ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Migration and Human Development

The Human Development Report 2009 breaks some myths about migration.

The Human Development Report 2009 (HDR), released this week, makes a surprising assertion – “being able to decide where to live is a key element of human freedom”. This assertion seems like a bolt from the blue because policy “common sense” for many years has usually seen migration of people across borders and inside countries as a negative thing, caused by underdevelopment and violence and as a source of trouble, poverty and joblessness. Right-wing politics in almost all countries opposes entry of immigrants, whether domestic or foreign, particularly when the migrants are poor, refugees or from a different ethnic/ religious background. In India we witness this most clearly in the treatment and representation of internal Bihari migrants or international “Bangladeshi aliens”. But it is not only revanchist politics which targets migrants, most governments view migration as an unwelcome event both for the migrant as well as for the communities involved (we are, of course, not including human trafficking and refugees over here). Given this context, it is surely welcome that an influential body like the United Nations has endorsed a report which foregrounds migrant rights by not only demonstrating the net advantage of migration to both the migrants as well as host communities, but also at a level of human right.

The utilitarian benefits of migration, in better incomes and social benefits for the migrants as well as in higher economic activity and as a pool of ideas for host communities, have been detailed at great length in the report. It shows that host communities generally benefit from the infusion of new workers and skills while the immigrants’ home communities too often gain from the repatriation of money and ideas. The migrants themselves also benefit from a rise in incomes, health and education. What is of particular significance is the assertion that even migration by poor, low-skilled people has benefits for all concerned. In fact, it concludes by highlighting six core policy recommendations to overcome barriers to migration. These include opening entry channels for more workers, especially those with low skills, ensuring the human rights of migrants and access to social services, protection from discrimination, lowering the cost of migration as well as easing internal migration within countries. In all this the report has a progressive focus and should be welcomed.

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