Development constitutes a new stage or phase in a changing situation. It is rather ambiguous and can be viewed from different perspectives.
With regard to the context of this essay, it refers to economic development and can, at times, allude to human or social development. Human development can be defined as “the process of enlarging people’s choices,” and these choices enable people to “lead a long and healthy life, to be educated, to enjoy a decent standard of living,” as well as “political freedom, other guaranteed human rights and various ingredients of self-respect” (Human development report 1997, 1997). Whilst economic development is “the process by which a nation improves the economic, political, and social well-being of its people” (En.wikipedia.org, 2017).
Economic growth is requisite in order for economic development to occur as argued by economist Amartya Sen who pointed out that it is “one aspect of the process of economic development” (Sen, 1983). Both economic and human development fall under the umbrella term ‘International Development’ which is evidently linked to migration and refers to development on a global scale. The above mentioned concepts are affected by, and intricately linked with, migration on both a global, regional and local scale. Migration can be defined as “the movement by people from one place to another with the intentions of settling, permanently or temporarily in a new location” (En.
wikipedia.org, 2017). Migration has been a perpetual occurrence throughout human history, this is due to the fact that it is almost inevitable as people tend to change their place of residence either permanently or semi-permanently as argued by Lee (1966). This usually occurs over long distances and from one country to another, albeit the dominant form of migration is internal. People usually migrate in large groups with family members or with others of the same nationality or ethnicity, though migration is also undertaken individually. Migrants can also be referred to as refugees or asylum seekers—depending on the causal factors of their migration. Migration occurs on a wide array of scales, it can be “inter-continentally (between continents), intra-continentally (between countries on a given continent), inter-regionally (within countries) and even regionally,” (Sibanda, 2009). Migration has both direct and indirect connections with development and these will be deciphered and further explored in this essay.
The proliferation of global markets as well as the auxiliary socio-economic evolution in recent decades have led to a quantitative escalation in migration rates. Subsequently, a renewed interest in the interconnections that exist between migration and development has been established, initiated partly by rising interests in remittances by the governments of the countries of origin.The relationship between migration and development was previously associated with a “negative undertone in the assessment of the impact of migration on furthering development of origin countries” (Swansea.ac.uk, 2017). However, with the revitalisation of this debate, there has been particular emphasis being placed on the positive aspects regarding the relationship between migration and development, coupled with a more unequivocal recognition of the reciprocity characterised by this relationship—levels of development engender migration and migration can accelerate development— and the coexisting intricate nature of the relationship.Migrants tend to maintain social and financial ties with their country of origin, thus “their interaction with the household back home and the home community is the main channel by which migration could benefit development” (Vargas-Silva, 2012). This can be argued due to the paramount importance of the money sent back, as well as the ‘social remittances’—ideas and knowledge—illustrated by Vargas-Silva (2012) gained, which furthers development the country of origin.
In 2010, remittances to developing countries were recorded to be over USD 320 billion (World Bank, 2011). These incoming monetary flows are an important source of foreign exchange for developing countries, helping them generate, or increase levels of, development. Notwithstanding the apparent benefits, Vargas-Silva (2012) notes that migration is not always advantageous to developing countries as it may impose prodigious costs, leaving the country without the requisite human capital for long-term economic growth—thence, hindering development.Whilst migration influences development, the economic state of a nation is an indicator of migration levels. People tend to migrate for a variety of reasons linked to their current economic condition imposed by their country of residence such as a quest for better pay, services, education and/or healthcare, albeit migration is usually engendered by a combination of these reasons, amongst others. However, the expected income gap between developed and developing countries is a strong incentive for people to migrate (Czaika and de Haas 2011).
Consequently, it can be discerned that migration affects development, but development also affects migration—emphasising the reciprocal nature of the relationship.The nature of the existing interconnections between migration and development can be observed via two perspectives: as a consequence of underdevelopment and as a means of development (Nyberg-Sorensen et al., 2002). This suggests that underdevelopment in the country of origin evokes and engenders emigration as people seek for better economic conditions. The lack of development in these countries is due to endogenous factors such as low economic growth and small-scale agricultural systems, relative to the more developed nations. This theorem was apparent in Norway in the 1880s during a period of economic and industrial stagnation. Subsequently, a significant portion of its population migrated to America where there was increasing demand for labour in their capitalist industrial sector (Lovoll, 1984).
With regard to a means of development, remittances provide what can be significant economic benefits to the country of origin—stimulating small scale development in local areas, which can collectively contribute to economic growth and an increase in the number of SMEs which, in turn, improves the labour productivity. Remittances, however, may not always contribute to development in countries of origin, depending on the amount received and the way in which these funds are used and allocated. Scholars have argued that financial remittances may lead to dependency, create inflation and increase income inequality between receiving and non-receiving households of migrant sending countries (de Haas, 2010). This consequently hinders development in the long term.
Nevertheless, remittances have been widely accredited as the ‘new development mantra’ for developing countries (Quartey, 2006; Kapur 2004). Therefore, at the national level, remittances contribute positively to the balance of payments by providing means of foreign exchange, whilst at the local level they alleviate poverty levels, increase household incomes, provide an insurance against risk, enable family members to benefit from educational and training opportunities and provide a source of capital for the establishment of small businesses (Nyberg-Sorensen et al, 2002).Return migration is another element that illustrates the role of migrants as a tool for development.
Emigrants that are ‘successful’ return with knowledge and expertise which contributes to a ‘brain gain’ particularly in sectors in the economy where such knowledge is characterised by paucity. In economies that posses rapid growth rates such as China and India, evidence suggests that migrant returnees are among the most productive work force (Gamlen, 2006). On the other hand, return migrants are likely to be the retired, sick and unsuccessful (World Bank, 2011). This consequently increases the dependency ratio and government expenditure on services—hindering the rate of development as less funds are available for it.
This can be observed with the repatriation of Ghanaians from Nigeria in the 1980s as a result of the declining rates of Nigeria’s oil boom (Awumbila et al, 2008). Rimmer (1992) recorded that this repatriation worsened the state of the Ghanaian economy as majority of the migrants did not return with expertise needed for development and where thence contributed to the evident under-utilisation of the labour force. The new approach to viewing the relationship between migration and development has fuelled interest in this relationship particularly in Africa. Nigeria has experienced substantial internal and international migration over the past few decades well considerable rural-urban migration. Albeit, a significant amount is forced migration. Anyawu (1996) asserts that rural-urban migration has led to rural depopulation and loss of agricultural production, negating development in the country side—comparative to other parts of the nation. Howbeit, the migration of Fulani cattle rearers to the South-West part of Nigeria has boosted development in the area, such as stimulating trade in cattle.
Most of the emigrants are made up of mostly high skilled personnel such as doctors and engineers, amongst others and this loss of highly skilled personnel has reinforced a decline in development (Sibanda, 2009). On the other hand, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago estimated that Nigerians in the US alone send about $1.3 billion each year to Nigeria—more than six times the annual flow of US aid to Nigeria (Sibanda, 2009); positively contributing to the nations development.Overall, it can be concluded that migration impacts are not uniform for all sending countries. Therefore the impacts can either turn positive or negative depending on the several factors explored in this essay.
In this way, migration can be used as a means of bottom-up approach to mobilise and utilise resources in such a way as to maximise the opportunities available and subsequently proliferate the rate of development. Whether positive or not, the fact that there is a relationship between migration and development is unquestionable. As explained above, these are not simple relationships.
Higher levels of development does not always lead to less migration, “the brain drain may not be bad for the human capital levels of the migrant-sending countries” and remittances may not always be beneficial, rather detrimental in the long-term to the receiving economies (Vargas-Silva, 2012)