Published on People Move

Closing one door and opening another: New migration from the South

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One is used to seeing leaders of developing nations asking rich countries for aid and debt relief, requesting preferential trading arrangements, and courting western foreign investors. Making a case to a firmly middle-income country to take in their workers is perhaps something new! 

The President of Bangladesh recently requested Romania to recruit skilled and semi-skilled Bangladeshi workers as a way to contribute to the Romanian economy. Middle-income developing countries such as Romania and Poland that benefited from the opening of EU labor markets have been facing chronic labor shortages (although that might change if their own emigrants in the UK, Ireland and elsewhere return in large numbers) and are now viewed as a potential new labor market destination for poorer developing countries.  

The Central Bank of Bangladesh has reported that remittances are an important source of external finance, amounting to nearly $8 billion in the 2008 fiscal year. While more than half of this came from high income countries in the Gulf, there are some signs that the region has reduced worker recruitment from Bangladesh this year. Neighboring Nepal (expected to receive $2.3 billion in remittances in 2008) has experienced a fall in the number of workers going abroad in September and October

Some of the larger migrant-sending countries such as the Philippines are not yet reporting a fall in the number of emigrant workers, but they are also actively monitoring the job situation of their emigrants and considering redeploying displaced Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to "emerging labor markets". 

The efforts of the policymakers in migrant-sending countries to redirect their flows to other "South" (developing) countries might be helped by the fact that while developed countries are expected to experience negative economic growth in 2009, developing countries will grow by 6.3 percent in 2008 and 4.5 percent in 2009 (says the latest Global Economic Prospects report). Since developing countries are expected to have positive growth, while the rich countries will have negative growth, developing countries -- especially middle-income countries like Romania, Poland and India -- might become attractive destinations for migrants. 


Sanket Mohapatra

Associate Professor, IIM Ahmedabad

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