Published on People Move

The Business Case for Migration promoted by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)

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In observance of the International Migrants Day, Dec 18

We live in an increasingly globalizing world, characterized by the transnational movement of goods, services, people and ideas. Yet, the merits of international migration have been underestimated. In fact, migration has recently been at the wrong end of the stick; its discourse the world over driven by political rhetoric with populism, xenophobia, issues of security and the flag of sovereignty and nationality as its principal tools.

As a result, the politics rather than the economics of migration influence and shape Migration Praxis. As elsewhere, but especially in International Migration, good economics does not necessarily mean good politics. This poses an obstacle in the engagement of industry and business in migration policy. Freer economic migration is good for business, catalyzing innovation, investment and entrepreneurship - the building blocks of sustainable development. There is evidence that these are a direct result of the mobility of people. International migration also spurs the investment rate, saving rate and the consumption rate that further serves to expand business and trade.

Despite these obvious gains, an irony peculiar to our globalizing world is the noticeable absence of industry in substantial measure at the Migration High Table. However, there is some reason to be optimistic. The ‘new thinking’ in migration which is making its appearance in some policy circles advocates this change - a more persuasive and perhaps persistent voice for the private sector. The GFMD, a state-led process, in 2015 launched a separate ‘business mechanism’. Industry bodies like the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (FICCI) have also advisedly responded to this new thinking.

The Indian Diaspora, in addition to being one of the largest, is also one of the most successful in the world. In 2015, India was the top recipient of remittances at $ 69 billion despite a $ 1 billion drop. Yet the costs of remitting remain high as do costs of recruitment. The Indian industry must find modes of engagement with the Diaspora that take advantage of the success they have achieved and use it as a force for development.

There is also a discernible trend of the positive ‘brain circulation’ phenomenon. To encourage this and to define the Industry’s role in facilitating this is an important item on our agenda. FICCI is carrying out research on return migration and technology transfer in a pan-India survey. India is earnestly working towards building an image of a welcoming country but these efforts need to be strengthened at all levels. The solutions to these will necessitate the involvement of the Indian Industry.

But perhaps, one of Indian Industry’s most important contributions can be through skill development of our youth with a gender focus. India is at that unique threshold where its demographic and economic transitions generate a surplus of workers in the economy. Also women are no longer migrating as dependents; they are increasingly migrating as workers, independent professionals and service providers. However, most emigration from India is still in the low-skilled category; 90 per cent of which is to the Gulf countries. A skilled workforce is necessary for industry upgrading; it stimulates innovation and helps countries move up the global value chain. Co-ordination between the main stakeholders in the skills market helps achieve the targets of industrial policy. To add to this long list of incentives, there are glaring labour shortages and skill gaps the world over. Industry also has a role to play in the harmonisation of the recognition of skills and their certification and in the facilitation of bilateral coordination for social security arrangements. To this end, FICCI has launched the Global Alliance on Talent, Entrepreneurship and Skills (GA-TES) which will bring together Industry associations and business leaders all over the world to promote the ‘Business Case for Migration’.

Finally, whether or not Indian Industry or Industry all over the world partakes in the facilitation and advocacy of freer economic migration, it will continue to take place. Changing the perceptions about migration, not overstating its negatives and understating its positives, will be a good place to begin with.



Alwyn Didar Singh

Secretary General, FICCI

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