The Right to Migrate and Equal Opportunity

Mission statement: The distribution of opportunities is unequal around the world. People around the world should have the choice to move freely to pursue a better quality of life replete with the equal opportunities of their neighbor.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that:

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  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

  1. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.


Table of Contents

1. Movement and Human Development
1.1 Mobility and the Human Development index

1.2 Why people move
2. Movement Patterns
2.1 Movement Today
2.2 Migration in the Past
2.3 Policies and Movement
2.4 Environmental factors

3. Policies to enhance human development outcomes
3.1 Priority Agenda
3.1.1 Liberalizing and simplifying channels
3.1.2 Basic Rights for Migrants
3.1.3 Reducing transaction costs associated with movement
3.1.4 Improving outcomes for Migrants
3.1.5 Benefits from Internal mobility
3.1.6 Mobility as an essential component of development
3.2 Political achievability




1. Movement and Human Development
A journey for someone who moves, almost always necessitates sacrifice. The potential costs vary from emotional trauma of separation from family and friends to high financial costs. There are great potential physical dangers such as those that come with working in dangerous occupations. In some cases, specifically those who cross borders illegally, face risk of death. Despite how daunting these obstacles they face may be, millions of people are willing to invite these risks and dangers into their lives in order to improve their standards of living and those of their families. The environment strongly influences a person’s opportunities to live a long and healthy life, to have access to education, health care, to enjoy political freedoms, and to be protected from violence. Differences in opportunity create pressures to move and pursue an all around better life.

1.1 Mobility and the Human Development index
The Human Development Index (HDI) can be used to measure the development to rank and compare countries. A pattern that stands out is the strong relationship between the side of the border that a place is on and its HDI. The lowest HDI in a U.S. border county (Starr County, Texas) is above even the highest on the Mexican side (Mexicali Municipality, Baja California) [1]. This pattern strongly suggests that moving across national borders is very advantageous in the sense that it can expand the opportunities available. The direction of human movements, when restrictions on mobility are lifted, yields higher levels of human development. Between 1984 and 1995, the People’s Republic of China progressively liberalized its stern regime of international restrictions, allowing people to move from one region to another. Massive flows soon followed, largely towards regions with higher levels of human development. The patterns again suggests the opportunities for improved standard of life. According to the Human Development Report from 2009, “individuals with only moderate levels of formal education who move from a typical developing country to the United States can reap an annual income gain of approximately US$10,000— roughly double the average level of per capita income in a developing country.

1.2 Why people move
People move from a variety of different places for a variety of different reasons. Most people move seeking to better their standard of life. People search for better access to resources that weren’t as readily available in their places of origin. Allocation of these resources could mean a better future for the migrant and generations to come.






2. Movement Patterns
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2.1 Movement Today
Contrary to popular belief, most movement in the world today does not take place between developing nations to developed nations. The majority of movement is internal, within the boundaries of the migrant’s own country. The Human Development Report 2009 states, “Even with a conservative definition of internal migration, which counts movement across only the largest zonal demarcations in a country, the number of people who move internally in our sample is six times greater than those who emigrate”. There is believed to be an estimated 740 million internal migrants in the world, nearly 4 times as many who move internationally [2]. About 37% of migration is from developing to developed countries, 60% from developing to developing and developed to developed, and a mere 3% from developed to developing. One obvious reason why there isn’t as much movement from developing countries to developed countries is because moving greater distances is more costly. It’s no surprise that the poorest people in the world have the most to gain from moving; however, ironically, these people are the least mobile. It is becoming more and more evident that poverty is a constraint to migration. A study of Mexican households revealed, the probability of migration increased with higher household incomes for those less than $15,000. This example sheds doubts on the idea that development in countries of origin will reduce migration flows.
Migration isn’t always followed by an increase in standard of living. Sometimes, especially in cases of conflict-induced migration and trafficking, migration coincides with negative outcomes. Migration occurring with restricted choice is not a large portion of overall human migration, but they affect the world’s poorest people.

2.2 Migration in the Past
There is evidence everywhere that migration played a role in the structural transformation of societies, the forces that drive and constrain it. The analysis of trends over the last 50 years is essential to understanding the factors causing recent changes in movement patterns and how we can expect them to evolve in the future.

2.3 Policies and Movement
Since the development of the modern states in the 17th century, the international legal system has been built on sovereignty and traditional integrity, which include a series of constraints imposed by international law. The restrictions of entry outline how many people to admit, where the people come from, and their status. Many governments completely tolerate irregular migration, signifying policy makers are aware of economic and social costs of a crackdown. “…in the United States employers are not required to verify the authenticity of immigration documents, but must deduct federal payroll taxes from migrants’ pay: through this mechanism, illegal immigrant workers provide around US$7 billion annually to the US Treasury” (United Nations Development Programme). There are shocking policy regime similarities and differences between developing and developed nations. The regimes in both groups of countries are biased in favor of high-skilled workers. “In some developed countries—including Australia, Canada and New Zealand—the pref­erence for high-skilled workers is implemented through a points system. The formulae take into account such characteristics as education, occu­pation, language proficiency and age” (United Nations Development Programme). These point systems are uncommon in developing nations.


2.4 Environmental factors
The environment can be an important advocate of human mobility. From the Nomadic pastoralists who pursue good grazing conditions, to people relocated by natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, environmental factors go hand in hand with the movements of people throughout history. Climate change affected by greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be associated with changes in precipitation, more frequent storms and a rise in sea level, all of which could impact human movement. For example a change in rainfall patterns will affect the availability of water and thus the production of food, possibly driving up food prices and risk of famine.


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3. Policies to enhance human development outcomes
Many policies in the past that have existed in many destination countries can be characterized by denial and delay on the one hand, and heightened border controls and illegal stays on the other. This has deteriorated the situation of the people lacking legal status. An expected increase of the need for labor in the future will necessitate policies that re-think the admittance of low-skilled workers. The new processes need to enhance the gains from movement and aims to use the current recession as an opportunity to institute a new deal for migrants.

3.1 Priority Agenda
The United Nations Development Programme suggests:
1. Liberalizing and simplifying regular chan­nels that allow people to seek work abroad;
2. Ensuring basic rights for migrants;
3. Reducing transaction costs associated with migration;
4. Improving outcomes for migrants and desti­nation communities;
5. Enabling benefits from internal mobility; and
6. Making mobility an integral part of national development strategies.

3.1.1 Liberalizing and simplifying channels
“Overly restrictive barriers to entry prevent many people from moving and mean that millions who do move have irregular status—an estimated one quarter of the total” (United Nations Development Programme). When economic growth resumes, it is likely the demand for migrant labor will also increase. There is mainly a structural need for working-age people in developed countries.
In the long run, when the demand for labor increases, the demand will be such that there will not be a threat of the locals’ jobs being undercut by migrant workers. Expanding the regular entry channels involves setting annual inflow numbers, employer portability, the right to apply for extensions and pathways to permanence, and provisions to facilitate circularity.


3.1.2 Basic Rights for Migrants

It is no surprise that every migrant is not granted all the freedoms migration promises. Depending on where someone’s from and where they go, they may find themselves trading off one freedom for another, most likely in order to access higher earnings by working in a country where one or more human rights are not respected. “The six core international human rights treaties, which have been ratified by 131 countries around the globe, all contain strong non-discrimination clauses ensuring the applicability of many provisions to migrants” (UNDP). It is clear, however, that the main challenge is not the lack of legal framework for the protection of rights themselves, but their effective completion. With this in mind, “In 2005 the ILO developed a Multilateral Framework on Labour (sic) Migration, which provides guidelines and good practices within a non-binding frame­work that recognizes the sovereign right of all states to determine their own migration policies” (UNDP). Even if there is no desire to sign up to formal conventions, there is no reason for any government to deny migrants basic rights like the right to not be subject to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, the right to organize and bargain effectively, and also the right to return to countries of origin. Employers, unions, and NGOs also play a role in ensuring basic rights for migrants. Employers need to set codes of conduct, while NGOs inform migrants about their rights and work more closely with the employers to ensure those rights are protected.

3.1.3 Reducing transaction costs associated with movement
Moving across borders involves transaction costs. “Under current migration regimes, the major cost is typically the administrative requirement that a job offer be obtained from a foreign em­ployer before departure” (UNDP). Governments can help to reduce the transaction costs for migrant workers in several ways. They can open corridors and introduce regimes that allow for free movement and reduce the costs of and easing access to documents such as birth certificates and passports. Also, regulating private recruiters to prevent abuses and fraud would make for a less costly move across a border.

3.1.4 Improving outcomes for Migrants
Inclusion and integration are crucial to improving outcomes for migrants, from a human development perspective, considering its positive effects on the individual and the community [3]. Access to basic services, particularly schooling and health care, needs to be provided. Migrants need help acquiring language proficiency and finding work. Local governments should aim to promote governance structures to enable participation, ensure that law and order is carried out, provide information to the public, and ensure reasonable land use.

3.1.5 Benefits from Internal mobility
“…mobility is not only a natural part of human history but a continuing dimension of development and of modern societ­ies, in which people seek to connect to emerging opportunities and change their circumstances accordingly” (UNDP). Governments should then seek to assist the process of internal migration. National governments need to remove the barriers on internal mobility. The barriers are costly and time consuming to enforce and limit people’s rights. Also, tax revenues need to be redistributed so that poorer localities do not bear such a burden.

3.1.6 Mobility as an essential component of development
The links between mobility and development are complex. Mobility is best seen as a component of human development rather than a cause or effect of it. Migration can be a critical strategy for families improve their livelihoods. The mobility choices of the poor are often constrained, which can arise from inequalities of their skills, but also from policies and other barriers. There is such an importance to promote human development at home.

3.2 Political achievability
Reform is possible, but only if certain steps are taken to attend to the concerns of local people, so they no longer view immigration as a threat, either to themselves or to society. Despite the ample evidence that mobility points to development, the attitudes among local people of both developed and developing countries often express negativity towards migration. Immigration polls suggest residents see controls on migration as essential and would like to see existing rules tightened rather than loosened. When it comes to treatment however, attitudes are more positive, as people tend to support equal treatment of migrants within their borders. Opposition to liberalizing entry seems to be widespread, although many people are willing to accept immigration if jobs are available. Future demand for labor will alleviate the risk that immigrants will substitute for or undercut local workers. Some resistance to migration is shaped by popular fallacies of its consequences. For example, many believe that immigrants have a negative effect on the earnings of existing residents or that they are responsible for an influx of crime. These misconceptions make it vital to have public information campaigns and awareness-raising activities. More attention needs to be paid and organized groups can and do bring about reform.

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Citations

[1] "Freedom and Movement: how mobility can foster human development." United Nations Development Programme. United Nations Development Programme, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Chapter1.pdf>.
[2] "People in motion: who moves where, when and why." United Nations Development Programme. United Nations Development Programme, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Chapter2.pdf>.
[3] "Policies to enhance human development outcomes." United Nations Development Programme. United Nations Development Programme, Web. 10 Dec 2009. <http://hdr.undp.org/en/media/HDR_2009_EN_Chapter5.pdf>.



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