Migrants represent 15% of Malaysia’s workforce, making the country home to the fourth largest number of migrants in the East Asia Pacific region. The migrant population is diverse, made up of workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and India, among many other countries.
Myanmar in 2012, when we started our financial sector engagement, and Myanmar today seem like two different worlds. Back then, sim cards cost close to US$500, visitors carried wads of crisp, new dollar bills, Yangon streets were filled with old models of Toyotas and Nissans, while the capital Nay Pyi Taw had only rickety hotels. Now streets lined with old shops have given way to $1 sim cards, brand new car models, international hotel chains and gleaming new shopping malls. ATMs and “We accept Visa and Master Card” signs are now nearly ubiquitous in the country’s cities.
In 1950, the average working-age person in the world had almost three years of education, but in East Asia and Pacific (EAP), the average person had less than half that amount. Around this time, countries in the EAP region put themselves on a path that focused on growth driven by human capital. They made significant and steady investments in schooling to close the educational attainment gap with the rest of the world. While improving their school systems, they also put their human capital to work in labor markets. As a result, economic growth has been stellar: for four decades EAP has grown at roughly twice the pace of the global average. What is more, no slowdown is in sight for rising prosperity.
High economic growth and strong human capital accumulation are deeply intertwined. In a recent paper, Daron Acemoglu and David Autor explore the way skills and labor markets interact: Human capital is the central determinant of economic growth and is the main—and very likely the only—means to achieve shared growth when technology is changing quickly and raising the demand for skills. Skills promote productivity and growth, but if there are not enough skilled workers, growth soon chokes off. If, by contrast, skills are abundant and average skill-levels keep rising, technological change can drive productivity and growth without stoking inequality.
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Emerging technologies are transforming global logistics. The evidence is everywhere: Logistics companies are exploring autonomous fleets and “lights-out” warehousing, and are looking to Big Data for transport management and predictive analytics. Crowdsourcing start-ups are using a high-tech/asset-light business model. And e-brokerage platforms are providing real-time information from pickup to delivery.
Also available in Myanmar (.pdf)
In our previous post, we discussed some of the major land-related challenges facing Myanmar’s transition and development. In fact, resolving outstanding land issues will help the country achieve social cohesion and stability, poverty reduction, sustainable urbanization, as well as economic growth.
The government has already started taking measures to institute strong and effective land administration.
Also available in: Myanmar (.pdf)
Struggles over land in Myanmar have been a defining characteristic of the country’s six decades of armed conflict.
In the past, government acquired lands for extracting natural resources, commercialized farming, and ambitious infrastructure projects, such as building of the new capital city of Nay Pyi Taw. Today, claims over land acquisition injustices dominate public discourse and the new government’s agenda. In parallel, infrastructure and institutions for land administration and property markets are grossly outdated and weak.
Available in Myanmar
Successful development is about making a reality of aspirations and ambitious ideas through effective implementation – Myanmar can achieve just that for its people by instilling the values of transparency, accountability and public participation in its public sector.
Ideas and policies matter. They have the power to be transformative. A strong and efficient, transparent and accountable public sector is crucial for translating inspiring ideas and policies into real development outcomes. If we liken Myanmar to a car, then the public sector – a collection of institutions, processes and people which together function as the machinery of government – has an important role to play. The people of Myanmar sit in the driver’s seat, the private sector is the engine which moves the economy forward – and the public sector acts as the car’s transmission and gearbox. If it’s running well, the car moves forward smoothly – but if it’s poorly maintained, people may be in for a bumpy ride.
As in much of the rest of the developing world, developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific (EAP) have made progress in closing many gender disparities, particularly in areas such as education and health outcomes. Even on the gender gaps that still remain significant, more is now known about why these have remained “sticky” despite rapid economic progress.
Ensuring that women and girls are on a level playing field with men and boys is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It is right because gender equality is a core objective of development. And it is smart because gender equality can spur development. It has been estimated, for instance, that labor productivity in developing East Asia and Pacific could be 7-18% higher if women had equal access to productive resources and worked in the same sectors and types of jobs as men.
But is it true? Not so.
In fact, the "17 year" statistic comes from a 2004 internal UNHCR report, and it was accompanied by many caveats which have been lost along the way. The statistic does not refer to camps, since the overwhelming majority of refugees live outside camps. It is limited to situations of five years or more, so it is an average duration of the longest situations, not of all situations. Most importantly, it refers to the duration of situations, not to the time people have stayed in exile.
Take the situation of Somali refugees in Kenya. Refugees started to arrive massively around 1993, about 23 years ago. Their number now stands at 418,000. But can we say that all 418,000 have been in exile for 23 years?
In fact, . As we see in Figure 1, numbers vary every year: they reflect political and military developments in the country of origin. In fact, a large part of the current total could not have arrived before 2008, i.e. about 6 or 7 years ago.
Figure 1 Number of Somali refugees in Kenya (UNHCR data)
Along these lines, and using data published by UNHCR as of end-2015, we re-calculated the earliest date at which various cohorts of refugees could have arrived in each situation (see working paper). We then aggregated all situations into a single "global refugee population" and calculated global averages and median durations.
So what are the results?
When we look at the "global refugee population" (See Figure 2), we can now distinguish several distinct episodes of displacement.
Figure 2 Number of refugees by year of exile
There is a large cohort of about 8.9 million "recent refugees," who arrived over the last four years. This includes about 4.8 million Syrians, as well as people fleeing from South Sudan (0.7 million), Afghanistan (0.3 million), Ukraine (0.3 million), the Central African Republic (0.3 million), and Pakistan (0.2 million).
Another large cohort, of about 2.2 million, has spent between 5 and 9 years in exile. It includes refugees from Afghanistan (0.5 million), the bulk of the current Somali refugees (0.4 million), and people fleeing from Colombia (0.3 million) and Myanmar (0.2 million).
About 2 million people have been in exile between 10 and 34 years. This includes years during which numbers are relatively low, and two episodes where they are higher, around 14 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.2 million Sudanese refugees, and around 24 and 25 years ago, with the arrival of about 0.1 million Somalis and 0.1 million Eritreans.
Lastly, a large group of refugees has been in exile for 35 to 37 years: these 2.2 million refugees include mainly Afghans, but also about 0.3 million ethnic Chinese who fled into China during the 1979 war with Vietnam. Finally, there are few very protracted situations, up to 55 years, including mainly Western Sahara.
We can now turn to average durations. As of end-2015, the median duration of exile stands at 4 years, i.e. half of the refugees worldwide have spent 4 years or less in exile. The median has fluctuated widely since the end of the Cold War, in 1991, between 4 and 14 years, and it is now at a historical low. By contrast, the mean duration stands at 10.3 years, and has been relatively stable since the late 1990s, between 10 and 15 years.
But this leads to another important finding: trends can be counter-intuitive. In fact, a decline in the average duration of exile is typically not an improvement, but rather the consequence of a degradation of the global situation. The averages increase in years when there are relatively few new refugees, and they drop when large numbers of people flow in, for example in 1993-1994 (with conflicts in Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda), in 1997-1999 (with conflicts in DRC and other parts of Africa), after 2003 (with conflict in Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan), and since 2013 (with the conflict in the Syrian Arab Republic).
We also looked at the number of people who have spent more than five years in exile. As of end-2015, this number stands at 6.6 million, and it has been remarkably stable since 1991, at 5 to 7 million throughout most of the period. For this group, however, the average duration of exile increases over time – largely because of the unresolved situation of Afghan refugees which pushes averages up. It is now well over 20 years.
This short analysis of UNHCR data shows that . It is important to ensure that this debate is informed by evidence, which can help provide a more nuanced perspective of a complex issue.
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