Migration Complements Development, But Not a Substitute for Domestic Programmes

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Migration can make an important contribution to development at home, but is not an alternative to efforts by developing countries to achieve growth and improve human well-being, according to the 2009 Human Development Report launched here today.

The Report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, finds that mobility generates access to ideas, knowledge and resources that complement and enhance progress. Most migrants, internal and international, reap gains in the form of higher incomes, better access to education and health and improved prospects for their children. These gains often directly benefit family members who stay behind as well as countries of origin indirectly. To ensure the best possible benefits from migration, the Report urges governments in origin countries to make mobility an integral part of national development programmes.

"Migration can benefit those who move and those who stay," says the Report's lead author Jeni Klugman. "However, migration cannot be the sole national strategy to accelerate human development. Countries must continue to address the constraints to human development at home, with migration viewed as a potential element in a broad-based approach."

This is the latest publication in a series of global Human Development Reports, which aim to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, from climate change to human rights. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Migration policies and development

The Report shows that migration can also have a significant impact on reducing poverty in a country. This is especially true for internal migration, since it is much easier for people from poor families to move within borders than across them. Evidence from Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Tanzania shows that poverty rates fall for households with at least one member who has moved elsewhere within the country.

Countries of origin benefit from emigration in many ways, especially through money transfers, or remittances. In total, remittance flows to developing countries are around four times the size of total official development aid (ODA) that they receive.

Mobility also brings other benefits, such as new ideas, entrepreneurial skills and the transfer of technology to help with economic activities at home. These so-called 'social remittances' can have a more intangible but no less significant affect on services and practices, such as health, education and gender relations.

One traditional concern about migration has revolved around what has been seen as an exodus of skilled labour, such as teachers, doctors and nurses from developing to developed countries--the so-called 'brain drain'. However, the Report argues that this is typically a symptom rather than a cause of weak and inadequate health, education and other services. Instead of trying to restrict migration, what is needed are development policies that address underlying structural problems, such as low pay, inadequate financing and weak institutions.

For some countries, especially small states, emigration is a major factor in their society and economy. The 13 countries with the highest rates of emigration in the world are all small states, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis with emigration rates above 40 percent. The financial benefits associated with migration are relatively large. In 2007, remittances to small states averaged US$233 per capita, compared to a developing country average of $52.

Research commissioned by Overcoming barriers shows that a number of countries, including Albania, Bangladesh, the Kyrgyz Republic and Sri Lanka, have successfully linked migration policies to their strategies for reducing poverty. Others have acknowledged the role of remittances and, among other efforts, are attempting to attract investments by members of the diaspora.

According to the Report, national development plans offer an opportunity to better integrate mobility into overall development priorities, and therefore that migration--while not a panacea for a country's problems--must be considered when creating strategies for development.

To access the Human Development Report and the complete press kit please visit: http://hdr.undp.org

ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report continues to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Jeni Klugman is the lead author of the 2009 Report. The Report is translated into more than a dozen languages and launched in more than 100 countries annually. The 2009 Human Development Report is published in English by Palgrave Macmillan.

About human development: Human Development is the expansion of the freedoms that people have to live their lives as they choose. This conception--inspired by the path-breaking work of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and the leadership of the late Mahbub ul Haq, and known also as the capabilities approach because of its emphasis on the freedom that people have to achieve vital 'beings and doings'--has been at the core of UNDP's approach since the first Human Development Report in 1990, and is as relevant as ever to the design of effective policies to combat poverty and deprivation. This approach has proved powerful in reshaping thinking about topics as diverse as gender, human security and climate change.

About UNDP: UNDP is the UN's global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. Please visit: http://www.undp.org

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Jean-Yves Hamel
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