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05.10.2009. UNDP Global Human Development Report 2009: CIS countries can gain much more from migration

Moscow, 5 October 2009 - Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries should see the mutual benefits of migration and reform migration policies to reflect a positive response to the problems associated with global recession and future development, according to the 2009 Human Development Report launched today.

The Report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, finds that allowing for migration - both within and between countries - has the potential to improve peoples lives, and also benefits origin and destination countries. Migration can raise a persons income, health and education potential, improve life conditions of migrant families as well as prospects for empowerment more broadly.

In Tajikistan, for example, when the average monthly wage was only US$9, seasonal earnings of $500-700 in Russia could cover a family's annual household expenses in Dushanbe. At the same time, migrants boost economic output in destination countries, at little or no cost to locals.

Population and demographic trends in Russia and other CIS countries show a shrinking and aging population in some countries and a growing and youthful population in others. This shows that migration can help fill many expected vacancies in the labour force where needed, especially low-skilled positions. To make this happen, as movement continues in the region, migrants rights need to be recognized and restrictions on movement removed.

"It is the demographic crisis that makes migration a major opportunity for Russia - which is one of the largest destinations of immigration in the world. Russia needs them because it alone cannot secure the labour force necessary to underpin the economic growth that Russia has been enjoying before the economic crisis and that, I am sure, will enjoy again," said at the presentation of the Report Ms Kori Udovički, Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Europe and the CIS, UN Assistant Secretary-General.

This is the latest publication in a series of global Human Development Reports, which aim to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, from climate change to human rights. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations development Programme (UNDP).

Taking down barriers
Barriers to movement take many forms, and may become the reason for irregular migration. For example, in many countries, the administrative procedure to apply for a licence to hire a foreign worker is time-consuming and open to corruption; it frequently leads to evasion and perpetuates irregular employment practices.

While irregular migration is difficult to estimate, it is clear that this form of migration creates major risks of segmentation in the labour market and society. It also creates difficulties for migrants to access local services on equal terms with locals. And these problems are especially severe for temporary and irregular workers.

Overcoming barriers argues that large gains to human development can be achieved by lowering barriers and other constraints to movement and by improving policies towards those who move both in origin and destination countries.

In the Russian Federation, further steps in the development of legal channels should be taken to better manage temporary and permanent movement. Migrants can contribute to offsetting gaps created by shrinking populations and alleviating the future demands for low-skilled workers through regular channels. Reforms to migration policies must ensure basic rights and access to basic services.

The global recession has quickly become a jobs crisis, and a jobs crisis is generally bad news for migrants. Employers tend to call on migrants when they face labour shortages, but lay off migrants first during recessions. This is partly because migrants have a profile typical of workers who are most vulnerable to recessions - that is, they are younger, have less formal education and less work experience, and often work as temporary labourers. Following recovery from the global recession, demand for migrant workers will return, therefore it is short-sighted to negate the benefits which migrants bring, and policymakers must consider migration policies in the long-term.

During the global economic downturn, there is concern that anti-immigrant backlashes may cause serious long-term repercussions for migrants and for destination places. Steps do need to be taken to address the concerns of local residents, so that they no longer view immigration as a threat. Policy discussions must recognize that attitudes among the resident population towards migration are at best mildly permissive and often quite negative.

Development and migration

Countries of origin benefit from emigration in many ways, especially through money transfers, or remittanceswhich in total are four times the size of total official development aid. Countries and regions vary in their exposure to the crisis via remittance effects. Remittances to Central Asian countries are forecast to suffer the biggest drops, partly reflecting the reversal of the economic boom in Russia and in Central and Eastern Europe. In Tajikistan, where remittance shares of GDP are the highest in the world (45 percent), flows are projected to shrink by 10 percent in 2009.

This shows that countries cannot rely solely on migration as a solution. However, mobility also brings other benefits, such as new ideas, entrepreneurial skills and the transfer of technology to help with economic activities at home. These so-called 'social remittances' can have a more intangible but no less significant affect on services and practices, such as health, education and gender relations.

According to the Report, national development plans offer an opportunity to better integrate mobility into overall development priorities, and therefore that migration - while not a panacea for a countrys problemsmust be considered when creating strategies for development. Research commissioned by Overcoming barriers shows that a number of countries, including the Kyrgyz Republic, have successfully linked migration policies to their strategies for reducing poverty.

People are going to move, and thus Overcoming barriers provides the tools to better manage inevitable human mobility, laying out principles and guidelines to maximize the gains of human development. The package of reforms put forward in Overcoming barriers depends on a realistic appraisal of economic and social conditions and recognition of public opinion and other political constraints, the Report observes. But, with political courage, they are all feasible.

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For more information on the latest HDI and to access the Human Development Report and the complete Press Kit please visit: www.hdr.undp.org

ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report continues to frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Jeni Klugman is the lead author of the 2009 Report. The Report is translated into more than a dozen languages and launched in more than 100 countries annually. The 2009 Human Development Report is published in English by Palgrave Macmillan and in Russian by Izdatelstvo VES MIR.

ABOUT HUMAN DEVELOPMENT: Human Development is the expansion of the freedoms that people have to live their lives as they choose. This conceptioninspired by the path-breaking work of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and the leadership of the late Mahbub ul Haq, and known also as the capabilities approach because of its emphasis on the freedom that people have to achieve vital beings and doingshas been at the core of UNDPs approach since the first Human Development Report in 1990, and is as relevant as ever to the design of effective policies to combat poverty and deprivation. This approach has proved powerful in reshaping thinking about topics as diverse as gender, human security and climate change.

ABOUT UNDP: UNDP is the UNs global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries, working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop local capacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners.
www.undp.org

The full text of the Report and media materials

Presentation of the 2009 Human Development Report by Tim Scott, Human Development Reports Office at UNDP Headquarters, at the event in Moscow

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