Better international co-ordination could lead to more worldwide benefits from migration

12 December Dec 2016 1326 12 December 2016

Despite growing economic dynamism in many developing regions, international migration flows are not being diverted towards these new alternative poles but rather are concentrating in advanced economies, according to a new OECD Development Centre report.

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Despite growing economic dynamism in many developing regions, international migration flows are not being diverted towards these new alternative poles but rather are concentrating in advanced economies, according to a new OECD Development Centre report.

Perspectives on Global Development 2017: International Migration in a Shifting World shows that while the share of global migrants originating from developing countries has remained fairly stable at around 80% over the last 20 years, the share of developing country migrants heading to high-income countries has jumped from 36% to 51% of the world total. The report documents the impact of migration on developing countries and discusses policies that can help maximise gains from it and foster development.

Various factors influence today’s migration patterns. Notwithstanding rapid economic growth in many developing economies, the average per-capita income differential between developing and advanced economies has increased from around USD 20,000 in 1995 to more than USD 35,000 in 2015, making the latter even more attractive for migrants.
While well-being in developing countries has improved in areas like life expectancy, security, health and education, the disparity with advanced countries remains high. The presence of migrant networks (family, friends and community) already living in destination countries facilitates migration, reinforcing the concentration in a few preferred destinations.

Other factors affecting migration patterns include immigration policies, rising education levels in developing countries, and changing demographics and labour market needs worldwide.

The share of the world population living outside their country of birth has risen from 2.7% in 1995 to 3.3% in 2015, an increase of about 85 million people in two decades to roughly a total of 245 million international migrants.

Migration is a natural result of economic development that can benefit both countries of origin and destination. This trend is here to stay, so it has to work for all countries. Improved co-operation would help developing, emerging and advanced economies better manage migration to the benefit of all, making sure that there are more winners and fewer losers from migration.

Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary General

Migration can have both positive and negative impacts on countries of origin as well as those of destination. For the countries migrants are leaving, the loss of labour can relieve pressure in over-crowded labour markets, propping up wages and easing unemployment. Moreover, migrants send home remittances and bring knowledge and ideas as they return. But emigration also can come with economic and social costs, such as labour shortages, a loss of educated and skilled workers and social repercussions for family members left behind. Public authorities in countries of origin need to address such costs while putting in place conditions to maximise the benefits.


Countries of destination can benefit from migration to make up for worker shortages, especially in specific sectors. Immigrants also contribute more than just their labour: they also invest in their host country and help create jobs. Besides, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to receive government transfers. However, immigrants are less likely to have formal labour contracts than native-born workers. Public policies in developing countries of destination need to invest in immigrants’ economic and social integration and address the potential impacts that large inflows can exert on the capacity of public services, notably at the sub-national level.

As the number of people migrating is likely to continue to increase, the need is growing for greater international co-operation to manage migration flows as well as a framework for handling refugee crises – which are a separate and smaller phenomenon than economic migration. Even with the current crisis, refugees represent less than 10% of total migrants worldwide.

Better international co-operation should span areas such as the protection of migrants’ rights, visa agreements, recruitment and remittance costs, as well as qualifications and skills partnerships.

To reach these ambitious objectives, the successful inclusion of migration-related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals is a key step towards establishing commitments that can be monitored multilaterally, regionally and nationally. The United Nations’ proposed Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is a positive development towards promoting more effective international co-operation.
The Global Compact on Refugees will be another important component towards creating a robust framework to deal with future refugee crises.


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