In 2010, in the jargon of development specialists, the term
“migration” may be replaced by that of “human mobility”. This is the
case in the UNPD’s 2009 Human Development Report (1). This distinction
is not merely indicative of linguistic flights of fancy. “Migration often gets bad press”, writes Helen Clark, UNPD administrator, in the report’s forward. “Negative
stereotypes describing migrants as ‘wanting our jobs’ or ‘feeding off
taxpayers’ money’ are prevalent in certain media outlets and part of
the public opinion, especially in this time of recession. For others,
the term ‘migrant’ stirs up images of people in extremely vulnerable
For the first time, the UNPD report is entirely devoted to the positive aspects of migratory movements, and to their defence, in text that strives to clarify matters. “Human mobility can be an extremely efficient way to offer individuals better opportunities in terms of wages, health and education. But it also represents much more: being able to choose where you wish to live is an essential element of human freedom”, according to the authors. To fears of invasion regularly expressed in the wealthiest countries, they respond with the following figures: “the vast majority of people who migrate do so within their own country (…). We estimate that there are around 740 million domestic migrants, or nearly four times more than international migrants.” And among those who have left their country, only one third went from a developing country to a developed country, or less then 70 million individuals.
The obstacles to movement are pointed out, as is the political hypocrisy of numerous governments, which “tolerate” the illegal workers that their economies depend upon. “We currently estimate that 50 million people live and work abroad illegally (…). Although they often do the same work and pay the same taxes as local residents, (these migrants) sometimes have only limited access to basic services, and run the risk of being expelled.” The UNPD encourages countries to “lift political barriers” in order to stimulate the economies of host regions and drive up revenue, stimulate consumption, and improve education and health in countries of origin. The authors make propositions for measures to be taken by both host countries and countries of origin, as well as the private sector, unions, NGOs and migrants. They are available on the report’s website: http://hdr.undp.org.
(1) United Nations Development Programme (UNPD).
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