International migration is a powerful symbol of global inequality, whether in terms of wages, labour market opportunities, or lifestyles. Millions of workers and their families move each year across borders and across continents, seeking to reduce what they see as the gap between their own position and that of people in other, wealthier, places. In turn, there is a growing consensus in the development field that migration represents an important livelihood diversification strategy for many in the world?s poorest nations.1 This includes not only international migration, but also permanent, temporary and seasonal migrations within poorer countries, a phenomenon of considerable importance across much of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Yet it is also clear that migration - and perhaps especially international migration - is an activity that carries significant risks and costs. As such, although migration is certainly rooted, at least in part, in income and wealth inequalities between sending and receiving areas, it does not necessarily reduce inequality in the way intended by many migrants. Much depends on the distribution of these costs and benefits, both within and between sending and receiving countries and regions. Also important in terms of the aggregate impact of migration on sending societies is the selectivity of migration itself. Clearly if most migrants were to come from the poorest sections of society, and they were to achieve net gains from migration, this would act to reduce economic inequality at least, all other things being equal. But migrants are not always the poorest, they do not always gain, and other factors are not equal.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2005|