The poor are the ones who gain most
from international migration, but contrary to popular impression, it is the
relatively well-to-do who
emigrate more often. That’s a revealing finding
of the UNDP’s Human Development Report (HDR) 2009.
which focuses on migration, shows that the median emigration rate for countries
with low Human Development Index (HDI) is only about one-third the median rate
of countries with high HDI.
The point becomes even sharper if we
look only at emigration to developed countries; in this case, the median
emigration rate for low HDI nations is less than 1% compared to almost 5% in
highly developed countries. The trend, the report said, was also borne out by
studies of Mexican households. Here again, emigration rates were higher for
families with relatively high incomes than for the poor. Both globally and in
the Mexican case, the richest nations (or families) had somewhat lower
emigration rates. In other words, the tendency to migrate increases with income
levels up to a point and then declines.
What explains this? The
report says several studies have shown that poverty is a constraint to
emigration. The most obvious reason is the cost involved in moving, which is
usually higher for long distances than comparatively shorter distances within
the same region or country. Transportation apart, policy-based restrictions on
crossing borders also need a lot of resources to overcome, which the poor find
more difficult to mobilise. The report points out that this trend contradicts
the widely held belief that development in countries of origin will reduce
Not surprisingly, the report finds that the number of
people migrating within their own countries is four times higher than
international migrants. The figure for international migration is estimated to
be 214 million or 3.1% of the world’s population, while 740 million
migrants move within their own country.
Only 37% of the
international migration is from developing to developed countries. Most of it,
about 60%, happens within countries. And a miniscule 3% moved from developed to
the developing countries. Local migrants are estimated to have increased the
most in Gulf countries (from 4.6% in 1960 to 38.6% in 2010), in North America
(from 6.7% to 14.2%) and in Europe (from 3.5% to 9.7%).
It might be
difficult to believe at a time when Indians getting beaten up in Australia
repeatedly hogs the headlines, but recent data indicates that a substantial
proportion of the local population in most countries welcomes the idea of
immigrants settling down in their countries.
This is the conclusion
drawn by the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2009. According to the
report, about 60% of those surveyed in almost all countries, no matter what
their human development index, felt ethnic diversity helped enrich life. A
similar proportion felt that legal migrants ought to be given a chance to stay
Support for opportunity to stay permanently was highest
in Italy, followed by France, with about 80% of those surveyed in the two
countries saying immigrants ought to be allowed to stay. In the US and Germany
it was over 70%. Even in the UK, Netherlands and Poland, which had the least
acceptance, almost 60% thought migrants ought to be allowed to stay permanently.
In another survey of 46 countries, resistance to immigrants was
found to be highest in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, where
between 75% and 90% said immigrations should be controlled or limited. That was
a much higher degree of resistance to immigrants than in most developed
countries like the US or Germany.
Interestingly, China and India had
a good proportion, over 20%, saying the government ought to allow anyone who
wanted to come in, while in Vietnam that proportion was as high as 50%.
About 75% of the people surveyed in medium and high development
countries felt that when jobs are scarce employers should give priority to
natives over immigrants. However, in countries with very high human development,
only about 60% felt the same.
The report notes that a lot of
resistance to migration is due to popular misconceptions like the belief that
immigrants affect the earnings of the residents negatively. And often various
interest groups use information about migration selectively to support their
stance. For instance, a recent review of 20 European countries revealed that in
every case the perceived number of immigrants far exceeded the actual number,
with many even believing it to be double the actual number or more.