In this period of parliamentary elections, it is timely to take a different look at migration and deconstruct some false myths about it. When the media speaks of migration; it dwells only its negative effects on economic development and, often with passion; however its positive effects are rarely mentioned. And yet, the International Migration Office (IMO)) and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) in their 2018 report SOFA (State of Food and Agriculture) clearly highlighted the positive relationship between migration and development for both migrants’ countries of origin and countries of arrival.
For the countries of origin of migrants
It is already known that remittances from migrants to their families back home are one of the most important sources of income in countries of origin. These shipments even exceed the structural assistance provided by state development agencies (a significant part of which is administrative costs).
Student migrants, especially scholarship holders, when they return to their countries of origin contribute to their development through the knowledge they acquired during their studies.
The awareness of diasporas of the advantages of the rule of law over the undemocratic or even dictatorial states from which they often come leads them to put pressure on their own country to become a state governed by the rule of law.
Rural migration reduces pressure on the land and other available resources when populations leave an area whereas, because of high population density, there is too much pressure on available resources.
The benefits of migration for development must be weighed against the loss to the country of origin of the temporary or permanent departure of its population and against the problems caused by population movements.
For receiving migration countries
Direct benefits for development
Migrants constitute a young and courageous population, judging by their determination. In a number of cases, this is a population already trained, and this training has been costly for the country of origin, despite the limited budget of most of these countries. The host countries of these migrants therefore receive skilled labour at no cost to them.
When migrants are not yet trained, there is a very strong willingness to integrate and train with many successes.
Migrants’ diasporas in countries of emigration are very active. By providing jobs in places where the local labour force is limited, migrants enable services and businesses to operate while bringing their own expertise. Moreover, migrants stimulate the economy by innovations (trade in exotic fruits and vegetables, night shop, import-export of vehicles, etc.).
Indirect benefits for development
Through their presence, culture and convictions, migrants enrich culturally, politically, scientifically, demographically, religiously the society of the host countries. They provoke a progressive demographic mixing, which prepares the multicultural society of tomorrow. Migrants partially compensate for the low birth rate in destination countries in Europe.
The majority of migrants come from countries at war or from low-income countries or countries suffering from climate change. The responsibility of Western countries in the wars, underdevelopment and climate change of the global South is strongly engaged. Migrants from these countries confront Western countries with their actions and implicitly and explicitly push them to change their policies.
Globalization has brought the Western lifestyle of short-term profit and unsustainable consumerism before the eyes of the entire world’s inhabitants; from a distance, Western countries are falsely perceived by the people of the global South as an El Dorado. Migrants show us that our lifestyle is unsustainable and that it must be fundamentally challenged.
The financial, administrative, educational and judicial burden on the destination countries of receiving and integrating migrants must be weighed against the benefit of migration for growth.
In any case, even if, in all the countries of the world, everyone could live with dignity, migration will continue because the desire to go and see elsewhere has always been in the human mind.
Therefore, accepting and organizing safe, orderly and regular migration now makes sense.
KEY MESSAGES FROM SOFA 2018
- Migration, despite the difficulties it can pose, is an integral part of economic, social and human development and helps to reduce inequalities both within and between countries.
- All countries are, at some point in their development, a region of departure, arrival or transit of international migration flows, sometimes all three at the same time.
- Globally, the scale of international migration is significantly smaller than that of internal migration: in developing countries, the latter affects more than one billion people.
- International and internal migration flows have common factors and form an integrated system: for example, in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to emigrate abroad than people who have never migrated.
- In developing regions with high urbanization rates, rural migration – in all its forms – accounts for at least 50 per cent of internal displacement. In sub-Saharan Africa, their share is over 75 percent.
- Rural emigration can be a source of income diversification and a mechanism for adapting to slow-moving environmental pressures, such as severe water shortages. However, the poorest populations, who are most affected by obstacles to mobility, rarely have the opportunity to migrate.
- In protracted crisis situations, rural areas host large numbers of displaced persons, creating new challenges that can have repercussions. The difficulties can be mitigated by the implementation of rural development policies aimed at the economic and social integration of migrants. These policies can benefit both displaced persons and their host regions.
- In many developed countries, migrants can help to reduce labour shortages in high-value agricultural activities that are not easily mechanized, but their integration is sometimes difficult for both themselves and host countries. Establishing and implementing regulations and programmes to protect migrants’ employment rights can improve their working conditions.
- The priorities of rural migration policies depend on the constantly changing situation of countries: countries facing a prolonged crisis, countries facing difficulties in the employment of young rural people, countries in economic and demographic transition or developed countries in need of migrant labour will have different priorities.
- Coherence between migration policies and agricultural and rural development policies is essential to ensure that migration is safe, orderly and regular. Policies should not aim to reduce or accelerate migration flows, but to maximize their economic and social benefits while minimizing the challenges faced by migrants and societies.
Adolf Fabregas Tarrida and Christian Roberti AEFJN Belgium