By Shahina Maqbool
Most migrants do not cross national borders, but instead move within their own country. Moreover, contrary to commonly held beliefs, migrants typically boost economic output and give more than they take.
Similarly, gains to people who move can be enormous. Migrants from the poorest countries, on average, experienced a 15-fold increase in income, a doubling of school enrolment rates and a 16-fold reduction in child mortality after moving to a developed country.
These are some of the key findings of the 2009 Human Development Report, the launching of which on Monday was over-shadowed by news of a suicide attack in the office of the World Food Programme. Also released as part of the report, which is titled ‘Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development,’ is the latest Human Development Index (HDI), a summary indicator of people’s well-being, combining measures of life expectancy, literacy, school enrolment and GDP per capita. It shows that despite progress in many areas over the last 25 years, the disparities in people’s well-being in rich and poor countries continue to be unacceptably wide.
Between 1980 and 2007, Pakistan’s HDI rose by 1.30 per cent annually from 0.402 to 0.572 today, which gives the country a rank of 141st out of 182 countries with data. India ranks at 134, Bangladesh at 146 and Nepal at 144. Norway ranks first in the Human Development Index and Afghanistan and Niger are at 181 and 182, respectively. This year’s HDI has been calculated for 182 countries and territories-the widest coverage ever. The estimates, which rely on the most recently available data compiled by the UN and other international partners, are based on 2007 data.
The report demonstrates that migration can enhance human development for people who move, for destination communities and for those who remain at home. Nearly one billion-or one out of seven-people are migrants in today’s highly mobile world. Migration is not only inevitable, but also an important dimension of human development.
The report casts new light on common misconceptions related to migration and stresses that allowing for migration-both within and between countries-has the potential to increase people’s freedom and improve the lives of millions around the world. It points out most migrants do not cross national borders, but instead move within their own country: 740 million people are internal migrants, almost four times the number of international migrants.
In Pakistan, there are 3,554 thousand migrants representing 2.1% of the total population. Among international migrants, less than 30% move from developing to developed countries. Pakistan has an emigration rate of 2.2%. The major continent of destination for migrants from Pakistan is Asia, with 72.5% of emigrants living there.
Contrary to commonly held beliefs; migrants typically boost economic output and give more than they take. Detailed investigations show that immigration generally increases employment in host communities, does not crowd out locals from the job market and improves rates of investment in new businesses and initiatives. Overall, the impact of migrants on public finances-both national and local-is relatively small, while there is ample evidence of gains in other areas such as social diversity and the capacity for innovation.
The authors demonstrate that the gains to people who move can be enormous. Research found that migrants from the poorest countries, on average, experienced a 15-fold increase in income, a doubling of school enrolment rates and a 16-fold reduction in child mortality after moving to a developed country. Remittances are among the most direct benefits from migration. They also serve as foreign exchange earnings for the origin countries of migrants. In 2007, $5,998 million in remittances were sent to Pakistan. Average remittances per person were $37, compared with the average for South Asia of $33. The report calls for creation of a supportive policy environment in order to realise the benefits of migration. However, it also points out that migration does not always bring benefits. The extent to which people are able to gain from moving depends greatly on the conditions under which they move.
Financial outlays can be relatively high, and movement inevitably involves uncertainty and separation from families. The poor are often constrained by lack of resources, information and barriers in their new host communities and countries. For too many people, movement reflects the repercussions of conflict, natural disaster or severe economic hardship. Some women end up in trafficking networks, lose significant freedoms and suffer physical danger.
Taking down barriers against migration will help improve the lives of many. Basic wage guarantees, health and safety standards for migrants, and opening visas for low skilled people are some of the key measures that need to be instituted. Presently, the human rights of immigrants are often infringed upon.
Other policy recommendations in the report include lowering the transaction costs of migration that often has the unintended effect of encouraging irregular movement and smuggling. Pakistan, in particular has been facing the brunt of human trafficking.
The report was launched in Pakistan by Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Dr Farooq Sattar, who reiterated that the policy recommendations in the report must be translated into concrete actions and must form an integral part of the human development agenda in Pakistan.
Panellists at the launch included G M Arif, Dean of Research at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Dr Aliya H Khan, Head of Economics Department, Quaid-i-Azam University, and Rana Matloob, Deputy Director, Bureau for Immigration and Overseas Employment. Mikiko Tanaka, Deputy Director, UNDP, presented the findings of the report. She stated that, ‘Mobility has the potential to enhance human development among movers, stayers and the majority of those in destination places but requires committed leadership and improvements in policies and institutions.’
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