forced by tragic circumstances, as in the case of India's partition, migration
has a beneficial effect. Leaders of the French
Revolution, for instance, owed a
debt to exiles who had brought back British notions of political freedom to the
Ancien Regime, ideas that underwent a process of native germination. The course
of India's freedom struggle might have been different had Gandhi not undergone a
profound moral and intellectual awakening in South Africa. There, faced with
injustice, he discovered the power of protest. There are countless examples in
history of the transformative nature of border crossings, within and between
nations. In contemporary times, migration continues to contribute to global
society by generating prosperity and reducing poverty. The cultural exchange and
enrichment it facilitates also foster global understanding.
year's Human Development Report, just released by the UNDP, corroborates this
view. Migration, it suggests, is a force of positive change, benefiting
migrants, their home countries and host nations. Migrants constitute almost one
billion of the world's population. The majority around 740 million are internal
migrants; 214 million have ventured abroad. The growing mobility of populations
is a heartening trend. Moving from village to city or one country to another,
migrants see rise in incomes, improved standards of living and greater access to
health and education.
Contrary to popular belief, only 37 per cent
of global migration is from developing to developed countries.
Developing-to-developed country migrants, however, are the biggest gainers,
India's IT professionals being a case in point. Success in greener pastures
rebounds on regions or countries of origin as remittance flows. In 2007, the
money Indians abroad repatriated made up about 3.1 per cent of GDP. Funds routed
home by global migrants outstrip official development aid by around four times
in most developing nations, barring in Africa. As for host nations, we know they
benefit from cheaper labour or inflow of high demand skills, both boosting their
economies. The contribution of Indian medical practitioners in Britain's health
industry or Indian software professionals in America needs no recounting. As the
report suggests, migration could also help stem the negative economic impact of
shrinking and ageing populations, notably in Europe.
a surrogate for development. But, as the report's author asserts, it's an
important complement. India, for instance, needs Bharat Nirman and NREGS. It
also needs its successful and influential diaspora, and that would go for most
nations. With the global slowdown having renewed immigration-related fears in
many parts of the world, UNDP's report is a timely reminder of the urgent need
to remove popular misgivings, to reform policies and lower costs in ways that
ease legal migration. Deciding where to live, it says, "is a key element of
human freedom". We couldn't agree more.