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.