Opinion

Migration is no longer a once-in-a-lifetime event

| Updated on: Jan 09, 2022
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It will keep occurring until people find stability in this era of multiple global disequilibriums

The first modern humans began moving outside of Africa 70,000-100,000 years ago. Since then, mankind has been on the move for various reasons. On examining the recent trends, one can notice that migration has connections with climate change, technology, government policies and the state of the economy.

Climate change is evolving, and is is now one of the major reasons for people migrating —— from vulnerable to safer areas in the hope of having stable lives. The situation is worrisome because most of the world’s population, especially in Asia, live in coastal cities, and with temperatures rising these are going to be the first ones to get impacted by rising sea levels.

Parag Khanna, the author of best-selling book Move , claims that if global temperature rises above 3° Celsius, the land favourable for agriculture would shift northwards, closer to the Arctic Circle. The impact of the rise in sea level is already reflecting in terms of market prices of property in coastal cities of New York, Boston, Miami, etc., which are going at a discount of 10 per cent.

With jobs vanishing quickly because of rising applications of artificial intelligence and advanced tech, people are forced to move to places where they can find work to support their livelihoods. According to a report by Forbes , the number of jobs lost due to automation in the US alone stands at 60 million.

Tech matters

While technology might be the cause for people migrating in the first place, ironically, it is also the solution to some of the most pressing issues unfolding in critical fields like agriculture. For instance, Singapore, which imports almost all of its food requirements, is now seriously looking at techniques like hydroponics and aquaponics. Through this, the country, due to the paucity of land, can grow staple food on water and, thereby, tackle shocks and become self-reliant. Under its flagship ‘30 by 30’ initiative, the country aims to grow at least 30 per cent of its food requirements by 2030.

It is quite widely observed that people migrate not only because they are forced or due to the lack of options, but also to upgrade their lifestyles in countries which have better governance, infrastructure and migrant-friendly policies. The two major countries that offer these are Canada and Japan.

With one-tenth of the US’ population, Canada takes in nearly the same number of migrants as the US each year. But unlike in the US, the Canadian citizenship journey begins as soon as a student lands in the country.

Its recently launched Start-Up Visa Programme also gives generous grants to tech companies to relocate to Canada and bring their ideas to life. The support to migrants is also a part of a larger goal that the government envisions, which is to diversify its economy to manufacturing and services.

Japan has long been facing a serious threat of demographic decline. With one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, adult diapers now outsell those for babies. More than 13 per cent of all homes in Japan are abandoned — the vacant housing stock keeps growing as older adults pass away and the young move to bigger cities.

To not end up with a serious human capital crisis, Japan too has become an immigration magnet —— its foreign population today is nearly three million people (out of a total population of almost 126 million).

In economic terms, allowing somebody to come to your country and trade with you (or work for you or employ you) is identical to removing trade barriers. It allows greater specialisation — the principle of comparative advantage — and hence greater overall efficiency.

Interestingly, developing countries are emerging as important migrant destinations, as exemplified by large migration flows to countries such as South Africa and Russia. While economic migrants are generally good for the receiving economy in terms of increased production and productivity, the developing destination countries too face challenges in integrating the immigrants and combating xenophobia, job competition between migrant and native workers, as well as fiscal costs associated with provision of social services to the migrants.

With migration emerging as an inevitable trend in the coming times, it is vital that a developing country like India should account for that while formulating national policies. Predictive methods of migrant estimations and according policy responses in terms of adequate infra support to them will help in creating sustainable cities and stable livelihoods for the citizens too.

Mehta is a consultant, and Dholakia is Founder and CEO, Case Ace

Published on January 09, 2022

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