Tuesday, 18 December 2012

International Migrants Day: Significance of South-South Migration

By Jon Sward and Priya Deshingkar 

Today marks International Migrants Day, named as such because on this date in 1990 the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was signed.

The goal of the Convention was not to extend additional rights to international migrants, but rather to explicitly safeguard their human rights. Progress on the Convention’s implementation has been slow; it took 13 years for the minimum number of countries (20) to ratify it before it entered into force in 2003. As of October 2011, 40 nations had ratified the Convention, and almost without exception these have been states in the Global South, many of which are net emigration countries, including major migrant sending countries such as Mexico and the Philippines.
As we mark International Migrants Day, it is important to acknowledge that while migration to relatively wealthy OECD countries continues to be the focus of attention of policymakers, academics and the media, South-South migration[1] accounts for about half of all international migration.  It should be noted, however, that an estimated 65 per cent of this migration occurs to neighbouring countries – thus involving cross-border migration. Thus while key OECD countries which receive large numbers of migrants are conspicuous in their absence from the convention’s list of signatories, so too are important regional receiving countries within Sub-Saharan Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia, including the likes of India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore.
This is significant, as South-South migration has important implications for developing countries and regions,  because it tends to involve poorer people than long distance international migration.  These poorer migrants are often undocumented and there is very little systematic understanding of the magnitude, structure and impacts of such migration. For example cross-border migration in many parts of Africa involves large numbers of women traders and not much is known about the poverty impacts of such migration on the women themselves or their families. Research at the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium is seeking to better understand the implications of South-South migration for poverty reduction and development in five global regions across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
In the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, the role of South-South migration is particularly important, as African destinations remain the most common ones for international migrants in the region – the recent increase in attention to African (irregular) migration to Europe notwithstanding. According to the World Bank’s 2011 Remittances Factbook, all ten of the most common international migration corridors from African countries of origin are to destinations within the region, underlining the dominance of these flows, as compared to other patterns of international migration.
Not only that, South-South migration flows in Sub-Saharan Africa consist primarily of the migration of ‘low-skilled’ migrants, many of whom find work in the informal sector. Conventional wisdom has it that work in the informal sector rarely leads to poverty reduction but recent evidence suggests otherwise and needs systematic probing. But there are also other important dimensions of these flows. In 2005, 17.5 per cent of skilled migration worldwide was to destinations in the Global South, with Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Africa being significant Southern recipients of the skilled – along with the Gulf Cooperation Countries.
Given that South-South international migration may be relatively more accessible to people in developing regions, due to both geographical proximity and increasingly restrictive immigration regimes in many traditional OECD receiving countries, this type of migration likely has important knock-on effects for poverty reduction and development.
However, the still incomplete efforts to ensure migrant rights in major migrant receiving countries – of which the UN convention on the protection of migrant rights represents just one example – means that these migrants still face widespread risk of vulnerability, marginalization and exploitation.




[1] Global South is here defined according to the UNDP definition

Jon Sward is a Doctoral Candidate at the Sussex Centre for Migration Research, and Priya Deshingkar is the Research Director of the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium.

Making Migration A Choice for Young Rural Women and Men

By Rosemary Vargas-Lundius  

Out-migration of youth population from rural areas has been an unavoidable part of its structural transformation towards increased agricultural productivity and economic development. Migration to urban centres or abroad can potentially create new livelihood opportunities for young people, which in turn could contribute to rural development through financial as well as social remittances, i.e. new skills, attitudes, ideas.

However, migration is not always the preferred choice among rural youth since it often involves a great deal of personal sacrifice and uncertainty.  Often young rural women and men arriving in the urban centres find that they lack the education and networks to compete for decent jobs in already saturated job markets. Many young people would prefer to remain in rural areas if they had the chance to access better education, adequate training, decent employment and services. Therefore, opportunities need to be created for young women and men in rural areas, so that migration remains a choice and not a necessity. Moreover, it is important to ensure that, should they decide to migrate, they are equipped with adequate skills and information to access gainful employment in urban areas or abroad.

Challenges in the rural milieu
Young women and men in the rural areas are faced with a number of challenges. Underemployment, poor working conditions and the prevalence of working poverty among young people present even more stark challenges than unemployment, and become a disincentive for rural youth to continue to live and work in their local communities.

Deficiencies in rural education and training programmes hinder young rural people’s capacity to  acquire the necessary skills for contributing to the development of the rural and agricultural sector. Especially for young rural girls, gender gaps in participation, gender biased curricula and learning environments, lack of appropriate facilities all undermine the opportunities for young rural women to gain the education they need.

Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that young people view agricultural work as a last resort option, offering scant rewards in terms of income generation. It is thus not surprising that many young people view migration to cities as a viable livelihood option, even in the absence of relevant skills.

This exodus of young people is resulting in an ageing rural population in several developing countries. In some provinces of China, for example, the average age of farmers is 45-50 years. In many parts of Asia and Africa, remittances from migrants are overtaking agriculture as a main income source.

For those young people who do decide to migrate there is a lack of infrastructure to facilitate their transition, such as support networks or information preparing them for the situation they are likely to face upon their arrival in cities. As a result, many find themselves in precarious and often exploitative arrangements. This situation is especially stark for young women, who face a range of additional dangers including trafficking, especially for sexual purposes, which afflicts around 2.5 million people globally, predominantly affecting young women between the ages of 18-24.

A way forward
Rural youth migration and employment issues are intrinsically connected to wider rural development issues such as weak institutional capacity, deficient macroeconomic policies and poor governance. However, youth initiatives in rural areas appear mostly to be ad hoc and disconnected from initiatives and policies to redress macroeconomic and structural problems. There is a need to systematically mainstream youth issues into broader development policies and programme cycles. What is most important is to hear young people’s aspirations and needs. Only in this way can meaningful discussion about migration and youth employment take place.

Reforming rural education systems, and integrating the  private sector in designing and implementing demand driven training programmes for young women and men will create new opportunities for young rural people. Investments in new frontiers such as renewable energy, green jobs and climate smart agriculture can also expand the range of options available to young rural people, as can fostering partnerships among governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) to promote financial literacy and access to resources by youth.

Promotion of decent employment approaches, such as labour rights and social security should complement employment generation programmes. Targeted initiatives to improve the quality of rural employment such as monitoring and regulation of working conditions, implementation of innovative social protection mechanisms and facilitating the organisation of young rural workers to enable their participation in decision-making processes, are all important aspects of this process. Farmers’ organisations should also promote and facilitate young rural people’s participation in their own structures, giving them space to make their concerns be heard.

An enabling policy environment with innovative, forward-looking, gender sensitive rural development policies can result in incentives for young people to remain in their rural communities or return home, contributing to national agricultural and rural development goals.

Rosemary Vargas-Lundius is a Senior Researcher in the Strategy and Knowledge Management Department of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and a member of the Consortium Advisory Group of Migrating out of Poverty.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

GFMD Working Session and Common Space

By Grace Baey

Amidst my conversations with fellow colleagues from civil society, I was heartened to learn from those who had attended previous Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) meetings that there has been a marked shift in discourse over the past six years from a predominant focus on economic concerns (i.e. remittances) towards a growing emphasis on migrant rights.

The 2012 GFMD marked the second time that civil society and governments shared a "common space" through which to engage in face-to-face dialogue on migration and development issues. As noted by Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), "the Common Space is now a permanent fixture of the GFMD… In the past, we were ships that passed by the night along parallel courses. Now those days are over."

I participated in three working sessions on the theme on labour mobility, markets, and matching, including the common space dialogue with government representatives. Each working session featured a panel of speakers who shared different insights and best practices learned from their range of experience on various migration issues. Amongst these were Philip Hunter from Verit√©, Christine Kuptsch from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and Karl Flecker from the Canadian Labour Congress.   

During the working sessions, we were pushed to put pen to paper regarding the changes we felt were most urgently needed to improve recruitment and employment practices, as well as skills and jobs matching from the perspective of migrant workers, trade unions, and employers. Some of these included:
  • Strong licensing and regulation of recruitment that is effectively enforced, and clearly identifies the rights of workers and responsibilities of all parties;
  • Harmonisation and recognition of credentials; and
  • Promote employer investment in training that is relevant to the labour market.
Having identified these changes, we brainstormed different tools and mechanisms to operationalise these recommendations and proposed the following benchmarks:
  • Reduction in the number of brokers and intermediaries, and instances of illegal recruitment;
  • Increased ratification of UN and ILO Conventions, including ILO Convention 181;
  • Programmes to ensure that migrants are matched with jobs according to their training (to avoid de-skilling); and
  • Creating public employment agencies to assist in the placement of migrant workers.
These discussions helped to inform the common space dialogue on the third day, when civil society representatives were given the opportunity to speak first. Despite the brief time we shared, it was our hope that these exchanges would sow the seeds for a much-needed partnership towards achieving the common goal of improving the lives of migrants around the world. As Stefan Manservisi, Director General for Home Affairs of the European Commission, has rightly commented, "The common space should be turned into a common approach."

There is much work to do ahead of us, but I take heart in Khalid Koser's (Deputy Director, Geneva Centre for Security Policy) affirmation that "the sum of the GFMD dialogue is more than the total of its individual parts." To quote the words of George Joseph, Co-Chair of the GFMD Civil Society Days, in his closing speech, "We are here today not for ourselves. We are here for change."

Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.

A Call to Action: 2012 GFMD Civil Society Days in Mauritius

By Grace Baey

"We have come here for change… to humanise our societies." This call to action from George Joseph, co-Chair of the 2012 Civil Society Days of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), marked the guiding principle of this year's theme on "Operationalising Protection and Human Development in International Migration".

Hosted for the first time in Africa, over 140 representatives from civil society organisations around the world gathered together on the beautiful island of Mauritius to put their hands to the plough, focused on translating recommendations made from prior GFMD meetings into practical benchmarks and strategies to be taken up at the 2013 UN High Level Dialogue (HLD) on International Migration and Development, as well as the post-2015 development agenda.

The opening address, delivered by Ali Mansoor, Financial Secretary of the Government of Mauritius and Chair-in-Office for the 2012 GFMD, emphasised what eventually became the dominant premise of our conversations: "Be pragmatic, and strive for workable solutions, not mere ideals."

Amidst the cautionary undertone of his speech, he stressed the need to "tread carefully the issue of communications on [matters pertaining to] migration—where emotions hit the core of reason." "Good intentions are not enough," he said. "You need to come out of the dry rock of principle so that we can build a bridge of communication between civil society and governments."

It was interesting to note the mirror through which both parties viewed themselves: On the one hand, civil society delegates were gathered precisely with the intention of taking issues concerning the everyday realities and struggles of migrants up to the high-level table of intergovernmental discourse. On the other, the persistent appeal on stage amongst state actors was for civil society to ground their high-minded ideals with pragmatic and implementable strategies through which to address real issues concerning migration. Thus the petition from both ends was: Come down!

Wherein lies the common ground?

The organising committee offered one clue card: Benchmarks.

To achieve this, the bulk of the two-day agenda was focused on three working sessions surrounding the themes of "Labour", "Development" and "Protection":
  • Operationalising a Rights-based Approach to Labour Mobility, Markets, and Matching;
  • Operationalising Human Development in International Migration; and
  • Operationalising the Protection of Migrants and their Families.
Thomas Stelzer, UN Assistant Secretary General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), noted in his plenary speech that these working session themes paralleled those envisioned for the 2013 HLD, and so the outcomes of our deliberations would channel seamlessly into these dialogues.

"Think strategically," he urged. "After 6 years of talk, its time to come to action."

Grace Baey is the Communications Officer for the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, one of the core partners within the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium. Grace was attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 supported by the Migrating out of Poverty RPC.

Day Two at the GFMD Civil Society Days 2012

By Linda Oucho


We started the day with such an interesting choice of workgroup sessions that it was difficult to select which one to attend. There are representatives from organisations across the globe who have come with an agenda and aim to share their ideas on the issues concerning migration and/or development, several of whom initiated mind opening discussions. There are so many people to talk to that I find it difficult to locate the other core partners from the Migrating out of Poverty Consortium but I am certain our paths will cross at some point.


Today's breakout sessions continue yesterday's discussions with the hope of reaching a consensus on what should be presented to the government session on the following day. Throughout the breaks I roam around the stalls to see the recent literature or information from organisations that deal with areas within our remit. The usual suspects - the International Labour Organisation and the International Migration Organisation - are prominent, but there is also a separate table where information from a range of organisations across the globe is available. In addition, I talked with organisations located all over Africa about the African Migration and Development Policy Centre's (AMADPOC) activities, including the Migrating out of Poverty programme. The people I spoke to seem to be keenly interested in our research findings.



The Mauritians are a very warm and welcoming nation and have an interesting way of entertaining their guests. The event was closed by Mr Ali Mansoor with a telling tale about the two boys who tried to trick the wise man by hiding a bird behind their backs and asking the wise man to guess what one of them was hiding. Expecting him to know the answer, they decided to ask whether the bird was alive or dead. Realizing the trick, the wise man stated "the answer to your question is in your hands", reminding us that we all hold the answers to the migration question.


Dr Linda Oucho is Director of the Research and Data Hub at the African Migration Development and Policy Centre (AMADPOC), a core partner within the Migrating out of Poverty consortium. She  participated in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD)  Civil Society Days 2012  with the support of the Migrating out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Day One at the GFMD Civil Society Days 2012

By Linda Oucho


The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Civil Society Days 2012 was opened by John Bingham who introduced panellists Ali Mansoor (GFMD Chair in Office), Shakeel Mohammed (Minister of Labour Industrial Relations and Employment in the Government of Mauritius) and Patricia Adele Felicite (Secretary General of Caritas Mauritius).



Ali Mansoor advised us to always bear in mind that we are not looking at labour but human beings. Shakeel Mohammed recounted the story of his experience of migration to Canada. The support he received on arrival demonstrated the importance of being received at your destination country by a familiar group. He added that we should focus on confidence building between civil society and the government in order to tackle the issues plaguing migration. Patricia Felicite asked us to question our part in trying to deal with some of the MDGs that still need to be dealt with asking are we part of the problem and do we want to be part of the solution. These welcoming remarks reminded us of why we are here and what we have been called to do.
The morning session revealed some inspiring stories from the work by George Joseph (Director of Migration Department, Caritas Sweden), who told us of a 16 year old Afghan girl who has endured horrible conditions in order to improve the lives of herself and her family. Even though she has lost everything, she wants to become a lawyer to fight for the rights of migrants in order to protect others from facing the same things she has experienced. George Joseph reminded us that we should seek to help all migrants and protect their rights from being violated.
By the time the afternoon session had begun, we had already taken up part of the time due to interesting discussions overrunning. I attended the working session on "Engaging Diaspora as Entrepreneurs, Social Investors and Policy Advocates". Panellists informed us of the activities of their organisations and asked us to recommend ways of improving their work efforts for the benefit of the diaspora and the government. Let’s just say the discussion was so engaging, the co-moderator, Gibril Faal (AFFORD UK) had to work hard to ensure we did not go over time. At the end of the day, everyone left with recommendations that will help to improve their efforts towards migration initiatives.
We were treated to an eventful cultural night where they showcased Mauritian culture from their vocal talents to their artistic dances from China and India. It was a perfect end to an intriguing day of discussions. I look forward to the next day....
Linda Oucho is the Director of the Research and Data Hub at the African Migration Development and Policy Centre (AMADPOC), a core partner within the Migrating out of Poverty consortium. She is participating in the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Mauritius with the support of the Migrating out of Poverty programme.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Below the Radar: Why governments need to recognise the importance of the urban informal sector and migration for rural poverty reduction

By Priya Deshingkar

For millions of poor rural people across the globe, accessing urban labour markets is critical for survival and coping with seasonal adversity.   Their first point of arrival in a city is often an informal settlement or slum  such as Dharavi in Mumbai (with a population of 6.5 million) or Kibera in Nairobi (population of 1.7 million) and their first jobs are often in the informal sector. Early migration models viewed urban informal sector employment as a temporary staging post for new migrants on their way to formal sector employment. But decades of experience in developing countries has shown that the informal sector has persisted and grown, and graduation to the formal sector has been elusive.

In fact, recent assessments by UN-HABITAT indicate that the proportion of people living in slums exceeds the proportion of people living in officially authorised parts of the city in many parts of Africa and Asia. According to the State of the World Cities 2010/2011: Bridging the Urban Divide, the number of slum dwellers globally has increased from roughly 776 million in 2000 to roughly 827 million in 2010, despite the fact that 227 million people were rehabilitated through slum improvement projects. 

Most governments view informal settlements as hotbeds of crime,  filth and disease that cities need to be rid of. The policy response has been negligent at best, with slums continuing to have no services for decades, and demolition at worst where people are threatened with eviction without the provision of any real alternatives, as recent reports from Bangladesh, India, Kenya and Ghana indicate.  There are also (failed) efforts to keep migrants in rural areas through employment creation programmes – for example watershed development projects in India aim to reduce migration. According to the UN Demographic Yearbook 2009-10 an astonishing 67 per cent of all governments had policies to halt or limit rural-urban migration even in 2009.

This policy position is eloquently captured by Hernando De Soto, the Peruvian economist and author of The Other Path:  
When they arrived in the cities, however, migrants encountered a hostile world.  They soon realised that, while formal society had a bucolic vision of Peru’s rural world and acknowledged its right to happiness, no one wanted that other world to descend on the cities.  Assistance and development programs for rural areas were designed to ensure that the peasants improved their lot where they were, well away from the cities. Civilization was expected to go to the countryside; the peasants were not expected to come looking for it.

The genesis of these negative perceptions can be traced to theories of migration, urban unemployment and slum formation as well as ignorance related to the richness and dynamism of the urban informal sector.  Although participatory mapping of slums is gaining momentum, we have little understanding of the microenterprises that the urban poor are engaged in.  

Despite the persuasive arguments put forth by De Soto urging governments to recognise the economic contribution of workers in the urban informal sector, little has been done to address these concerns in developing regions of Asia and Africa. Where efforts have been made the results are impressive as in the case of research by Sumila Gulyani and Debabrata Talukdar in the slums of Nairobi: their results show that the urban poor engage in a range of micro-enterprises (retailing food and household appliances, small scale manufacturing, etc.). Contrary to older narratives that view the economic activities of the urban poor mainly as survival activities, their research indicates that such microenterprises can put people on a trajectory out of poverty.  

Nor is there any understanding of the amount of money that poor migrants to urban cities are able to send to their families back home.  Recent calculations by Adriana Castaldo, Priya Deshingkar and Andy McKay in 'Internal Remittances and Poverty', based on household surveys, comparing internal and international remittances in Ghana and India, two countries with marked regional inequalities and high levels of internal migration, show that the total sum of internal remittances far exceeds international remittances.  

Given that these remittances are from poorer migrants than those migrating internationally, and reach a larger number of poorer source families, the impacts on poverty are likely to be significant.  Remittances are critical for families in rural areas where credit and insurance markets are weak – the new labour economics of migration argument – and it helps them to eat regularly, send their children to school, improve housing and to pay for health care.  

Finally, systematic efforts are needed to understand and appreciate the economic contribution of  migrants.  Doug Saunders argued in his book Arrival City that migrants are the economic engines in cities across the world; indeed Deshingkar and Akter calculate that the economic contribution of migrants in India is 10% of the GDP.

Governments would do well to recognise people’s own efforts at managing risk and adversity in rural areas by migrating to towns and cities.  Urban and rural planners need to work together and recognise the reality of multilocational livelihoods and accept mobility rather than fighting it.


Priya Deshingkar is the Research Director of the Migrating Out of Poverty Research Programme Consortium at the University of Sussex