International Migration and the Global Agenda
What are the causes and effects of global migration?
- Given the anti-immigrant sentiments among developed and developing countries, the issue of how to manage international migration is contentious.
- Millions of men and women in poor developing countries, especially the youth, face poverty and hardships securing employment.
- In contrast to the past, the composition of the immigrants in many instances differs greatly from that of the receiving country.
Four powerful forces are contributing to the urgency of addressing the international migration issue on the national, regional and international agenda.
The first force is demography. Generally speaking, receiving countries in the North are facing a “birth-rate crisis.” With more deaths than births due to low fertility levels, many receiving countries are experiencing rapid population aging — and facing outright population decline.
In contrast, the populations of sending countries, especially in Asia and Africa, continue to grow rapidly, with most of their populations concentrated in the younger ages.
Economics is the second major force. With aging and shrinking populations, many developed nations are confronting serious labor shortages, financial pressures on government-sponsored pensions and difficulties providing health care for the elderly.
In addition, countries in the Persian Gulf are recruiting large numbers of temporary migrant workers for their expanding economies, fueled largely by their vast oil wealth.
At the same time, millions of men and women in poor developing countries, especially the youth, face poverty and hardships securing employment. And as a result, many are seeking opportunities by migrating — legally or illegally — to wealthier countries, especially in Europe and North America.
Their difficult situations are further compounded by environmental and climate changes impacting their farming, fishing and other important natural resources.
The third major force is culture — a broad set of issues including ethnicity, language, religion, customs and tradition. In contrast to the past, the composition of the immigrants in many instances differs greatly from that of the receiving country.
In Europe following World War II, for example, many immigrants came from the relatively poorer countries of southern Europe.
Many of the immigrants today, however, are not only less educated and lower skilled than the native populations — but are ethnically and culturally different, raising concerns about integration, assimilation and cultural integrity.
Finally, the fourth crucial force is national security. The events of 9-11 in the United States, the bombings in the United Kingdom, Spain, Indonesia and elsewhere, as well as several high profile violent crimes committed by immigrants have heightened security and safety concerns relating to international migrants.
As a result, many countries have tightened their borders, stiffened their policies and instituted new guidelines and procedures, e.g., photos, fingerprints, lengthy detentions and immigration bans, to monitor and deal with those coming from certain countries, especially illegal immigrants.
In addition, civil conflict and societal breakdowns — such as in Somalia, Haiti and the Congo — have resulted in millions of people rushing to escape from the disorder, violence and insecurity.
These four powerful forces are keeping international migration at the top of national, regional and global agenda.
Moreover, given the current economic downturn and growing anti-immigrant sentiments among both developed and developing countries, it seems certain that the issue of how best to manage international migration will become even more contentious, divisive and challenging for governments and international organizations in the years ahead.