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Gender Dimensions of Migration & Development




Understanding the Links Between Migration & Development


There is much debate as to whether migration promotes development in home countries. While cash remittances sent by diaspora populations do benefit home countries, policymakers must recognise the social and economic costs caused by emigration and seek to enhance the positive links where possible.

A paper from the University of Oxford, in the UK, reviews the emigration experience of five developing countries. India, Mexico, Morocco, the Philippines and Turkey have all undergone a demographic transition that means they have more young people entering the labour market than can find jobs. These countries have suffered from uneven economic development and the impoverishment of certain groups, leading to intense rural to urban migration and onward migration to industrial countries. In four of the countries, the state has played an essential role in promoting labour export.

The transfer of labour power and skills through labour migration can be seen as a form of development aid from developing countries to rich countries. For the Philippines – where remittances account for 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product – the legacy of three decades of organised labour export is the absence of industrialisation and economic growth, in contrast to neighbouring countries. Nowhere is the ‘deskilling’ effect of migration more pronounced than in the case of the Mexican population in the United States – the world’s largest diaspora.

The emergence of emigration as a ‘rite of passage’ in such countries not only leads to a loss of productive workers, but also to the absence of people who can be agents of change in their home countries. The paper draws attention to the problems caused by:

Strategies of ‘remittance-led development’ are often naïve. Collective remittances for community investment by hometown associations and similar groups are still very small in comparison with private remittance flows. In some circumstances, remittances can lead to over-consumption, inefficient types of investment and economic dependence on continuing emigration.

Remittances will only lead to economic growth if appropriate policies are put in place to encourage legal transfers and productive investment, reduce inequality, tackle corruption and unnecessary bureaucracy, and improve governance. The author makes the following conclusions:

‘Comparing the Experience of Five Major Emigration Countries’, International Migration Institute Working Paper No. 7, University of Oxford: Oxford, by Stephen Castles, 2007 (PDF) Full document.
‘Migration and Development: Perspectives from the South’, International Organization for Migration: Geneva, edited by Stephen Castles and Raúl Delgado Wise, forthcoming 2008

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