country’s population.
- Migration can also change attitudes. For example, typically more than 70 per cent of returned migrants on average say that there are more committed to achieve gender equality in their country of origin as a result of their experiences abroad.
The project director, Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, ippr Research Associate, says:
“Migration is too good to stop. Migration offers one of the best routes to improving development prospects for individuals and countries alike. More people are on the move than ever before, and our study shows this mobility is generally having a more positive impact on social and economic development than previously thought.
“Even where migration causes pressure points – such as ‘brain drain’ from some sectors in some countries at some points – the money, skills and ideas that migrants send home or bring back with them often outweigh the negative impacts.”
The project coordinator Laura Chappell, a Senior Research Fellow at ippr, says:
“There are lessons for policy makers in this report. An important one for Western governments is that a fortress approach to migration from the developing world is unlikely to be successful. As long as there are such imbalances in the global economy, migrants from poorer countries are going to want to come to countries where the economic opportunities are greater. The evidence shows that they and their families will generally benefit if they do so. In these circumstances, policies mainly designed to keep migrants out or kick them out may well be destined to fail. Managed migration can be achieved, but it needs to take into account migrants’ aspirations as well as concerns of local electorates.”
The executive summary can be downloaded at www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=751. Copies of the full report (printed) will be available from 1 June and can be ordered from the web page above or by calling Central Books on 0845 458 9910.
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