Global approach to deal with migration issues needed, UN study finds

29 November 2004

A United Nations study released today stresses the need for better management and cooperation among nations to address the economic, social and security issues caused by global migration.

The 2004 World Economic and Social Survey deals with the consequences of the 175 million people around the world living away from their home countries. It points out that an orderly and controlled population movement across borders could prove to be beneficial for both the sending as well as the receiving nation, but adds that such an outcome requires a new global approach.

“Beyond existing conventions and protocols, the international community lacks a comprehensive international framework that addresses the wide range of issues pertaining to global migration,” the survey says. “Migration is a transnational phenomenon involving various parties with different perspectives and interests.”

The authors find that fears in receiving countries that migrants will take away jobs or bring down wages are highly ingrained, and contribute to a restrictive political and policy outlook. The share of governments with policies to lower immigration grew to just 34 per cent in 2003, from 7 per cent in 1976, according to the survey.

But the studies of the economic impact of migration indicate “no significant” reduction in wages and employment rates among natives. Researchers say the incoming migrants expand the demand for goods and services, add to gross national production, and contribute more to government coffers than they take out.

“If we want to reduce those flows, we have to raise standards of living at home countries,” said Ian Kinniburgh, Director of the Office for Development Policy and Planning in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), at a news conference in New York. “It is very important to see migration from the development perspective.”

Mr. Kinniburgh and others see that international migration can serve as an agent for global interchanges of skill and knowledge as well as economic dynamism and efficiency.

“The challenge is how to make it a win-win situation, rather than a lose-lose situation” Joseph Chamie, Director of DESA’s Population Division, told the briefing. “The bottom line is how to better manage the migration.”

The study comes ahead of the 2005 report of the Global Commission on International Migration and a high-level dialogue on development and migration due to take place in the General Assembly in 2006.