A report of the United Nations Human Development Report (HDR) 2009 has dispelled the myth that the movement of foreigners into another country, as in the case of Zimbabweans, Kenyans and other nationalities into Botswana, only has negative effects on the economies of destination countries.
It was acknowledged by the report that while there is consensus about the value of skilled migrants to destination countries, low skilled workers’ migration has always generated much controversy.
“There is a perception that migrants fill vacant jobs and also displace local workers and reduce wages,” read the report.
Other concerns posed by migrant inflows include heightened risk of crime, added burdens on local services and fear of losing social and cultural cohesion. Even then it was stated by the HDR 2009 that often times such concerns have been exaggerated.
The report, states on the contrary, that while it has been found that migration can in certain circumstances have adverse effects on locally born workers with comparable skills, research showed that the effects may be quite insignificant or entirely absent.
Moreover, given the variegated factors that account for decisions to migrate in different lands, it would be simplistic to think that all migration emanates from want or poverty on the part of migrants.
However, the tendency is for policies generally to favour the admission of the better educated, “For instance by allowing students to stay after graduation and inviting professionals to settle with families.”
This has prompted the UN report to lament thus, “Governments tend to be far more ambivalent with respect to low skilled workers whose status and treatment leaves a lot to be desired.”
That is despite the fact that in many countries, this class of migrants dominates jobs in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors.
Another example cited of the extent of migrants’ contribution to the host economies, was that their availability for childcare allows resident mothers to work outside the home.
It has also been established that once migrants acquire the language and other skills needed to move up the income ladder, many integrate more easily and naturally.
For the same reason, the report highlights the fact that it has been generally found that once rooted in the host countries; migrants seem more likely than residents to join unions or religious and other groups.
Yet, notwithstanding the positive contributions made by the migrant populations in different countries of the world, the HDR 2009, observed that many governments often rotate uneducated migrants in and out of the country, “sometimes treating temporary and irregular workers like water from a tap that can be turned on and off at will.”
The two pronged spill off of benefits of migration, usually manifest in the form of remittances sent back home by the migrants to their families as well as through spending in the host countries with result that local employees share the benefit.
On another plane the UN report contends, “However, over the long term, the flow of ideas from human movement can have far reaching effects on social norms and class structures across the whole country.”
The HDR 2009, which is released annually, was dedicated to the issues of human mobility and development, under the title, “overcoming barriers.”
Marx Gaarekwe, Head of Communications at the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP), said about the report, “Although due to the hectic schedule and other unavoidable constraints the report could have been launched last year in November when it came up, the contents remain fundamentally relevant.”