Migration and post-2015 development goals


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On the eve of the international migrants day, many people are debating how migration might feature in the post-2015 development goals. There is no doubt that migration - international and internal - affects several of the current MDGs: poverty, education, health of children and mothers, environment, gender, and also several elements of a global public good such a role in financial and natural crisis. Migration directly impacts the migrants, their families and their employers, and also impacts development indirectly. Development in turn impacts migration. There is no doubt that migration is a very important driver of development. And yet, since it directly challenges national identity and sovereignty, it is not easy to arrive at a consensus on specific migration targets.

We discussed this topic in a short session last week at the KNOMAD global experts meeting in Washington. We discussed whether, instead of numerical targets, the world might strive for a set of minimum rights for migrants. The experience with the ratification of the UN declaration of migrant rights has not been great in the past, and more work is needed on how specific rights impact specific development outcomes. We also discussed whether the P2015 DGs might include some language recognizing the important role of migration in global development. However, more specific numerical targets are necessary for making a real impact. Can we come up with numerical targets relating to internal and international migration? How about reducing remittance costs? Reducing visa fees, passport fees, and recruitment fees? Increasing the share of migrants in the population (to stop the fall in population and increase economic growth)? A target level of development funding raised via diaspora bonds? Or a unilateral oath such as "Our country will treat immigrants the same way as we expect our migrants to be treated in other countries"?


Dilip Ratha

Manager, Migration and Remittances Unit and Head, KNOMAD, Global Indicators Group, World Bank

Join the Conversation

Shaun Daley
January 05, 2013

This is anathema - no democratic developed country can permit large scale immigration from developing countries. In practice, it has undermined welfare systems, spread inequality within countries and damaged societies within existing rich states. Democratic developed countries only want skilled immigrants or wealthy immigrants - preferably with a good middle class cultural fit.

It would be far more realistic to pursue free rural-urban migration within countries, or free migration between countries with similar income levels (where there is less risk of mass migration; but still the enormous economic & human benefit from skills arbitrage & larger market size).

While a focus on economics of poverty might recommend a world of open borders, only the most oppressive of authoritarian government (the complete antithisis of what we would aspire to) would have the leeway to force this through against cross-population opposition (which is innevitable - people have a higher level of empathy for their compatriots than for immigrants from poor countries with alien cultures & no employability; they begrudge the social & economic damage that immigration causes for their lower income groups).

Convergence of income levels and spread of liberal middle class culture might make EU-style freedom of movement possible worldwide one day, but that day is not here (and won't be for many decades).

Certainly, geographic mobility is essential for economic restructuring, accessing infrastructure, accessing markets & productivity growth (along with gender equality, fertility rates, access to education, access to primary healthcare, access to reliable food supplies, access to water, internet, mobile phone networks, power & sewage, etc). But the more fruitful & productive ground would be in "West Afrcan free movement of labour" & other such regional movements, and in the promotion of rural-urban migration (whether by reforming institutions to favour urban development; selling agricultural land to commercial developers to displace subsistance farmers into cities; or similar).

January 05, 2013

Won't the cost of remittance costs go down as ICT technology enables new methods of transfer that bypass traditional MTO's? However, other issues then arise as the instance of criminal activity may increase thus financial and legal regulations would need to be investigated but I definitely think emerging markets should embrace these new technologies whole heartedly to benefit and perhaps gain a competitve advantage over their already developed neighbours.

Eric Guichard
January 06, 2013

Nice piece, Dilip. Always on the cutting edge. In the vein of the above discussion - What about reducing regulatory restrictions on Diasporans ability to invest in private investments back home? Your stellar research in Kenya (according to the Central Bank of Kenya) suggests that up to 25% of remittances received by Kenya is seeking investment. Assuming similar numbers for Africa, and considering that the continent receives about $40 bil per annum in remittances, we are talking about $10 bil per annum in private funding (P2P) that could be directed at such things as housing, infrastructure, health care, SMEs...Unfortunately, host countries like the US, Canada, and the EU have significant restrictions on who can invest in opportunities that are not listed on stock exchanges or not registered with the regulators. One has to either qualify as a High Net Worth investor ($1 million in assets or work in the financial industry). Also, registration of investment opportunities can be prohibitively expensive. And so channels that could facilitate the flow of private capital from Diasporans to productive sectors in their home country, are inadvertently hampered by host country securities laws. The irony is that removing these regulatory impediments could reduce the fiscal burden of foreign aid on host countries. Maybe the World Bank could advocate for a better migrant worker investment regulatory framework in the host country?

By Eric Guichard
Founder/CEO of Homestrings, Ltd