Migration provides a fast path to poverty reduction, perhaps a faster path than that offered by trade, capital flows and technology transfer. Yet, it remains ignored, its potential untapped by the development community.
Over 230 million international migrants send home over $400 billion in remittances, providing a stable lifeline to perhaps a billion people in poor, small and fragile countries. Remittances finance necessities, healthcare, education for children, and even small business investments. In the destination country, migrants provide labor and scarce skills for their employers, and create businesses and jobs for others. Migrants facilitate trade, skills, and technology transfers between countries. Diaspora savings are estimated to exceed $400 billion annually, and can be mobilized for financing of development goals. By some estimates, the global welfare gains from a relatively small increase in cross-border labor mobility could be larger than complete trade liberalization.
Yet, migration also poses daunting challenges for policy makers: in the origin countries, loss of critical skills and impacts on children left behind; in the destination countries, job competition for native workers, the fiscal burden of providing social services; impacts on national culture and identity. In recent years, immigration is often wrongly associated with threats to national security.
Developing countries face both sets of challenges. In particular, many developing countries that are also major destination countries for migration are grossly under-equipped to address these challenges. Worse, migration pressures are set to grow exponentially due to demographic changes. There is an urgent need to address migration within the development community.