Every year on December 18, the world observes International Migrants Day. It’s an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that migrants face in leaving their home for a new life abroad, the opportunities and crises that compel them to leave as well as the impact their efforts have on the loved ones left behind. In honor of International Migrants Day, we’re taking a look back at some of the key migration and remittance trends from 2022.
Migration on the rise
Although migration flows have not quite reached pre-pandemic levels, migration to the world’s most developed countries is increasing. Currently, there are an estimated 287 million international migrants – approximately 3.7% of all human beings.
However, increases in migration flows are not universal. While the United States is seeing higher levels of migration than before the pandemic, with a 2.9 million person increase in its foreign-born population between January 2021 and September 2022, Japan and China have emerged more cautiously from Covid-19, and as a result migration to these countries has not increased as quickly.
Despite this, Asian countries have the potential to boost migration numbers in 2023 considerably. For example, Malaysia is looking to address its labor shortages, as the country witnessed a large exodus of migrant workers during the pandemic. The country’s new bilateral immigration agreement with Indonesia aims to recognize the economic contribution that Indonesian migrants have made in Malaysia by offering greater wage protections. By matching migrants with suitable employers, Malaysia is looking to entice large numbers back to its shores.
Troubled regions have caused migration surges
Without question, the current geopolitical environment is fueling new migration trends. In Europe, the war in Ukraine is causing unprecedented westward movements. As of October, there had been 11.7 million crossings into friendly neighboring countries from Ukraine. While many have since returned, this is still a remarkable figure given that men of fighting age are barred from leaving the country. Currently, there are an estimated 7.7 million Ukrainians living in other European states, with Poland alone hosting 1.4 million. Despite the personal toll and hardships endured, Ukrainian migrants are already having a positive effect on the Polish economy. The National Bank of Poland estimates that, in the medium-term, the increased Ukrainian migration will add 1.5% to Poland’s GDP.
Similarly, crises on the African continent have led to increased intra-African migration. In fact, eight of the ten African with the highest rates of emigration are involved in some form of conflict. Conflict migration is just one of the factors leading to the 21 million documented intra-African migrants seeking economic prosperity abroad. However, despite remaining on the same continent, migrating in Africa is far from straightforward. In addition to perilous journeys, many migrants face complex challenges as a result of informal work lacking labor protections or an insufficient healthcare service: Still, many find ways to provide for their families by sending home part of what they earn.
Climate change is already causing migration
Out of the ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, eight are in Africa. Displacement due to environmental factors is growing, with droughts in the Horn of Africa having directly impacted more than 36 million people this year. Central America has also suffered from climate-related migration with rising numbers of people choosing to migrate as a result of dwindling work in the farming and food sector owing to droughts, storms, and intense heat. Migrants from the region make up a substantial portion of the increased number of new arrivals in the US. The United States is home to 3.78 million Central Americans and boasts established diaspora communities spread throughout the country. In past decades, the makeup of migrants arriving in the US from Central America has diversified significantly in age and gender as more entire families have sought to relocate together.
Remittances held up despite cost-of-living pressures
In spite of inflationary pressures, remittances from migrants to low and middle income countries increased by an estimated 4.9% globally in 2022 to $626 billion. The biggest increases in remittances from 2021 were in Europe, Central Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, due in part to the faster recovery from the pandemic in the U.S. and Europe compared to other regions. Remittances sent from the U.S. to neighboring countries were boosted by the strength of the dollar. Remittance senders send more when they know their money will go further at home.
Central Asia, also received a boost from rising oil prices which, in turn, kept demand for migrant workers in Russia high. Remittance flows from Russia increased by more than 10 percent due to a strengthened ruble, and this was absolutely critical for countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, for whom remittances accounted for 32% and 31% of their respective GDPs.
Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are just two countries where international migration and the subsequent remittances have become vital to the national economy despite the huge personal toll on those who seek employment abroad. International Migrants Day exists to raise awareness about the challenges migrants face in their search for a better everyday life. Through their knowledge, adaptability and skills, international migrants overcome tremendous difficulties in order to thrive abroad. To highlight these sacrifices and achievements, Ria has put together The World We Share; a series that reveals the personal stories of migrants from all over the world. Through their tales, you will discover the personal hardships of international migrants, the cultural differences between their host countries and their native lands and the vital contribution that they make to our economies and communities.
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