Secretary Hillary Clinton is hosting the second Global Diaspora Forum tomorrow (on July 25th and 26th), in an emphatic recognition of the importance of the diasporas in fostering America's diplomatic and financial relationships with their countries of origin. (The size of diasporas in the US is anecdotally mentioned to be somewhere between 60 to 70 million - we don't know for sure and even worse, we don't yet have a consensus on the definition of diasporas.) To make the event accessible beyond the beltway, many sessions including the Secretary’s remarks will be livestreamed on state.gov. Also some parallel diaspora events are taking place at the same time - for example, a Tedx style event is hosted at the University of Minnesota. I understand that key State Department colleagues involved in the diaspora forum have reached out to Canada, the UK and the EU seeking collaboration on diaspora and development issues. Bravo!
Migration and Remittances during the Global Economic Crisis and Beyond is a new book published by the Bank (edited by Sirkeci, Cohen and Ratha - see here). Alongside the main argument that remittances are largely proven to be resilient during the crisis, it reveals few more insights and poses a more questions than it answers. A decline in remittances and migration flows around world was expected at the beginning of the crisis. The dynamics and determinants of why and how remittances sent and used is also of concern. The book is a first step to answer these questions while also bringing academics and practitioners together across disciplines compiling the volume covering 7 regions and 25 country studies. The focus is on those countries with significant remittance inflows and established migration histories. Therefore South Asian countries and some smaller nations receive more attention.
The fears that the economic crisis of 2008 would lead to a decline in remittances and the returns of migrants to their sending countries were largely unfounded. Our volume reveals that while remittances declined following the crisis, they have largely recovered. Three trends that characterize remittances practices globally are:
- More diversified destinations and labor markets lead to more resilient remittances for migrants
- Lower barriers to labor mobility in receiving countries lead to remittances that are larger and critical to the economic health of migrant households.
- Remittance-dependent countries rely on remittance inflows for external financial needs.
These common sense findings are obscured by the myths that surround remittance practices, including:
In the May 2012 edition of the East Asia and Pacific economic update, I wrote that labor migration across East Asia will require more urgent attention from policy makers very soon given the large labor force declines that some countries will face in the next 40 years.
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) launched its 2011 Global Trends report on refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced persons shortly in advance of World Refugee Day on July 20. Bearing the subtitle of a "year of crises", the report documents that conflicts in Africa contributed to the emergence of over 800,000 refugees last year. This is the highest number in over ten years.
For China, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, a huge challenge is balancing growth between the booming coastal areas and the inland areas. We spoke about this and China's labor market with Cai Fang, one of China's most influential economists. Fang describes how efforts to balance growth are affecting China's huge migrant worker population, which typically lacks the formal employment contracts enjoyed by urban workers.
The Bank has just published a new book (edited by Sirkeci, Cohen and Ratha - see here) that documents the impacts of the recent financial crisis on migration and remittance flows. A common story line emerging from a number of regional and country specific experiences is the remarkable resilience of remittance flows during the crisis. Beyond this observation, the book highlights variations in factors affecting migration and remittance patterns during the crisis and suggests a number of hypotheses for future research. The book is certainly not the last word on the topic of crisis impacts, but it marks an early stock taking of this evolving topic.
In a new working paper published in the World Bank Working Paper Series, John Gibson, David McKenzie, and I look at exactly this question.
While much of migration policy has been focused on reducing costs of remittances and introducing new and inexpensive transmission channels, relatively little attention has been paid to educating customers on such benefits. After all, this could be pretty low hanging fruit – tell migrants about a cheaper way of remitting and they will switch.
With this thought in mind, we designed an information dissemination experiment for migrant workers in both Australia and New Zealand who had migrated from the Pacific Islands, East Asia, and Sri Lanka.