P R W P 5558
Impact of Migration on Economic
and Social Development
A Review of Evidence and Emerging Issues
e World Bank
Development Prospects Group
Migration and Remittances Unit
Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network
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P R W P 5558
is paper provides a review of the literature on the
development impact of migration and remittances
on origin countries and on destination countries in
the South. International migration is an ever-growing
phenomenon that has important development
implications for both sending and receiving countries.
For a sending country, migration and the resulting
remittances lead to increased incomes and poverty
reduction, and improved health and educational
outcomes, and promote economic development.
Yet these gains might come at substantial social
costs to the migrants and their families. Since
many developing countries are also large recipients
of international migrants, they face challenges of
integration of immigrants, job competition between
is paper is a joint product of the Migration and Remittances Unit of the Development Prospects Group, Development
Economics Vice Presidency; and Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. It is part of a larger eort by
the World Bank to provide open access to its research and make a contribution to development policy discussions around
the world. Policy Research Working Papers are also posted on the Web at http://econ.worldbank.org. e authors can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
migrant and native workers, and scal costs associated
with provision of social services to the migrants. is
paper also summarizes incipient discussions on the
impacts of migration on climate change, democratic
values, demographics, national identity, and security.
In conclusion, the paper highlights a few policy
recommendations calling for better integration of
migration in development policies in the South and
the North, improving data collection on migration and
remittance ows, leveraging remittances for improving
access to nance of recipient households and countries,
improving recruitment mechanisms, and facilitating
international labor mobility through safe and legal
Impact of Migration on Economic and Social
Development: A Review of Evidence and Emerging
Dilip Ratha, Sanket Mohapatra and Elina Scheja*
Keywords: International migration, Remittances; Development; Social welfare, Poverty
reduction, Fiscal impacts, Integration, Climate change
* This paper—a product of the joint Migration and Remittances Unit of the Development Prospects Group,
Development Economics Vice Presidency (DEC) and Poverty Reduction and Economic Management
Network (PREM)—was a background paper for Roundtable 3 on ―Migration and Development: Tools and
Evidence for Policy and Institutional Coherence‖ of the Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on
Migration and Development 2010 held on November 8-11, 2010, at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We would
like to thank Hans Timmer for extensive discussions and William Shaw for helpful comments on an earlier
draft. Comments are welcome, and may be sent to email@example.com. The findings, interpretations and
conclusions expressed in this paper are entirely those of the authors. They do not necessarily represent the
view of the World Bank.
Impact of Migration on Economic and Social Development: A
Review of Evidence and Emerging Issues
This paper provides a review of the literature on the development impact of
migration and remittances on origin countries and on destination countries in the South.
International migration has development implications for origin and destination countries
in the South and in the North. Some 215 million people or 3 percent of the world’s
population are believed to live outside their countries of birth (United Nations 2009).
While the focus in the literature has been on South-North migration, the number of
migrants between developing countries is estimated to be as large as the number of
migrants moving from South to North (Ratha & Shaw 2007). Thus, the development
implications of migration and the need to manage in-migration are as relevant to the
South as they are to the North. Although violent conflict, political persecution, and
trafficking are important causes for international mobility, more than 9 out of 10
international migrants move for economic reasons. By and large, migration has positive
economic impacts on the migrant household, the sending country as well as the receiving
The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides a discussion of the
development implications, first economic and then social impacts, of migration for origin
countries. Section 3 discusses the available evidence on the impact of migration on
destination countries in the South. Section 4 concludes with a brief discussion of selected
emerging migration issues such as environment and climate change, fertility and
demographic patterns, democratic processes, and national security, and some policy
recommendations for enhancing the impact of migration on economic and social
1 While some of the topics are new in relation to migration, some have been widely discussed by
practitioners in this context. However, the academic literature is still largely underdeveloped in these areas
making them ’emerging topics’ in relation to available migration research.
2. Development implications of migration for the origin countries
Migration is a decision that impacts the welfare of the household, the home
community, and in the end the whole economy in various ways (Azam and Gubert 2006).
The welfare implications of migration on the origin country are most often, though not
always, sizable and positive. The main channels through which migration alleviates
poverty are increased incomes from remittances, ability to smooth consumption, access to
finance for starting a new business, as well as tapping on to the knowledge and resources
provided by the international community of the migrant diaspora. Besides pure monetary
gains, migration and remittances allow for higher investment in health care and
education. Yet, not all impacts are positive: exploitation of migrants by unscrupulous
recruiters or employers is reportedly widespread; separation from family can be stressful
for migrants; and large scale immigration can pose serious challenges to a nation’s
identity and sovereignty.
2.1 Economic implications for the country of origin
While migration has economic, social, and cultural implications for the sending
and host societies, remittances the migrants send home are perhaps the most tangible and
least controversial link between migration and development (Ratha 2007). According to
the official estimates, migrants from developing countries sent over $315 billion to their
origin countries in 2009, three times the size of official development assistance (Ratha et
al. 2010). The true size of remittances including unrecorded flows through formal and
informal channels is likely to be even higher. While remittances to developing countries
declined modestly in 2009 because of the global financial crisis, these flows have
remained resilient compared to private capital flows, and have become even more
important as a source of external financing in many developing countries.
Migration and remittances have both direct and indirect effects on the welfare of
the population in the migrant sending countries.2 A cross-country study of 71 developing
countries found that a 10 percent increase in per capita official international remittances
will lead to 3.5 percent decline in the share of people living in poverty (Adams & Page
2See World Bank (2005), UNDP (2009), Skeldon (2002), Kothari (2002), and De Haas (2005).
2005). Evidence from Latin America, Africa, South Asia and other regions suggests that
remittances reduce the depth and severity of poverty, as well as indirectly stimulate
economic activity (Adams 1991, Lachaud 1999, Fajnzylber & Lopez 2007, Adams
2006b, Gupta et al. 2007, Anyanwu and Erhijakpor 2010, Ajayi et al. 2009). The
dramatic increase in remittances was responsible for one third to one half of the overall
reduction in headcount poverty rate in Nepal from 42 percent in 1995-96 to 31 percent in
2003-04 (World Bank 2006a).
Remittances have been found to have an income stabilizing effect at both the
macroeconomic level (World Bank 2006b, Chami et al. 2009) and at the household level.
Historically, remittances have tended to rise in times of economic downturns, financial
crises, and natural disasters because migrants living abroad send more money to help
their families back home (World Bank 2006b, Yang 2006, Yang and Choi 2007,
Mohapatra et al. 2010). In Ghana, remittances were found to help households to
minimize the effects of economic shocks on household welfare (Quartey 2006).3
Remittance-receiving households in Ethiopia used their cash reserves and thus avoided
having to sell their livestock to cope with drought (Mohapatra et al. 2009). Recent
evidence from Mali confirms that a substantial part of remittances is saved for
unexpected events and the migrant thus serves as an insurer for the whole household
(Ponsot & Obegi 2010).
Cross-country analysis indicates that remittances are related to greater income
inequality in Africa (Anyanwu & Erhijakpor 2010) and Latin America (Barham &
Boucher 1998). However, other studies suggest that migration enhances the welfare of
the rural poor disproportionally, for example, in Mexico (Stark and Taylor 1980), in rural
Egypt (Adams 1991) and in other regions (Portes 2009).4 Migration may also raise
inequality initially, as only the relatively well-off have the resources to send workers
3 The consumption smoothing effect of remittances allows households to engage in high-risk but possibly
more profitable economic activities that have a poverty-reducing effect, but that in absence of migration
would have been difficult. See Morduch (1994) for discussion on stochastic poverty causing chronic
poverty in absence of credit markets.
4 The impact of remittances on inequality depends on the initial position of the recipients in the income
distribution: in Mexico 61 percent of the remittance receiving households fall in the first quintile of non-
remittance income, whereas in Peru fewer than 6 percent of the remittance-receivers belong to the lowest
quintile (Fajnzylber & Lopez 2007, p. 6).
abroad and therefore receive remittances (Lipton 1980). However, as migrant networks
are established in the destination countries, the cost of migration falls so that the less
well-off can afford to migrate (Taylor et al. 2005; Koechlin & Leon 2007, Docquier et al.
Migrant remittances increase domestic savings as well as improve financial
intermediation (Aggrawal et al. 2006, Toxopeus and Lensink 2007),5 which can
improve growth prospects (Giuliano and Ruiz-Arranz 2005). Evidence from Philippines,
Mexico and other countries suggests that remittances increase the accumulation of assets
in farm equipment, promote self-employment and increase small business investments in
migrant-sending areas (Taylor 1992 Taylor, Wyatt 1996, Lucas 1987, Adams 2006a,
Woodruff & Zenteno 2001, and Yang 2008).
Factoring the remittance inflows correctly into macroeconomic analysis is also
likely to improve the credit rating and external debt-sustainability of the remittance-
receiving country (Abdih et al. 2009, Avendano et al. 2009, IMF 2010, Ratha et al.
2010). Because they are a large and stable source of foreign currency, remittances are
likely to curtail investor panic and prevent sudden current account reversals during a
crisis (Bugamelli & Paterno 2006, Gupta et al. 2007). Furthermore, future flows of
remittances can be used as collateral by governments and private sector entities in
developing countries to raise financing in international capital market (Ketkar and Ratha
2005, 2009). These innovative financing mechanisms can be used to raise funds for
development projects such as low-income housing, or water supply.
The diaspora serves as a link between the sending and receiving
communities, expands the opportunities to access international financing, and facilitates
networking. The diaspora also contribute through philanthropic remittances (Goldring
2004), and the development of their former communities through hometown associations
and collective financing of development projects such as schools, health facilities and
community infrastructure such as the ―Tres Por Uno‖ program in Mexico (Ghosh 2006;
5 In some cases migration is a response to failures in the market for insurance and credit, so that emigration
of one household member works as a second best solution to relax the credit constraint of the household
Orozco 2009, World Bank 2006b, UNDP 2009). Access to information through the
diaspora and the skills learned by returning migrants can improve technology1,
management and institutions in the sending country, and lower the fixed cost and
knowledge requirements for setting up an international business (Carling 2005).
Emigrants may also be an important supply of foreign investment, as their knowledge of
their home country institutions (and perhaps a greater ability to maneuver within the
home country regulatory framework) may mean that they incur lower investment costs
and/or higher returns, compared to other international investors.
In the current environment of a credit crunch after the financial crisis several
countries have started looking at the diaspora abroad as potential sources of capital
(Ketkar and Ratha 2010). In the past, Israel and India have raised over $35 billion of
development financing by issuing diaspora bonds (Ketkar and Ratha 2009). For the
countries, diaspora bonds represent a stable and cheap source of external finance,
especially in times of financial stress. Diaspora bonds have several advantages, both for
the issuer and for the emigrant who buys the bond: Through retailing at small
denominations, issuers can tap into the wealth of relatively poor migrants, although
diaspora bonds are not necessarily limited to migrants. Migrants are expected to be more
loyal than the average investors in times of distress. And they might be especially
interested in financing infrastructure, housing, health and education projects.6
Migration contributes to human capital formation. There is a growing body of
evidence suggesting that the income from remittances is disproportionally spent on
education and health rather than everyday consumption (Adams 2005, Adams et al. 2008,
World Bank 2006b, p. 126, Valero-Gil 2008; see Nagarajan 2009 for South Africa). Once
in school, the children of migrants may be more likely to finish their education, as the
increased income from remittances provide additional financial resources and better
prospects associated with migration influence social norms and incentives towards
6 Ratha et al. (2008) estimate that Sub-Saharan African countries can potentially raise $5-10 billion per year
by issuing diaspora bonds. Countries that can potentially consider diaspora bonds are Bangladesh,
Colombia, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan,
Philippines, Romania, Senegal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (and also Greece,
Ireland, Italy, South Korea and Spain). In September 2010 Greece announced a plan to issue diaspora bond
to raise financing for debt servicing.
gaining more education (Cox-Edwards and Ureta 2003 for El Salvador, Yang 2008 for
Philippines, UNDP 2009).7 Evidence from rural Pakistan suggests that temporary
migration is associated with higher school enrollment, especially for girls (Mansuri
2006). Furthermore, migration has been observed to increase health knowledge in
addition to the direct effect on wealth, which has led to lower rates of infant mortality and
higher birth weights in Mexico (Hildebrandt & McKenzie 2005). Visiting and returning
migrants may also bring back health-improving practices such as drinking safe water and
better sanitation (UNDP 2009, p. 79).
On the other hand, migration as such might also present a threat to migrant health
as certain jobs expose migrants to occupational hazards, such as tuberculosis,
pneumoconiosis and workplace injury by mine workers (Kahn et al. 2003). Increased
mobility of workers has also contributed to a rapid spread of communicable diseases such
as HIV (Decosas et al. 1995; Lurie 2000; Lurie et al. 2000; Brummer 2002). For
instance, Kane et al. (1993) find that 27 percent of the male Senegalese migrants were
HIV positive compared to 1 percent for non-migrants males from the same area. Sexually
transmitted infections are also more likely to spread among migrants themselves as well
as their permanent partners residing in the sending communities (Kahn et al. 2003).
High-skilled emigration or the so-called “brain drain” can imply a loss of
public resources invested in their education, can reduce the sending country’s
productive capacity, and can worsen the business environment, especially in small
economies. The emigration of the highly skilled can be particularly important in the
education and health sectors in small countries that face severe shortages of health
workers (Docquier et al. 2010b).8 Moreover, the departure of doctors may result in
underemployment of nurses and other auxiliary staff (Commander et al. 2004). However,
as argued by Dustmann et al. (2010), return migration can lead to mitigation of the brain
drain, if not a net ―brain gain‖. When the migrants return, they have usually acquired
skills that are needed in the sending community as manifested by a sizable wage-
premium paid to the returned migrants (Wahba 2007). Furthermore, Mountford (1997)
7 Contradicting evidence has been found in Mexico (McKenzie & Rapoport 2009).
8 For example, the vacancy rate in Ghana’s public sector health positions was 47 percent for doctors and 57
percent for nurses in 2002 (Dovlo 2003).
and Stark (2004) suggest that the possibility of emigrating abroad increases the interest in
and returns to higher education, which can increase the total number of highly skilled
also in the home country (World Bank 2006b, p. 68). Despite concerns about the
detrimental effects of brain drain on health, the shortage of health professionals in Africa
is likely to stem from causes entirely unrelated to international migration (Clemens 2007)
such as fragmented labor markets and insufficient public financing (Lucas 2006).9
Evidence on the relationship between remittance inflows and economic
growth in migrant-sending countries remains inconclusive.10 Empirical studies have
found little evidence in support of a positive impact of remittances on economic growth
(IMF 2005, World Bank 2006b; Spatafora 2005; Barajas et al. 2009; Singh et al. 2009).
In general, studies focusing on the labor supply response of the remittance-recipient
households tend to find that remittances lower work efforts and hence reduce long-term
growth (Azam & Gubert 2006; Chami et al. 2003). Other studies find that remittances
improve financial access and financial development and therefore stimulate growth
(Toxopeus & Lensik 2007, Giuliano & Ruiz-Arranz 2005, Gupta et al. 2007).
Furthermore, the merit of remittance flows might lie more on increasing the level of
income for the poor rather than the growth of the economy as a whole (Jongwanich
2007). Empirical evidence from Latin America and Cape Verde suggests that remittances
can lead to exchange rate appreciation, which can reduce the competitiveness of the
tradable sector, the so-called Dutch Disease (Bourdet & Falck 2006, Fajnzylber & Lopez
2007, Gupta et al. 2007). However, remittances are less likely than natural resource
windfalls to result in persistent exchange rate misalignment, while the exchange rate
implications of relatively stable remittance flows are likely to be easier to manage than a
comparatively abrupt shock due to a natural resource windfall (Ratha 2003, Rajan and
9 On the other hand, temporary migration in order to access medical services (see the case of Hong Kong
nationals in Canada discussed in Preston et al. 2007) and the ever-growing phenomenon of medical tourism
from North to South increases the demand for health care services in the destination countries. Experts
estimate that medical tourists will bring $2.2 billion annually to India alone by 2012 (Hutchinson 2005),
Increased demand by wealthy tourists has increased the number of medical providers also in Argentina,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Jamaica, South Africa, Jordan, Malaysia, Hungary, Latvia and Estonia. This might spill
over even to the domestic population through better access to health care, but the net effects of this medical
’brain gain’ have still not been researched.
10 Note that the gains from migration analysis discussed in box 1 shows that the relationship between in-
migration and economic growth in the migrant-receiving country is positive.
Subramanian 2005, IMF 2005). In general, the inconclusive results on the impact of
remittances and growth are largely due to the difficulty of separating the cause from the
effect: if remittances react counter-cyclically to growth, then the negative relationship
between the two is a result of reverse causality running from growth to remittances, not
2.2 Social impacts on the origin country
At its best, migration can be a rewarding experience that is made in the interest of
the household welfare, but in most cases moving to another country and being separated
from one’s immediate family takes place at considerable emotional cost (D’Emilio et al.
2007). Especially temporary circular migration increases the risk for family breakdown,
fragmentation of social networks and psychosocial stress (Kahn et al. 2003). The
emotional impact is not just limited to the migrants themselves, but also to the family left
behind. Especially in poorer households where the whole family cannot afford to
emigrate together, they emigrate one member at a time resulting in eroded family
structures and relationships.11 As described by D’Emilio et al. (2007), the longer the
separation between the migrating parents and their children, the more children lose
parents’ reference in the management of the household, their authority and their role as
providers of love and material care. Parents are gradually replaced by other family
members, or the children take upon themselves the task of parenting. The feelings of
rejection, abandonment and loss follow the children left behind, and cannot be
compensated by the material gifts and remittances sent from abroad. To some extent the
recent technological advances in terms of e-mail and affordable telephone calls might
allow the transnational families to form and foster social ties even at a distance (UNDP
2009, p. 76).
Separation from the parents has also long-term consequences in all aspects of the
children’s lives. Evidence from Mexico points to the fact that the offspring from migrant
11 Interpreting the high divorce rates among migrants is not always straightforward. While it is true that
protracted separation can take its toll on family cohesion, Lucas (2005, 268) points out that those whose
marriages were unstable to begin with are more likely to migrate. It is also true that migration provides new
economic opportunities for women, and increased economic independence may provide them an escape
from a failed marriage. Furthermore, migration might provide an exit strategy in societies where divorce is
not an option.
families have lower educational attainment than other children, as the boys of the
migrants are more likely to opt for migration themselves (implying decreasing returns to
education) while the domestic workload of the daughters increase (McKenzie &
Rapoport 2006). Adolescents left behind are also commonly overrepresented in adapting
risky behavior, and absence of mothers has been found to be associated with the
involvement of children with violence: 80 percent of children in conflict with the law in
Jamaica had their mothers absent, while this was the case for only 30 percent of other
children (D’Emilio et al. 2007). Also the abuse of drugs and alcohol as well as reduced
school attendance has been observed among children left behind by migrants. On the
other hand, recent evidence from Mozambique suggests that migration could also
strengthen social networks as the higher income from remittances reduces the cost for the
migrant-sending household to participate in these networks (Gallego & Mendola 2010).
This closer inter-family collaboration can, to some extent, remedy the absence of within-
family cohesion and safety nets.
Even though migration is usually a voluntary and planned choice of the
individual, the reality might turn out to be very different from the original expectations.
Too often the intended aspirations of the migrants do not materialize but many are
trapped in trafficking. Young women are exploited as sex workers abroad, and in many
cases they have been promised legitimate work at the destination but then forced into
prostitution upon arrival (see e.g. Kebede 2001). Also children are commonly victims of
trafficking that can lead to life-long trauma. The abuse of migrants by the middle men or
the recruitment agencies is a problem that is growing in magnitude as the migration flows
increase and the phenomenon becomes more commercialized. The problem expands from
pure trafficking into working in slave-like conditions as the international market for labor
allows for trading with workers’ contracts leading to abuse of individual migrants.12 The
abuse of the migrant workers has lead to calls for further regulation of the recruitment
agencies across migration corridors (see e.g. Agunias 2010).
12 For instance, over 50 percent of migrant domestic workers surveyed in Kuwait reported physical
(including sexual), psychological and verbal abuse at their work place. The female workers are also more
vulnerable to sexual abuse by their male employers, who are often also their visa sponsors. (Chammartin
3. Impact of migration on the destination countries in the South
Unlike commonly believed, around half of the official international migration
from the South is to other developing countries rather than wealthier countries in the
North (Ratha & Shaw 2007). And official statistics likely underreport South-South
migration, especially between contiguous countries because of lack of border controls;
almost 80 percent of the South-South migration is estimated to take place between
countries with contiguous borders.
3.1 Economic implications in the destination country
Even though the channels transmitting welfare impacts of migration on the
destination countries are well known in the literature, there is very limited amount of
empirical evidence from the South quantifying the impacts. Thus, a brief overview of the
evidence from the North is presented in box 1. Migration of people, just as international
trade, benefits both the sending country and the receiving country (van der Mensbrugghe
& Roland-Holst 2009). The welfare gain for the destination country is due to the fact that
immigration increases the supply of labor, which increases employment, production and
thus GDP (Ortega and Peri 2009). Immigration has also been found to increase the
productivity of the receiving economies through the contribution of migrants to
innovation (see box 1). Another way in which immigration increases productivity is that
immigrants free up the local workforce to move to higher productivity occupations.
Despite the benefits of immigration, public and the policymakers at the
destination country usually believe that immigration can become an economic burden, as
immigration is feared to lead to loss of jobs, heavy burden on public services, social
tension and increased criminality (UNDP 2009, p. 70) despite the evidence to the
contrary.13 The main channels for negative economic outcome for the destination
countries are increased job competition that allegedly brings down the wages for the
locals, and the increased fiscal burden for caring for a growing population of immigrants.
13 As noted by Hanson (2009), the economic benefits for allowing freer immigration to destination
countries ―may simply not be worth the political hassle‖.
Incoming migrants need to be integrated into the labor force, which intensifies the
competition for existing jobs. Especially in times of economic downturn, the general
public and the policymakers tend to become more worried about the potential adverse
impact of immigration on natives’ opportunities, and immigrants can be used as
scapegoats to blame for rising unemployment even though no strong evidence exists to
show that immigrants take natives’ jobs (Papademetriou et al. 2009).14 A common worry
is also a downward pressure on salaries caused by an influx of migrant workers. Still, in
the OECD countries the aggregate effect of immigration on wages has been found to be
very small both in the short run and in the long run (Longhi et al. 2005), and similar
14 In Italy, government statistics agency publicly blamed immigration for the country’s rising
unemployment in 2008, while rising unemployment in Spain led the government to launch a program
where unemployed immigrants were paid to return to their home countries – in the first few months of the
scheme less than 1,400 out of 100,000 eligible immigrants signed up. (Papademetriou et al. 2009)
Box 1: Global gains from migration
Even though quantitative estimates of the direct gains from migration are difficult to obtain,
economic simulations suggest that an increase in South-North migration would produce
substantial income gains in the long-run; these income gains could exceed those from
comprehensive trade liberalization; and the destination countries in the North would
capture one fifth the overall benefits of increased immigration (World Bank 2006, Winters
et al. 2003, Anderson & Winters 2008, van der Mensbrugghe & Roland-Holst 2009).
Documented welfare gains from South-North migration work primarily though the increase
in the available labor force. Ortega and Peri (2009) found that immigration increases
employment in the destination countries in the North one for one, implying no crowding-
out of natives. This result implies that immigration increases the total GDP of the receiving
country without affecting average wages or labor productivity.
Immigration has also been observed to boost productivity through innovation and
specialization. Data from the United States show that one percent increase in the share of
migrant university graduates increase the number of patent applications and grants issued
per capita (Chellaraj et al. 2008, Hunt & Gauthier-Loiselle 2008). However, burdensome
regulatory requirements and procedures that foreign doctors, engineers, architects and
accountants have to meet in order to practice in the destination country can impose
significant financial and other costs on these highly skilled immigrants (Mattoo and Mishra
2009). Also the less-educated immigrants increase labor productivity as they complement
the uneducated local labor force that, based on their knowledge of the local language and
institutions, will be better able to specialize in more productive complementary tasks (Peri
& Spaber 2009). Furthermore, immigrants are often willing to do jobs that locals no longer
are interested in, such as care for the elderly (UNDP 2009, p. 85). Also, the availability of
low-cost childcare by the immigrants can enable young local women to go back to work
(Kremer & Watt 2006) thus boosting economic development further.
findings in the context of South-South migration has been confirmed by Ratha and Shaw
(2007). Simulations from a general equilibrium model by van der Mansbrugghe and
Roland-Holst (2009) suggest that reducing migration will not necessarily result in higher
wages for native workers in receiving countries, since lower levels of migration will also
lower the relative return to capital, which in turn will put downward pressure on wages.
The fiscal impact of immigration depends on the costs and contributions of the
immigrant population to the welfare system of the host country. How extensive the social
safety nets and welfare services are and to what extent migrants are allowed to access the
domestic welfare system determines the cost on the host society, while their role as
taxpayers determine their contributions to the system. The US Congressional Budget
Office estimated that comprehensive immigration reform including legalization of
undocumented immigrants, if undertaken, would increase federal revenues to a similar
extent as the increase in federal spending on social security, healthcare and other benefits
for the immigrants (CBO 2006). In the UK, already the first-generation migrants were
found to do well economically and to make a net fiscal contribution (Gott & Johnston
2002). However, the limited fiscal implication of immigrants may also be due to the fact
that many of them are not eligible for most benefits, and will thus need to turn to family
networks instead (Papademitriou et al. 2009). In the developing countries the welfare
benefits might not be as numerous, and neither is the tax contribution of mostly
undocumented immigrants likely to be substantial, but the migrants’ value added to the
production and economic growth is still a net gain for the country. Whether positive or
negative, the net fiscal impacts of immigration are not likely to be large (UNDP 2009, p.
89). When it comes to the provision of health care, however, the destination countries in
the South might face an increased burden. Irregular migrants in the South may have
health needs that often remain unaddressed (UNDP 2009, p. 55).15
15 For instance, HIV prevalence is observed to rise with migration and the situation is made worse by the
fact that in every fifth destination country there are laws, regulations or policies that present obstacles to
effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for migrants (UNAIDS 2008, 114). While people
with HIV commonly return to live with family members to obtain care, some people with AIDS-related
opportunistic infections migrate to obtain health care (Crush et al. 2005). This could involve cross-border
movements to a country perceived to have better health care facilities.
3.2 Social impacts on the destination countries in the South
Apart from the increased competition at the labor markets, increasing inflows of
migrants impose an integration challenge in all areas of social life. In many of the
developing countries, however, policies to manage immigration are lacking while control
of the same is failing to curtain the inflow of migrants due to scarce resources, weak
administrative capacity, and porous borders. Some of the cross-border migration is often
widely accepted (Adepoju 2005), but sometimes immigrants even from neighboring
countries are treated as unwanted foreigners (Crush 2000). This inability to control
migration and to integrate the newcomers has at times led to dramatic actions and great
human suffering. When the economy is already under pressure, failure of integration has
sometimes led to massive expulsions of migrants mostly in the South. The Nigerian
Government, for instance, expelled over 2 million immigrants mainly from Ghana in
1983 due to a domestic economic crisis, for which the aliens became scapegoats
(Lassailly-Jacob et al. 2006). More recent examples of forced repatriation can be found
both in the North as well as in the South: the United States deported more than 350,000
immigrants and South Africa 300,000 in 2008 alone (UNDP 2009, p. 99). The case of
Cote d’Ivoire, where striping of immigrants of some of their rights sparked a chaos that
has led the once stable country to the verge of an internal conflict, illustrates the growing
intolerance to foreigners in the South (Adepoju 2003, UNDP 2009). These instances
highlight the importance of strengthening migration and integration policies in
developing countries as they host large numbers of immigrants.
The challenge of integration is most prominent in urban areas. Most internal
as well as international migrants end up in the cities of developing countries because of
employment opportunities, with many working in the informal sector of business,
transport, crafts and services. For example, a quarter of the population of Libreville in
Gabon is from another country from Central Africa and West Africa (Lassailly-Jacob et
al. 2006). Sometime the movement is driven by the falling living standards and weak
support services in the source community (World Bank 2009). If the excess supply of
labor is combined with poor ability of the local authorities to manage immigration, the
result is commonly increased disparities and expansion of slum areas in the cities (UNDP
2009, p. 87). Forced migration can also contribute to urbanization. War, environmental
degradation, and economic crisis lead to large population movements from rural areas
into cities where people take refuge. There are allegedly 2 million Somalis in Mogadishu,
mostly refugees escaping the fighting in their villages and seeking protection of the
NGOs or the warlords (Lassailly-Jacob et al. 2006). The rapid expansion of cities
combined with weak local administration or lack of migration policies have led to
desperate actions by the host countries officials. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, 60,000 people
were forcibly cleared from the slums in early 2007; in Jakarta, Indonesia, migrants are
required to show proof of employment and housing to enter the city; and in Zimbabwe
(internal) migrants were evicted from shanty towns around Harare in 2005 (UNDP 2009,
p. 87). Migration is only a part of the urbanization challenge, but the interaction between
migration and rapid urbanization is likely to be important for policy in the destination
countries in the South.
Before presenting the policy recommendations, it would be useful to point out a
few emerging themes in the literature and public debates on the impact of migration on
climate change, political institutions, fertility and national security.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted already in 1990
that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on migration (IOM 2008). It
predicted that as many as 200 million people may be forced to migrate by 2050 because
of climate change (Myers 2005).16 Dasgupta and others (2007, 2010) estimate that rising
sea levels, tidal waves and storm surges could displace millions of people in Bangladesh,
some of whom might seek refuge in neighboring countries. The effects of migration on
climate change, on the other hand, are less understood. It is generally assumed, that short
term and circular migrants make little investment in maintaining the ecological stability
of their destination while long-term immigrants have an incentive to invest in
16 Identifying adaptation and resettlement strategies have been called for to deal with the emigration
pressure imposed by the climate change (Martin 2010).
environmental management.17 When migration is induced by a conflict or a natural
disaster leading to a sudden inflow of migrants, the displaced people may resort to
unsustainable activities in absence of other means of survival exacerbating existing
environmental problems and creating new ones (Hugo 2008). Large refugee camps have
especially been observed to put pressure on the ecosystem.18 McNally et al. (2002) argue
that even long-term migration can affect the environment through increased competition
for limited resources. On the other hand, migration can work as a channel for adoption of
new techniques and raw materials, leading to more environmentally friendly production
and consumption practices.
Migration can have important implications for domestic institutions and
politics. The emigration of capable people may cause loss of governance capacity in
countries where institutions are already weak. Also, emigration can serve as a way to
release political pressure, which diminishes the incentives of the established political elite
to reform, increases corruption, and reduces overall government effectiveness (Castles &
Delgado Wise 2008, Chami 2008).19 Some observers have suggested that dependence on
migration can create a ―remittance-based development model‖ where remittances become
increasingly critical for maintaining socioeconomic stability in the migrant-sending
country (Delgado-Wise and Márquez 2006, Delgado-Wise and Guarnizo 2007). Migrants
may also serve as a channel for democratic attitudes and behaviors absorbed in host
countries to spread in their countries of origin, via visits, migrant returns, and cross-
border communication, which can improve accountability (Levitt 1998, Perez-
Armendariz & Crow 2010, Cordova & Hiskey 2009).
17 Yet, Black and Sessay (1997) compared the behavior of refugees to local population in Senegal, and
found little or no evidence to support the expectation that refugees use more fuel wood than local residents.
18 One of the most reported cases is the Virunga national park in North Kivu where thousands of Rwandan
refugees who were brought there in 1994 engaged in intensive woodcutting and poaching (Lassailly-Jacob
et al. 2006)
19 The risk of institutional degradation may not, however, be as large for remittances-receiving countries
compared to similar effects in resource rich countries, since remittances are widely dispersed, the bulk of
them are allocated in small amounts, and where the money does not go through the government, also the
risk of corruption is diminished (World Bank 2006, Birdsall and Subramanian 2004).
Migration also shapes values and attitudes towards gender roles within the
household (Ghosh 2009). 20 When women move their role as caregivers changes, and men
have been found to be more likely to engage in reproductive activities such as caring for
the children and the elderly (King & Vullnetari 2006). When the men emigrate, women
are empowered to take more prominent part of the community decision making, control
their own income, and expand their role in the domestic sphere (Deshingkar & Grimm
2005, p. 39). Even other domestic norms, such as greater emphasis on girls’ schooling,
higher age of marriage, can filter from the destination country to the sending society
(Fargues 2007)21. Migration decision is also an integral part of family planning decisions
and lead to differences in fertility rates among migrants and non-migrants (Singley &
Landale 1998, Fargues 2007)22. Studies find migrants’ fertility to resemble more closely
that of natives at destination, either due to social adaptation or self-selection of migrants
by fertility preferences (Kulu 2005, Chattopadhyay et al. 2006), although there can be
Forced migration due to conflicts, persecution, or sudden impoverishment may
lead to international migration across borders even while large migrant groups end up
being internally displaced refugees in their own country (Newland et al. 2003, Martin
2001). For internally displaced population, the hostility across the different groupings in
the country causes tension for regions hosting refugees, while the international refugee
camps involve the possibility of international conflict.24 When the size of a refugee
population increases over time, which is not uncommon as conflicts escalate, host
communities are often overwhelmed and feel that their resources are threatened (Ek &
20 Another theme drawing a lot of discussion but with scant empirical evidence and rigorous analysis is
gender and migration. This theme appears to be beyond the scope of this paper focused on development
21 The evidence on the diffusion of the cultural norms is still tentative, and households demonstrate
considerable flexibility in restructuring their roles to accommodate seasonal migrations (Hampshire 2006).
22 Beine et al. (2009) find that one percent decrease in the fertility norm in the migrant destination countries
reduces fertility rates in the origin country by about 0.3 percent.
23 For migrants who came from economically well-off areas of Kenya, outmigration was associated with
falling fertility rates, while for migrants from peripheral areas migration and consequently remittances
allowed for higher fertility (Ochola Omondi & Ayiemba 2003).
24 Refugee camps built close to the boarder allow imposing a threat of military intrusion or the camps
themselves to become militarized (Lassailly-Jacob et al. 2006). The host countries may also use the
refugees to put political and military pressure on the leaders of their countries of origin.
Karadawi 1991).25 If, on the other hand, the refugees are allowed to and are able to find
jobs and send home remittances, these could also be a valuable resource for
reconstruction (Castles & Miller 2009, p. 61).
There are also wider security concerns suggesting that migrants would be
disproportionately involved in criminal activity than natives (Mattes et al. 2000, Danso
& McDonald 2001, Quirk 2008), even though data to support such a claim are lacking
(Crush & Williams 2002)26. Providing support mechanisms for youth at risk, and
ensuring proper integration of the migrants will be ways to diminish the risk of violence
and manage the development impact of migration.
Although most remittances sent by migrants are legitimate transfers, the
continued existence and use of informal channels has raised concerns of money
laundering, terrorist financing and financial crimes leading to heavy regulation of
providers of remittance services. The need for such alternative channels arise from the
sustained high cost of remitting through formal financial institutions, cumbersome
legislation related to money transfers, and mistrust of the migrants towards the financial
institutions (Shehu 2004, Lucas 2004, Maimbo 2004, Ratha and Riedberg 2005, Irving et
al. 2010). Informality is particularly prevalent in the ―South-South‖ remittance corridors
(Ratha and Shaw 2007, Bracking and Sachikonye 2008).
Migration does not only imply movement of people, but also movement of
cultures (Castles & Miller 2009, p. 41). Successful assimilation to the destination
country requires the migrants to interact with the new society, while keeping the culture
of the origin country alive creates a positive environment for the multicultural identity to
form (Guarnizo et al. 2003, Faist & Gerdes 2008). On the other hand, some migrants
may resort to the customs of the origin country more rigorously as they would have done
back home. This highlights the importance of integration of the immigrants, and
supporting them in the creation and formation of their new multicultural identity.
25 For example, Kenya serves as a host country to hundreds of thousands of individuals living in camps
without the ability to integrate into the local workforce or acquire sustainable sources of income (Banki
26 In USA, for example, the incarceration rate of the locally born men aged 18-39 was 3.5 percent, while
the same rate for foreign born was merely 0.7 in 2000 (IPC 2007). In Europe, however, there are generally
more foreign-born in prison than locals, even though the results vary by country (Mucherjee 1999).
Selected policy suggestions
There is a vast literature discussing policy recommendations that nurture the
benefits and mitigate the negative effects of migration. Before concluding, we briefly
summarize a few selected policy suggestions such as integrating migration and
development policies (both in South and North), facilitating the flow on remittances,
improving recruitment practices, and facilitating international labor mobility.
Migration should be incorporated both in the development cooperation strategies
in the North, as well as in the national poverty reduction strategies in the South (Clemens
2010). Although as of yet rare in practice (UNDP 2009, p. 82), there are some cases of
successful strategies for cooperative efforts between the sending and the receiving
countries to manage migration (Martin et al. 2002).27 Areas of cooperation include the
drivers of migration in the source country, networks that move people across borders, and
integrating the legal migrants into their destination countries.
While many developing countries have large stocks of immigrants, very few of
them have explicit policies on how to deal with immigration or the capacity to manage
their borders effectively. Similarly to the destination countries in the North, there are
calls in developing countries to focus on attracting the highly skilled migrants, discourage
irregular migration, and reports of growing xenophobia (Lucas 2006). Empowering the
sending and receiving countries in the South to manage international mobility will benefit
the migrants, the host societies and the country of origin.
Statistics on migration and remittances are often of poor quality, especially in
developing countries. Few statistics measure migration flows and data are even scarcer
when it comes to transit, circular, or irregular migration (World Bank 2010b, p. 25-26).
Official estimates of remittance flows are usually gross underestimates of the true
volumes, since a large portion of remittances are sent through unofficial channels.28
27 For instance, Mali and France initiated annual bilateral consultations at the ministerial level to discuss the
integration of Malians who want to remain in France, co-management of migration flows, and cooperative
development in emigration areas in Mali. Italy and Albania, on the other hand, have collaborated in a joint
police program to combat smuggling and trafficking. (For more examples, see Martin et al. 2002)
28 Data collected by the central banks sometime do not distinguish remittances from other low-value
transfers such as small-value trade payments. In a recent survey of the central banks (Irving et al. 2010)
Improving data collection can facilitate better policies to enhance migration for
The development community can further leverage remittance flows for
development by making them cheaper, safer and more productive for both the sending
and the receiving countries. An ―International Remittances Agenda‖ would involve: (1)
monitoring, analysis and projections; (2) improving retail payment systems through use
of better technologies and appropriate regulatory changes; (3) linking remittances to
financial access at the household level; and (4) leveraging remittances for capital market
access at the institutional or macro levels (Ratha 2007).
As the labor market becomes increasingly global, the educational policies in
developing countries will need to be revised to invest in skills that are needed within the
country as well as in the global labor markets. On the other hand, the race for talent has
led some destination country institutions to actively engage in recruitment of highly
educated migrants, such as doctors. However, attempts to regulate skilled-worker
mobility, or so-called ―ethical recruitment policies‖, does little to address the underlying
causes of emigration decisions, and often leads to unintended adverse consequences
(Clemens 2009). The freedom of mobility should thus be allowed for all skill-levels,
while complementary measures can be developed to foster service provision and skill
development in the source country.
Recruitment companies account often for the majority of the cost of migrating,
especially when it comes to low-skilled migrants (Lucas 2005, p. 278) that can leave the
migrant in debt, lower wages than promised, long hours and unsafe working conditions
(see e.g. Chammartin 2005). Facilitating migration through safe and legal channels
through better monitoring of recruitment processes and bilateral coordination will help to
protect the rights of the migrants and fight exploitation and trafficking (UNDP 2009, p.
103). Providing knowledge about the migration process and language of the destination
wide discrepancies were discovered between the true estimated remittance flows and the figures reported in
the balance of payment statistics to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
29 A recent report by the Commission on International Migration Data for Development Research and
Policy (2009) suggest five concrete steps towards improved availability and quality of migrant and
remittance data. Further guidance can be found in Black & Skeldon (2009).
country will also enhance integration and quicker adjustment of migrants to the new labor
market (UNDP 2009, p. 104).30
Migrants, especially those in an undocumented or irregular situation, are likely to
face discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuse at all stages of the migration
process (GMG 2010). Female migrants and children often face greater risks, including of
trafficking and being deprived of education and access to healthcare. Protecting the
human rights of migrants is part of the obligations of the State to respect the
internationally guaranteed rights of all persons, to protect those rights against abuses, and
to fulfill the rights necessary for them to enjoy a life of dignity and security (GMG 2010).
Immigration and border control policies need to recognize that migration is
primarily an economic phenomenon (Ratha 2009). Evidence from the US-Mexico border
suggests that increasing the number of border control agents increases smuggler’s fees,
but is unlikely to curtail the number of migrants as intended (Hanson et al. 1999, Durand
and Massey 2002, Martin 2004, Passel and Suro 2005). Instead, providing legal channels
for temporary migration when labor is in high demand in the destination country is more
likely to enhance the benefits of migration for all parties.
In conclusion, migration and remittances can be a valuable complement to broad-
based development efforts. Yet, migration and remittances (collective or individual)
should not be viewed as a substitute for official development aid as they are private
money that should not be expected to fund public projects. Also, not all poor households
receive remittances and official funds are needed to address the needs of these
households. Harnessing the development potential of migration and remittances by
increasing the awareness of the decision makers and improving data on remittances and
migration; facilitating labor mobility and recruitment across borders, while allowing for
safe and affordable mechanisms for sending money back; and combating the increase of
30 For instance, the Philippines government organizes mandatory orientation courses for migrants prior to
leaving where they learn about destination country customs and laws, resources available to them at the
embassy or consulates, important contacts for any problems that might arise, and financial management
(Ruiz 2008). The ―Swedish for Immigrants‖ course offered for newcomers in Sweden free of charge with
specific classes designed for uneducated or illiterate immigrants and highly educated professionals who
need specific vocabulary to be able to work in Sweden, respectively, is a good example of such training.
fear-based xenophobia and overregulation are some ingredients along the way towards a
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