India and Migration

Migration and its impact on India and the globe are important topics that are regularly seen in the news. Hence, it automatically assumes significance for the UPSC exam. In this article, you can read about the effects of migration and how to manage it for the IAS exam.

Globalisation has been a major factor influencing the international movement of people and for the growth of transnational communities. It is estimated that 215 million people, constituting about 3 percent of the world’s population, live outside their native countries (IOM 2010). The top 20 countries of migrant origin accounted for over half of all international migration flows in 2008, with China, Poland, India and Mexico at the top of the list (OECD 2010). A wide range of considerations shape the public discourse on international migration: the growing mobility of labour in a globalising economy, emerging population and demographic dynamics, integration issues as well as enhanced security concerns. It is difficult to envision a world progressively integrating with the flow of capital, goods and services without a movement of people. The question is no longer whether to allow migration, but rather how to manage migration effectively to enhance its positive aspects. The challenge is to maximise the benefits from migration and transform it into a win-all process for the countries of origin, destination and the migrants themselves. Yet, with economic downturns, the barriers to the movement of people also crop up. In India, the migratory flows of the skilled and the unskilled, both have undergone changes due to the pervasive economic restructuring under globalisation that creates opportunities as well as challenges. In the case of unskilled migrants, the policy responses from public administration, both in the countries of origin and destination, towards safe and adequate legal protection to the migrants continue to maintain its salience. At the same time, limiting the scope of irregular migration primarily by ensuring transparent and market-driven systems for the transnational movement of people continues as a work in progress. While there are scattered good practices internationally, these need not only documentation but also customised application and wider replication. Within the country itself, the mainstreaming of Diaspora policies remains an issue which engages us. Following the global economic downturn, the discourse on migration has become victim to populist and ill-informed debate with rising anti-immigrant sentiments spouted by fringe parties in many countries. At a moderate level, it takes up the issue of integration of the overseas community with the host society. While there is a growing recognition of the opportunities that migration offers for economic growth, development and stability in host and home countries; the public perception of migrants remains hostage to powerful and misinformed assumptions and negative stereotypes of migrants. Lower skilled migrants, in particular, are often seen as displacing local workers and abusing social welfare systems and this mistrust grows with economic insecurity. The truth is that migrants of all skill levels considerably contribute to societies. They spawn creativity, nourish the human spirit and spur economic growth. They bring diversity, provide innovation and bring about economic development and growth in the host societies. Even by a modest liberalisation of the temporary movement of persons to provide services under Mode 4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)—which by all accounts is only a small percentage of annual cross-border movements—has been projected to produce annual global welfare gains of between US$150 billion to US$200 billion, outstripping gains expected from a further liberalization of the trade in services. Despite the potential benefits of liberalizing the temporary movement of persons under GATS Mode 4, largely as a result of problems presented by substantial incoherence between trade and migration regimes (both within and between countries), countries have made relatively limited commitments under Mode 4. One misinformed assumption is that migration takes place primarily in a South-North direction. The current data indicates that more than 40 percent of migration takes place between developing countries. To take India as an example, it is as much a major country of origin as that of destination and transit: a fact which places us in a unique position in the discourse on human resource mobility. It is in this context that MOIA engages with a wide range of academia to collaborate on empirical and analytical work to enable evidence-based policymaking. Therefore, there is as much a need for Minimum Policy Harmonisation to foster international cooperation amongst countries of origin and destination as for greater policy coherence amongst various departments of government to enhance our ability to manage migration better in medium to long term. Our approach has been to work towards building a consensus on an end-to-end solution that can transform migration into an orderly and mutually beneficial economic process that is a win-all for all stakeholders in both the countries of origin and destination. In this context and with our focus on introducing reforms and implementing best practices in migration management, we are well placed to contribute to developing a robust, harmonious and efficient migration framework. The primary motivation for migration is economic and at the heart of migration management is the imperative to maximise the development impact of international migration for all. The scale and spread of the Indian experience of managing Migration as well as Development and the intimate interplay of these two complex processes is matchless. With the second-largest overseas population, its status as the country that receives the highest remittances, its experience in effectively addressing the problems of poverty, inequality and unemployment in an unfailingly democratic manner, India can provide the much needed impetus to meaningfully reinforce the symbiotic development-migration paradigm. India exemplifies the strengths of a large, tolerant, secular, live democracy with a pluralistic society in which people of different faiths, languages, ethnicities and political persuasions co-exist and thrive. Indeed, this milieu is the ‘sine qua non’ of any society that can create conditions for positive migratory movements and labour mobility for the benefit of all. This places India in a position to help contribute to the international community’s efforts to develop an appropriate world migration strategy.

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