Development on the Move Reveals the Devil in the Detail

Language is very revealing. Phil Woolas, Hon. Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, said that Britain’s ‘screwed up’ attitude to international migration was revealed by the way people talk about it. “Think about it: we emigrate to Australia but we retire to Spain. Overseas people in our country are immigrants but when we go to theirs, we’re expatriates. We see people from France as visitors but from further afield as immigrants.”

Minister Woolas was attending the Special Session on GDN’s global research project ‘Development on the Move: Measuring and Optimising Migration’s Economic and Social Impacts‘, on the second day of the conference. He said that migration was the ‘second hottest issue’ in the forthcoming General Election, and he wanted to ‘explain why we got it wrong, and recalibrate the policy’.

“UK Immigration Policies must better resonate with our International Development Policies.” He said. “We need better understanding of the push and pull factors behind international migration at both the macro and micro level.”

The research project, which explores the development impacts of migration in Colombia, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Macedonia and Vietnam, provides valuable new micro-level information and analysis to fill this gap.

Zoran Nikolovski, Director of Educon Research, presented the case study on his country Macedonia. International migration is so important to Macedonia, that there is a word in the official language to describe ‘a person who goes abroad to earn money’: it is ‘Pechalbar’. Together, up to one quarter of the country’s 2.1m population are migrants (IMF figures), and 36% of them remit.

Mauricio Cardenas, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, said that remittances in Colombia are ‘as important as the number one export, oil’. An estimated two million people left Colombia in the ten years between 1998-2008 because of the economic crisis, and increasing levels of violence. He displayed maps of the country which showed the focus of this exodus to be in the main coffee-growing regions, which were hit hard by the collapse in coffee prices.

Laura Chappell, from the Institute for Public Policy Research highlighted the lessons learned across all seven country studies. She said that remittances and migration is not always coincidental, for example 36% of households in Colombia receive remittances from non-family members. Employment, pay and freedom to remit are the main reasons why people migrate, and the studies found that government schemes to entice migrants back home are not important. Income for the migrants themselves increased between 70-90%.

Jeni Klugman, Director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP, welcomed the research and in particular the richness of the studies, which clearly showed the nature of benefits and policy implications. “The research shows the importance of barriers to movement, especially legal movement. We need to explore the nature of these barriers to the movers themselves.” She said “Mobility has the potential to enhance human development among movers, stayers and the majority of those in destination places. But outcomes can be adverse: there is lots of scope for improvement.”

See more stories from the GDN 2010 Conference, watch participants’ videos interviews, download conference presentations and papers

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About Pier Andrea Pirani
Information, knowledge sharing and communications in international development - Social media and collaboration tools.

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