Major Migration Shifts Playing Key Development Role in Global South, Says Report
New trends in global migration show considerable changes in the size, direction and complexity of migration, both within and between countries over the past 20 years, and the reasons behind that shift will be the main focus of discussion during the forty-sixth session of the United Nations Commission on Population and Development, to be held at Headquarters from 22 to 26 April.
The global stock of international migrants increased to 214 million in 2010 from 155 million in 1990. The number of internal migrants is even larger, as most migrants move within their countries rather than across international borders, according to a report of the Secretary-General on new trends in migration, prepared by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (document E/CN.9/2013/3).
“Migration remains a dynamic driver of development,” said Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “An increasing number of migrants are going to new places in different directions compared to 20 years ago, while others follow well-worn paths,” he added. “For most, the migrant’s age-old goal remains the same, and that is to seek new opportunities to improve the lives of themselves and their families, while contributing to the growth and well-being of the host countries.”
New Trends in Global Migration
Conflict, environmental degradation, changes in socioeconomic conditions, an increase in human trafficking, and the integration and disintegration of countries are among the major factors contributing to recent trends. International migrants are moving over greater distances than previously. The percentage of migrants originating from a neighbouring country has fallen globally, from 46 per cent in 1990 to 37 per cent in 2010, according to the Secretary-General’s report.
New poles of economic growth in the global South have created new migratory flows between countries of the South. In recent years, there has also been a significant increase in migration from developing to developed countries. Growth in migration from the South to the North has generated significant remittance flows to the South that can spur economic growth. According to the World Bank, officially recorded remittances to developing countries reached $406 billion in 2012.
Many of the rapidly growing economies in East and South-East Asia, South America and West Africa have become poles for migration within their respective regions. In addition, the oil-producing countries of Western Asia and some countries of Southern Europe experienced a rapid growth in the numbers of international migrants between 1990 and 2010. Following the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, some trends slowed or reversed temporarily, but more recent national data indicate that migration to most of those countries rose in 2011.
Today, most States are concurrently origin, destination and transit countries. In 2010, of the 43 hosting at least 1 million immigrants, 24 were the place of origin for more than 1 million emigrants. Countries that experienced large gains in migrants between 1990 and 2010, such as Malaysia, Nigeria and Thailand, also experienced a large increase in the number of their citizens living abroad.
Yet, international migration remains highly concentrated. In 2010, of the 214 million international migrants, 50 million lived in North America and 70 million in Europe. The 10 largest destination countries in 2010 also continued to account for slightly more than half of the global migrant population.
Many people also flee from conflict, oppression or persecution. At the end of 2011, an estimated 42.5 million people worldwide lived in places to which they had been forcibly displaced, including refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons.
Addressing Challenges and Finding Solutions Key for Commission
The Commission will consider practical measures to harness the various benefits of migration and to address policy challenges. “Such measures might include policies that lower the costs of migration, ensure equal treatment with nationals, encourage transnational portability of pensions and other social benefits, and promote mutual recognition of diplomas and qualifications,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division.
The Commission is also expected to highlight links between migration and development. Migration is generally considered beneficial to social and economic development in origin and destination countries. In the latter, immigrants increase the productive capacity of the economy and contribute to economic growth. In origin countries, migration can help alleviate problems of under-employment and, through remittances, contribute to economic and human development.
During the session, representatives and experts from Member States, United Nations entities and civil society will gather to consider the theme “New Trends in Migration: Demographic Aspects”. Issues arising will be relevant to the migration-related aspects of the post-2015 development agenda, and will inform the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, scheduled to take place in October as part of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly.