Maximising the benefits of South-South migration for development

Transforming perspectives through action: How migration can contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals to end poverty and reduce inequality

D2
Lab debate
Wednesday, June 19, 2019
09:00 to 10:15

The UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub is the world’s largest migration research project and the first to examine the relationship between inequality, migration and development processes. This session will cover:

  • How multidimensional inequalities create/constrain opportunities and benefits of South-South migration;
  • How policymakers can use migration to tackle poverty and inequality in the Global South by closing gaps in education and health; tackling prejudice, discrimination and social exclusion; and reducing income inequality;
  • How global organisations and donors can embed migration in development policies and the delivery of Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees; and
  • The importance of shifting migration narratives to create political space for new initiatives.

Key points

  • Intra-regional migratory flows are overlooked in European public discourse.
  • Regional inequality is often reinforced by migration.
  • There is huge potential for policy leverage such as by improving education in the countries of departure.
  • The root causes for migration, such as instability and insecurity.

Synopsis

Globally, there is a multitude of migration corridors, notably within Africa, Latin America and towards China. For the most part, migration occurs as intracontinental flows across or within a region or towards another developing country, even while the policy focus is set on halting migration to Europe and North America. There are six migration corridors in the Global South, which see a constant two-way movement of people, knowledge and resources. In terms of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), South-South migration has four main aims: poverty reduction, attaining decent work conditions, gender equality and reduction of inequality in itself. There is huge variation in migration volumes between developing countries, as people move more easily on the same continent. Academic research on migration focuses on the people that do move and where they move to, but often ignores the structural context and the structural drivers, such as social inequality and issues of class, gender and ethnic origin. Migration is a structural driver that refers to the broader context of change; there are significant links also with poverty levels and regional inequality, local labour markets and the education system in the countries of departure. The movement of people is still largely inter-regional and explained by the striving for better access to education and health services. In fact, studies show that education is a major driver, since the migrants have been shown to have significantly better access to education in the countries they move to. In terms of social inequality, migrants’ remittances play a big part in the economy in their countries of departure. The flow of remittances also risks contributing to greater social inequality, because not everybody benefits. Even though remittances are used to fund education and better livelihoods locally, they can also risk contributing to further gender inequality, for example, as women may not have the same access to the funds. In the receiving countries, there is some scope for policy efforts to channel the remittances in the right direction. There are studies from West Africa that show that social protection programmes involving financial transactions in fact tend to lead to more migration to European countries, as households use the extra funds to sponsor a migrant’s departure. There is significant scope for policy leverage to address inequality in the migrants’ countries of departure by boosting the education system in particular. To the degree migrants return, they contribute with human capital in terms of new social networks, knowledge and impressions that they share. Migration in itself is also indicative of inequality, since migrants tend not to come from the poorest households in their countries of departure. There is also evidence that a higher degree of development achieved in a country equals more migration.

Insight

The drivers of migration need to be tackled as they are often the results of bad policies. For example, structural reform in rural areas could be a measure, as well as professional training programmes, but these have to be matched with the needs in the migrants’ countries of origin; otherwise, they could prompt more migration.

Organised by

Speakers

Moderator
Heaven Crawley
Research Professor
Coventry University
Joseph Teye
Speaker
University of Ghana
Katja Hujo
Senior Research Coordinator
United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
Jason Gagnon
Development economist
OECD Development Centre