Global Development Institute Blog

This blog originally appeared on the Manchester Migration Lab website

By Professor Aderanti Adepoju, Founder/Coordinator, Network of Migration Research on Africa

In the twenty-first century, the world has come to a crossroads: economically, politically and demographically. In the process, a number of important events or phenomena have shaped the architecture of international migration. These are: globalisation, the economic-financial crisis, the emergence of new market economies, the huge remittance flows from North to South, and also from South to South, the so-called migration crisis of 2015, and the rise of the far right notion of zero immigration. The underlying long-term demographic dynamics of an ageing population in the North and a booming youthful population in most of the South underpin the upsurge of public discourse on international migration and concomitant policy-creation that have propelled migration from an unknown and unregarded realm to a place in the forefront of international political and economic relations.

The old economic order is changing: The development of economic, technological, political and social systems has an effect on mobility around the world. The transformation of market processes, the shift of consumer demand from the North to emerging market’s ‘exploding’ middle class, along with outsourcing and off-shoring and the movement of labour is already challenging our imaginations.

These ongoing transformations have profound implications for skills requirements, training, spatial mobility, formation of transnational communities and migrants’ integration into host societies. Mass education and young populations have made low-cost labour countries such as the Philippines and India attractive locations for jobs such as call-centre answering, which are outsourced to remote parts of the globe.

What all these tell us is that migration is a fundamentally important issue, and since the dawn of this century it has become more important than ever. Involved here are a variety of interrelated factors. Migration has now become acknowledged as a significant aspect of international economic management as well as international trade relations. As globalisation deepens and intensifies, the challenge is to maximise the opportunities that migration affords, and minimise the set-backs.

It is common knowledge that migrants are needed. But are they welcome? Migration is a factor of development and immigrants bring to the new country their energy, determination and enterprise. They can dynamise economies, social organisation and the interchange of experience. As economic and political processes evolve, the major challenge is how to make migration work productively for all involved: the migrants themselves, their origin and destination countries and societies and families. Policy dialogue on migration is at a crossroads, not least because the interests of the diverse actors and stakeholders – and of a large variety of interest groups – may well be conflicting. In both blocks – in poor countries and in rich – economic and demographic factors underline current debate and policy on migration of both skilled and unskilled persons.

The issue of migration cannot, and should no longer be handled only bilaterally; what is needed is a global approach to a global issue through the global harmonisation of migration policies. A pro-active and forward-looking global approach to manage migration is required, indeed it is essential – and it needs to be supported by a wide spread of international organisations and governments, societies and migrant communities.


Adepoju, A, 2006. South-South Migration: the case of West Africa. Commissioned paper for the Inter-Governmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugees and Migration Policies Whole of Government Workshop, Geneva (April 18-19)

Adepoju, A. (Ed), 2010. International migration within to and from Africa in a globalised world. Sub-Saharan Publishers, Ghana

Bakewell, O, 2009. South-South Migration and Human Development: Reflections on African Experiences. Human Development Research Paper 2009/07. UNDP, New York

ILO, 2009. Global Employment Trends – Update. Geneva

Lassailly-Jacob, F. Boyer and J. Brochet, 2006. South-South Migration – Example of Sub-Saharan Africa. European Parliament, Brussels

Ratha, D and W. Shaw, 2007. South-South Migration and Remittances. Development Prospects Group, The World Bank. Washington DC

Ratha, D. et al, 2010. Migration and Remittance Factbook. The World Bank. Washington DC

Van Agtmael, A, 2007. The emerging markets century: How a new breed of world-class companies is overtaking the world. New York: Free Press.


Note: This article gives the views of the author/academic featured and does not represent the views of the Global Development Institute as a whole.