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Does migration also cause climate change?

Dilip Ratha's picture

Climate change has historically pushed people to migrate. There is widespread belief - fear? - that rising sea levels will force millions of people to migrate out of Bangladesh and Vietnam. If that happens, these migrants will spill into neighboring countries many of which are unlikely to be ready to take on migrants. Many will also sooner or later spread into far away countries in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.

What concerns me more is that this simplistic viewpoint has very little factual analytical backing. Data on migration trends over time are bad. Data on climate change as they relate to migration are even worse. What is worse, migration experts are not necessarily talking to the experts on climate change.

Home Again

Dilip Ratha's picture

   Photo © Dilip Ratha/ World Bank
I was in Sindhekela (India) last August. "Home again," as Jason DeParle put it after our last trip to Sindhekela together. It was hot and humid. There were more mosquitoes than I have ever seen. But with the monsoon came a season of festivity. For the first time in decades I was home for Ganesh Puja and Nuakhai.

Ganesh Puja offers homage to the Hindu God of wisdom, so wise that He has the head of an elephant. When I visited my school, I noticed that unlike other years, the students did not install the statue of Ganesh inside a classroom. A few days earlier, an old beam supporting the roof had come crashing down while a class was in progress. Miraculously no one was hurt - thanks to Lord Ganesh! But they did not take another chance, and installed the statue on the veranda. 

Second International Migration and Development Conference

Caglar Ozden's picture

The World Bank, jointly with Agence Française de Développement (AFD), organized the Second International Migration and Development Conference on September 10-11th. The organizing committee consisted of Caglar Ozden and Maurice Schiff of the World Bank and Hillel Rapaport of Bar Ilan University (currently visiting Harvard University). This was a follow-up of the conference in Lille, France in June 2008, after which AFD agreed to sponsor a conference every year. The next conference is scheduled to be held at the Paris School of Economics in June 2010, hosted by Francois Bourguignon, former Chief Economist of the World Bank.

The conference program included the latest papers by the leading academics and researchers addressing a wide range of issues on the development and the migration nexus. Among the topics were migration and institutions, illegal migration, link between poverty and migration, human capital formation and migration, self-selection, migrant networks and social externalities. A total of 38 papers including two keynote addresses via parallel sessions were presented.  

Business as Usual in Guatemala

Sanket Mohapatra's picture

Santa Catalina Arch, Antigua, Guatemala. Photo © Sanket Mohapatra/World Bank
I recently made a presentation on the impact of the financial crisis and our outlook for remittances in 2009-10 at a conference on improving central bank measurement and procedures on remittances organized by CEMLA and the Banco de Guatemala on September 8-10. My colleague Jacqueline Irving presented on a global survey of central banks.The sessions and interactions with the participants made me aware that central bankers are not just interested in measuring remittances accurately, but are thinking about a range of issues that affect both remittances and migration—ranging from how exchange rate movements can create incentives to send remittances for investment motives, to intra-regional and bilateral migration flows.

Can migrant remittances build resilience to natural disasters?

Sanket Mohapatra's picture
   Photo ©

Floods, earthquakes and hurricanes cause significant loss of life and destruction of property in many countries. The incidence of such disasters has increased in recent years. There is a growing consensus, however, that being better prepared against natural disasters can be equally or more effective than immediate aid and relief.

Several studies have shown that migrants send additional remittances after severe shocks. However, there is little evidence of whether and how they help households prepare for natural disasters. In a recent paper for a forthcoming World Bank-UN assessment of the economics of disaster risk reduction, we analyze cross-country macroeconomic data as well as a number of household surveys to examine the "ex-post" response of remittances to natural disasters and their contribution to "ex-ante" preparedness. 

Remittances to East Asian countries now expected to fall 6 to 8.8 percent in 2009

James I Davison's picture

A few weeks ago, the World Bank’s migration and remittances team released its latest forecast of global remittance flows, indicating that even fewer migrants from developing East Asian and Pacific countries may be sending home money this year than they predicted in an earlier report. Remittances flowing to countries in the region are now forecast to fall by 5.7-8.8 percent in 2009, according to the report (pdf). Revised 2008 data show China, the Philippines and Vietnam are in the top 10 recipients of remittances among developing countries.

Interestingly, despite indicating falling remittance flows to the East Asia and Pacific region, the outlook states that South and East Asian countries have been relatively strong. There is, of course, a risk of a further slowing down. For example, remittance money flowing to the Philippines appears to still be growing this year. But such positive flows went from 14 percent year-on-year growth in 2007-08 to just 3 percent growth so far in 2009, according to the report.

The report’s authors write that there may be key risks that further threatening global remittance flows to developing countries – including a longer-than-projected financial crisis threatening jobs and income for immigrants in developed countries. However, they write, recovery may come by next year: “We expect that remittance flows to developing countries could decline by 7-10 percent in 2009, with a possible recovery in 2010 and 2011.”

What’s the significance of remittances? One notable example came from blogger Eric Le Borgne last April. Eric pointed out that remittances are a key factor to the economic health of the Philippines, as well as the country’s resilience so far during the global financial crisis.

Climate dilemmas in Central Asia

Rasmus Heltberg's picture
    Photo © Rasmus Heltberg/World Bank

How should climate change be addressed in Tajikistan, the poorest and—according to a World Bank regional assessment, most climate-vulnerable—country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia?1  On a recent visit to this scenic nation to assess the poverty aspects of climate change, we struggled with this seemingly simple question. Answers remain elusive, given the country’s daunting climate dilemmas. So, while in Dushanbe, I attempted to write about the range of the challenge.

First, consider Tajikistan’s thousands of glaciers, many of which are receding. As they melt, farmers downstream enjoy plentiful water supply and see no need to take action. However, once the glaciers are gone, dry rivers and extreme water scarcity could mean the end of farming livelihoods in some areas.

India is the top recipient of remittances

Dilip Ratha's picture

With Sanket

Newly available data show that remittance flows to developing countries reached $328 billion in 2008. In India, flows were stronger than expected in 2008 reaching $52 billion, up 34% compared to a year ago, and higher than our earlier estimate of $45 billion. India retains its position as the top recipient of migrant remittances among developing countries, followed by China, Mexico and the Philippines (figure 1).

Figure 1. India was the top recipient of migrant remittances among developing countries in 2008

"Guest Worker" - an oxymoron?

Dilip Ratha's picture

In many cultures, the term "guest worker" would be an oxymoron. Yet policy makers in both receiving and sending countries seem to like guest worker programs. The hope is that guest workers will fill labor shortage in the receiving countries, and at the end of an employment contract go back home with money and some new skills. There is also a belief that temporary migrants will remit more of their savings back home than migrants who plan to stay on in the destination country (often called the "host country", another oxymoron?).