Did you know that almost half of Tajikistan’s GDP comes from migrant remittances? Or that China and India between them receive USD 100 billion from the same source? These are just some statistics contained in the latest report by the International Organisation for Migration.
The Report makes interesting reading as it’s packed with interesting facts and figures, but also seeks to advance some kind of normative framework for policy making in the field of immigration (which we don’t always agree with). Perhaps its most interesting chapter is chapter five. This deals with migration and international development.
Trends in migration
The report points out that over the next few decades international migration is expected to expand and change in its reach and complexity. The effects of environmental change, new global political and economic dynamics, technological revolutions, social networks and growing demographic disparities will account for this. The latter will also mean that demand for skilled, but also unskilled labour (contrary to public assertions) in the developed world will remain high.
Development and migration
The report highlights that at least one effect of an expansion in migration is likely to be increased remittances by migrants. Chapter 5 goes on to discuss ways in which this can be harnessed in order to aid international development. Reducing transaction costs, increasing the speed and efficiency of formal transfers by using new technologies such as cell phone together with employer payroll deductions are just some suggestions for optimizing remittance flows.
It also however highlights the importance of states establishing migratory systems that genuinely reflect the wider migration trends discussed above. Failure to do this will condemn migrants to deploying irregular routes of entry and in so doing diminish the developmental benefits of migration as irregular migrants display a far lower propensity to remit.
The chapter goes on to discuss other ways in which the development impact of remittances can be maximized. It discusses initiatives in origin countries e.g.tax exemptions for capital investment from remittances. It also deals with engaging diasporas; consolidating knowledge networks; strengthening the links between return and development; promoting circular migration; training to retain, developing ethical recruitment policies and. institutional capacity-building.
The key point to emerge from the chapter however is that whilst migration is not a replacement for aid and other development initiatives – indeed migrants are particularly susceptible to shocks in the global economy, there is a pressing need to mainstream migration into development plans.
Whilst there has been growing recognition of the inter-relationship between migration and development internationally, advances in the UK have been few and far between.
The UK was in fact rated poor by the Global Development Index for its migratory system, and presently migration and international development policy making is dealt with by entirely separate departments who treat the areas as unrelated to one another. This divide is regrettably also often mirrored in the advocacy of both NGOs concerned with development and immigration.
At a point when the Coalition has made some commitment to promoting international development through raising its overseas aid budget, its reluctance to engage with this in its review of our labour migration scheme represents a missed opportunity.