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Migration – Impacts and Implications

Ultimately, the biggest problem in finding solutions to the issues and challenges raised by migration is the polarised nature of the debate.  For many people, migration is a symptom of the failure of states or societies to provide adequate living conditions so that people can stay in their home areas.  In contrast, for many others, migration is a ‘right’ that is limited by the actions of governments and societies that are xenophobic or racist.

Yet surely a middle ground needs to be found.  For many migrants, movement is an essential means of securing a livelihood or a better life, but migration is often also an undesired, and undesirable outcome of poverty, underdevelopment, environmental degradation or armed conflict.  Indeed, for an individual migrant, the desire to escape difficult conditions at home, and seize opportunities elsewhere can easily go hand in hand.

In this context, we need compromise between polarised positions that seek to classify migration as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – or between positions that see migrants as ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’.  That does, however, require policy-makers to rise above polarised public debates, to see the phenomenon of migration in a detached way, based on the best available evidence.

The consequences of taking a more rounded view on migration are not easy to predict.

Socially, a more open and tolerant attitude towards migration (whether or not numbers of migrants actually rise) could be at the cost of increased social tension, if that process is poorly managed or explained.  But equally, it could almost certainly contribute to improved social relations, if understanding of the benefits of migration and diversity can be clearly articulated.  This is as relevant a conclusion for migrant-receiving areas in the global ‘South’, such as commercial agricultural plantations in Côte d’Ivoire or the slums of capital cities, as it is for economically-advanced societies in Europe and North America.

Economically, we still do not completely understand the broader consequences of migration, although there is growing evidence of the benefits of migration both in macro-economic terms, as well as for individual sending and receiving communities.

Finally, technologically, it seems clear that a more open approach to migration could contribute to the stimulation of new technologies (such as the ‘skype’ and other VOIP technologies, used intensively by many families split across countries and continents) as well as to new uses for existing technologies (such as the growth of money transfer systems that use mobile phones and the internet).

In terms of impacts on other issues, migration is perhaps the archetypal cross-cutting issue, and as such, it arguably impacts on all of the other topics for this initiative.  Thus: in the energy world, the extraction of raw materials for energy often provides a stimulus for inward migration, but equally can lead to the displacement of populations in affected areas (e.g. through the building of dams, or conversion of agricultural land for the production of biofuels); food insecurity is a classic cause of distress migration; both too much water (floods) and too little (droughts) can be associated with quite large migrations and displacements; the influence of climate change makes these particularly difficult to predict into the future; growing urbanisation contributes to one of the major challenges facing the world in the 21st century – how to deal with rising urban waste; migration throws into question established identities, and contributes to the creation of new, sometimes ‘hybrid’ identities; the use of new technology by migrants, and to control migrants, raises significant issues to do with privacy; without connectivity and transport, migration doesn’t happen; with migration, connectivity and transport links can be stimulated and developed; migration is blamed (not entirely fairly) for decimating the health workforces of many smaller or poorer nations; in turn, without migrants, Britain’s NHS and other advanced country health systems would likely grind to a halt; cities are growing in the developing world, at least in part due to migration; migrant remittances outweigh either international aid, and/or foreign direct investment, in a significant number of countries and lastly; is migration a choice?  That is a key question!

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3 Responses to “Migration – Impacts and Implications”
  1. Robin Cohen says:

    Migration will impact future cities as we will have new patterns of settlement, inclusion and exclusion as migrants arrive in significant numbers. It will also have significant influence on identity. We will see huge changes to minority and host population identities including xenophobia, pluralism and creolization. On the last see my co-edited book

  2. Workshop Feedback says:

    I see a rise in gated communities as the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. In fact, I see gated cities re-emerging. Not only will we have sub-divisions of major fast growing cities such as Las Vegas (with its imbalanced economic distribution) continue to give rise to gated communities, but I see that key Western cities will become electronically walled. Just as in medieval times, being inside rather than outside the wall at times of crisis will be pivotal.

  3. Workshop Feedback says:

    Migration itself has a major influence on social cohesion. Protecting the status quo is a priority for many nations and some are clearly better than others at managing this. In the next decade, I see many more countries beginning to face major challenges around social cohesion to the extent that ghettos may become more and more predominant.

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