Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development
The Daily Star
Human development is about putting
people at the center of development. It is about people realizing their
potential, increasing their choices and enjoying the freedom to lead
lives they value. Since 1990, annual Human Development Reports have
explored challenges including poverty, gender, democracy, human rights,
cultural liberty, globalization, water scarcity and climate change.
both within and beyond borders, has become an increasingly prominent
theme in domestic and international debates, and is the topic of the
2009 Human Development Report (HDR09). The starting point is that the
global distribution of capabilities is extraordinarily unequal, and
that this is a major driver for movement of people. Migration can
expand their choices – in terms of incomes, accessing services and
participation, for example – but the opportunities open to people vary
from those who are best endowed to those with limited skills and
assets. These underlying inequalities, which can be compounded by
policy distortions, is a theme of the report.
report investigates migration in the context of demographic changes and
trends in both growth and inequality. It also presents more detailed
and nuanced individual, family and village experiences, and explores
less visible movements typically pursued by disadvantaged groups such
as short term and seasonal migration.
is a range of evidence about the positive impacts of migration on human
development, through such avenues as increased household incomes and
improved access to education and health services. There is further
evidence that migration can empower traditionally disadvantaged groups,
in particular women. At the same time, risks to human development are
also present where migration is a reaction to threats and denial of
choice, and where regular opportunities for movement are constrained.
and local policies play a critical role in enabling better human
development outcomes for both those who choose to move in order to
improve their circumstances, and those forced to relocate due to
conflict, environmental degradation, or other reasons. Host-country
restrictions can raise both the costs and the risks of migration.
Similarly, negative outcomes can arise at the country levels where
basic civic rights, like voting, schooling and health care are denied
to those who have moved across provincial lines to work and live. HDR09
shows how a human development approach can be a means to redress some
of the underlying issues that erode the potential benefits of mobility
and/or force migration.
How and why
Juan. Born into a poor family in rural Mexico, his family struggled to
pay for his health care and education. At the age of 12, he dropped out
of school to help support his family. Six years later, Juan followed
his uncle to Canada in pursuit of higher wages and better
opportunities. Life expectancy in Canada is five years higher than in
Mexico and incomes are three times greater. Juan was selected to work
temporarily in Canada, earned the right to stay and eventually became
an entrepreneur whose business now employs native-born Canadians. This
is just one case out of millions of people every year who find new
opportunities and freedoms by migrating, benefiting themselves as well
as their areas of origin and destination.
consider the case of Bhagyawati. She is a member of a lower caste and
lives in rural Andhra Pradesh, India. She travels to Bangalore city
with her children to work on construction sites for six months each
year, earning Rs 60 ($1.20) per day.
away from home, her children do not attend school because it is too far
from the construction site and they do not know the local language.
Bhagyawati is not entitled to subsidized food or health care, nor does
she vote, because she is living outside her registered district.
millions of other internal migrants, she has few options for improving
her life other than to move to a different city in search of better
world is very unequal. The huge differences in human development across
and within countries have been a recurring theme of the Human
Development Report (HDR) since it was first published in 1990. In this
year’s report, we explore for the first time the topic of migration.
many people in developing countries, moving away from their home town
or village can be the best – sometimes the only – option open to
improve their life chances. Human mobility can be hugely effective in
raising a person’s income, health and education prospects.
But its value is more than that: being able to decide where to live is a key element of human freedom.
people move, they embark on a journey of hope and uncertainty, whether
within or across international borders. Most people move in search of
better opportunities, hoping to combine their own talents with
resources in the destination country so as to benefit themselves and
their immediate family, who often accompany or follow them. If they
succeed, their initiative and efforts can also benefit those left
behind and the society in which they make their new home. But not all
who leave friends and family may face loneliness, may feel unwelcome
among people who fear or resent newcomers, may lose their jobs or fall
ill and thus be unable to access the support services they need in
order to prosper.
about migration typically start from the perspective of flows from
developing countries into the rich countries of Europe, North America
and Australasia. Yet most movement in the world does not take place
between developing and developed countries; it does not even take place
overwhelming majority of people who migrate do so inside their own
countries. Using a conservative definition, we estimate that
approximately 740 million people are internal migrants – almost four
times as many as those people who have moved internationally.
people who have moved across national borders, just over a third moved
from a developing to a developed country – fewer than 70 million
the world’s 200 million international migrants moved from one
developing country to another or between developed countries.
migrants, internal and international, reap gains in the form of higher
incomes, better access to education and health, and improved prospects
for their children. Surveys of migrants report that most are happy in
their destination, despite the range of adjustments and obstacles
typically involved in moving. Once established, migrants are often more
likely than local residents to join unions or religious and other
groups. Yet there are trade-offs and the gains from mobility are
displaced by insecurity and conflict face special challenges. There are
an estimated 14 million refugees living outside their country of
citizenship, representing about 7 percent of the world’s migrants. Most
remain near the country they fled, typically living in camps until
conditions at home allow their return, but around half a million per
year travel to developed countries and seek asylum there. A much larger
number, some 26 million, have been internally displaced. They have
crossed no frontiers, but may face special difficulties away from home
in a country riven by conflict or racked by natural disasters.
Another vulnerable group consists of people – mainly young women – who have been trafficked.
duped with promises of a better life, their movement is not one of free
will but of duress, sometimes accompanied by violence and sexual abuse.
general, however, people move of their own volition, to better-off
places. More than three quarters of international migrants go to a
country with a higher level of human development than their country of
are significantly constrained, both by policies that impose barriers to
entry and by the resources they have available to enable their move.
in poor countries are the least mobile: for example, fewer than 1
percent of Africans have moved to Europe. Indeed, history and
contemporary evidence suggest that development and migration go hand in
hand: the median emigration rate in a country with low human
development is below 4 percent, compared to more than 8 percent from
countries with high levels of human development.
share of international migrants in the world’s population has remained
remarkably stable at around 3 percent over the past 50 years, despite
factors that could have been expected to increase flows. Demographic
trends – an aging population in developed countries and young,
still-rising populations in developing countries – and growing
employment opportunities, combined with cheaper communications and
transport, have increased the “demand” for migration. However, those
wishing to migrate have increasingly come up against government-imposed
barriers to movement. Over the past century, the number of nation
states has quadrupled to almost 200, creating more borders to cross,
while policy changes have further limited the scale of migration even
as barriers to trade fell.
to mobility are especially high for people with low skills, despite the
demand for their labor in many rich countries. Policies generally favor
the admission of the better educated, for instance by allowing students
to stay after graduation and inviting professionals to settle with
their families. But governments tend to be far more ambivalent with
respect to low-skilled workers, whose status and treatment often leave
much to be desired. In many countries, agriculture, construction,
manufacturing and service sectors have jobs that are filled by such
migrants. Yet governments often try to rotate less educated people in
and out of the country, sometimes treating temporary and irregular
workers like water from a tap that can be turned on and off at will.
estimated 50 million people today are living and working abroad with
irregular status. Some countries, such as Thailand and the United
States, tolerate large numbers of unauthorized workers. This may allow
those individuals to access better paying jobs than at home, but
although they often do the same work and pay the same taxes as local
residents, they may lack access to basic services and face the risk of
governments, such as those of Italy and Spain, have recognized that
unskilled migrants contribute to their societies and have regularized
the status of those in work, while other countries, such as Canada and
New Zealand, have well designed seasonal migrant programs for sectors
such as agriculture.
there is broad consensus about the value of skilled migration to
destination countries, low-skilled migrant workers generate much
controversy. It is widely believed that while these migrants fill
vacant jobs they also displace local workers and reduce wages. Other
concerns posed by migrant inflows include heightened risk of crime,
added burdens on local services and the fear of losing social and
cultural cohesion. But these concerns are often exaggerated. While
research has found that migration can, in certain circumstances, have
negative effects on locally born workers with comparable skills, the
body of evidence suggests that these effects are generally small and
may, in some contexts, be entirely absent.
report argues that migrants boost economic output, at little or no cost
to locals. Indeed, there may be broader positive effects, for instance
when the availability of migrants for childcare allows resident mothers
to work outside the home. As migrants acquire the language and other
skills needed to move up the income ladder, many integrate quite
naturally, making fears about inassimilable foreigners – similar to
those expressed early in the 20th century in America about the
for example – seem equally unwarranted with respect to newcomers today.
Yet it is also true that many migrants face systemic disadvantages,
making it difficult or impossible for them to access local services on
equal terms with local people. And these problems are especially severe
for temporary and irregular workers.
migrants’ countries of origin, the impacts of movement are felt in
higher incomes and consumption, better education and improved health,
as well as at a broader cultural and social level.
generally brings benefits, most directly in the form of remittances
sent to immediate family members. However, the benefits are also spread
more broadly as remittances are spent – thereby generating jobs for
local workers – and as behavior changes in response to ideas from
abroad. Women, in particular, may be liberated from traditional roles.
nature and extent of these impacts depend on who moves, how they fare
abroad and whether they stay connected to their roots through flows of
money, knowledge and ideas.
migrants tend to come in large numbers from specific places – for
example, Kerala in India or Fujian Province in China – community-level
effects can typically be larger than national ones. However, over the
longer term, the flow of ideas from human movement can have
far-reaching effects on social norms and class structures across a
whole country. The outflow of skills is sometimes seen as negative,
particularly for the delivery of services such as education or health.
Yet, even when this is the case, the best response is policies that
address underlying structural problems, such as low pay, inadequate
financing and weak institutions. Blaming the loss of skilled workers on
the workers themselves largely misses the point, and restraints on
their mobility are likely to be counterproductive – not to mention the
fact that they deny the basic human right to leave one’s own country.
international migration, even if well managed, does not amount to a
national human development strategy. With few exceptions (mainly small
island states where more than 40 percent of inhabitants move abroad),
emigration is unlikely to shape the development prospects of an entire
nation. Migration is at best an avenue that complements broader local
and national efforts to reduce poverty and improve human development.
These efforts remain as critical as ever.
the time of writing, the world is undergoing the most severe economic
crisis in over half a century. Shrinking economies and layoffs are
affecting millions of workers, including migrants.
believe that the current downturn should be seized as an opportunity to
institute a new deal for migrants – one that will benefit workers at
home and abroad while guarding against a protectionist backlash. With
recovery, many of the same underlying trends that have been driving
movement during the past half-century will resurface, attracting more
people to move. It is vital that governments put in place the necessary
measures to prepare for this.
year since 1990 the Human Development Report has published the human
development index (HDI) which looks beyond GDP to a broader definition
of well-being. The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions
of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life
expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and gross
enrolment in education) and having a decent standard of living
(measured by purchasing power parity, PPP, income).
index is not in any sense a comprehensive measure of human development.
It does not, for example, include important indicators such as gender
or income inequality nor more difficult to measure concepts like
respect for human rights and political freedoms.
the index does provide is a broadened prism for viewing human progress
and the complex relationship between income and well-being.
the components of the HDI, only income and gross enrolment are somewhat
responsive to short term policy changes. For that reason, it is
important to examine changes in the human development index over time.
human development index trends tell an important story in that respect.
HDI scores in all regions have increased progressively over the years
although all have experienced periods of slower growth or even
year’s HDI, which refers to 2007, highlights the very large gaps in
well-being and life chances that continue to divide our increasingly
interconnected world. The HDI for Lebanon is 0.803, which gives the
country a rank of 83rd out of 182 countries with data.
Human poverty: focusing on the most deprived in multiple dimensions of poverty
HDI measures the average progress of a country in human development.
The Human Poverty Index (HPI-1), focuses on the proportion of people
below certain threshold levels in each of the dimensions of the human
development index – living a long and healthy life, having access to
education, and a decent standard of living. By looking beyond income
deprivation, the HPI-1 represents a multi-dimensional alternative to
the $1.25 a day poverty measure.
The HPI-1 value of 7.6 percent for Lebanon, ranks 33rd among 135 countries for which the index has been calculated.
HPI-1 measures severe deprivation in health by the proportion of people
who are not expected to survive to the age of 40. Education is measured
by the adult illiteracy rate.
a decent standard of living is measured by the unweighted average of
people not using an improved water source and the proportion of
children under the age of 5 who are underweight for their age.
Building the capabilities of women
HDI measures average achievements in a country, but it does not
incorporate the degree of gender imbalance in these achievements. The
gender-related development index (GDI), introduced in Human Development
Report 1995, measures achievements in the same dimensions using the
same indicators as the HDI but captures inequalities in achievement
between women and men. It is simply the HDI adjusted downward for
gender inequality. The greater the gender disparity in basic human
development, the lower is a country’s GDI relative to its HDI.
GDI value, 0.784 should be compared to its HDI value of 0.803. Its GDI
value is 97.6 percent of its HDI value. Out of the 155 countries with
both HDI and GDI values, 127 countries have a better ratio than
year, millions of people cross national or international borders
seeking better living standards. 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.
of the world’s 195 million international migrants have moved from one
developing country to another or between developed countries.
has an emigration rate of 12.9 percent. The major continent of
destination for migrants from Lebanon is Northern America with 31.2
percent of emigrants living there.
which are usually sent to immediate family members who have stayed
behind, are among the most direct benefits from migration; their
benefits spread broadly into local economies. They also serve as
foreign exchange earnings for the origin countries of migrants.
However, remittances are unequally distributed. Of the total $370
billion remitted in 2007, more than half went to countries in the
medium human development category against less than one per cent to low
human development countries. In 2007, $5,769 million in remittances
were sent to Lebanon. Average remittances per person were $1,407,
compared with the average for Arab states of $125.