Work in Progress: Migration for Development


This section of the ShareWeb is intended to allow SDC personnel to discuss the nexus between migration and development and to help better integrate the migration factor into SDC programmes and projects.

As the organisation's own experience in most thematic subfields of migration (such as labour migration and diaspora involvement) is rather limited, this section also offers insights into other relevant actors' work, their experiences and their specific expertise.

While it has long been recognised that migration (both internal and international) and development processes are closely linked, there is still limited understanding of the nature of their relationship. There are no general answers to questions about how migration affects development and vice versa.

For many years, these questions were largely avoided, as migration and development were seen as separate realms, involving different government departments, multilateral organisations, civil society actors and academics. For example, migration is not mentioned in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of many countries across Africa nor does it feature in the Millennium Development Goals. Where the relationship was considered, the prevailing consensus was quite pessimistic: migration was seen as both a symptom and cause of ongoing underdevelopment, creating a vicious circle in many developing countries.

This pessimistic outlook has largely faded in the last decade. The relationship between migration and development has become a major focus for policymakers and researchers for a number of reasons.

  • Changing patterns of migration: while the scale of international migration as a proportion of global population is not unprecedented, there is greater diversity among migrants and their destinations and higher levels of migration from less developed to industrialised states.
  • Competition for labour: the demand for migrant labour, both skilled and unskilled, in Europe seems set to rise whether it is supplied by regular or irregular migration. At the same time, in many developing countries, a high proportion of the best educated people are emigrating.
  • Remittances: by 2007, the global total of remittances to developing countries exceeded foreign direct investment and official development aid and was growing quickly. The development potential of such private sources of funds has become a subject of extreme interest.
  • Transnational practices: migrants are now able to maintain links with their countries of origin through a complex network of cultural, economic, social and political relations, which can be sustained through new technologies and cheaper travel.

Such factors have pushed the relationship between migration and development into the limelight and stimulated a large number of international initiatives addressing the issues.

The negative relationship between migration and development has been fundamentally reappraised and a more optimistic analysis is now more prevalent.