Increasing flows of goods and capital are the drivers of globalization, made possible by the gradual lowering of barriers to their movement across borders. With regard to the flow of people, however, similar deregulatory trends are being firmly resisted.
As noted by the World Bank in its report, “Globalization, Growth, and Poverty,” while countries have sought to promote integrated markets through liberalization of trade and investment, they have largely resisted liberalizing migration policies. Many countries have extensive legal barriers preventing foreigners from entering for purposes of seeking work or residency. In fact, immigration policies across the world are getting tighter as governments attempt to limit the economic, cultural, and security impact of large movements of people from one country to another.
Despite the reluctance of governments to liberalize immigration policy, however, the number of people living outside their country of origin has risen from 120 million in 1990 to, as the United Nations estimates, more than 215million in 2012 (The World Bank, 2012), which is approximately 3.05 percent of the world population.
“Today, the number of people living outside their country of birth is larger than at any other time in history. International migrants would now constitute the world’s fifth most populous country if they all lived in the same place” (UNFPA).
A 2009 poll conducted by Gallup Polls across 135 countries reveals that 16 percent of the world’s adult population would like to move permanently to another country if they had the chance. According to polls taken from 2007 – 2009, 38 percent of sub-Saharan Africans want to migrate, while only 10 percent of Asians want to permanently leave their home country. The United States is the top destination country of those polls (Espisova, Ray, 2009).
A variety of reasons lie behind migration. People may migrate in order to improve their economic situation, or in order to escape civil strife, persecution, and environmental disasters. Traditionally, the reasons encouraging an individual to migrate were categorized as “push” or “pull” factors. Globalization has introduced a third set called “network” factors, which include free flow of information, improved global communication and faster and lower cost transportation. While network factors are not a direct cause of migration they do facilitate it.
As well as encouraging migration, globalization also produces countervailing forces. For example, as businesses grow and become more internationalized they often outsource their production to developing countries where labor costs are lower. This movement of jobs from the developed to the developing world mitigates those factors leading to migration. In a global economy, in other words, jobs can move to potential migrants instead of migrants moving to potential jobs.
The impacts of migration are complex bringing both benefits and disadvantages. Immigration is a source of low cost labor for host countries, while the remittances of emigrant workers can be an important source of foreign exchange for sending countries. On the other hand, migration can stoke resentment and fear in receiving as immigrants are accused of lowering wages and causing crime. For the economies of sending countries migration leads to a loss of well-educated and highly productive citizens.
This Issue in Depth is designed to help you understand the causes of migration, the allocation of benefits, and the ways in which individual countries and the international community deal with this important subject. The Issue in Depth addresses primarily voluntary economic migration, that is, migrants who relocate to a foreign country as temporary workers or legal immigrants. These categories of migrants are perhaps the most controversial as governments struggle to create a migration policy that effectively acknowledges economic necessity and domestic apprehensions. Civil conflict and oppression create different patterns of migration in the form of refugees and asylum seekers. These types of migration, however, are not causally related to globalization and are only briefly discussed below.
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