Labour Migration and Remittances
Migration, whether it is domestic or international, has emerged as a major livelihood strategy in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region. Although mountain people have migrated for centuries to search for work, better livelihoods, or human security, the numbers have risen rapidly in the last two decades. The HKH countries as a region are the largest sender of migrants and receiver of remittances in the world. Today, about 30 million citizens from ICIMOD’s regional member countries live outside their homeland. This is close to 15 percent of the world’s total migrants. Social and financial remittances from these migrants form a significant element in the development of the region’s economies. Given the persistent disparities in income levels and the economic interdependence among countries, the mobility of people in the region is unlikely to decrease in the coming years. With its growing scale and complexity, migration is emerging as a priority issue for the HKH region and ICIMOD.
Total remittances to the HKH countries passed US$ 70 billion in 2007, which is more than 20 percent of all global flows. This is three times the amount of foreign aid received by the region. Such large inflows of remittances and outflows of migrants present numerous opportunities to the governments and people of the region. However, the consequences of skilled migration, the social costs of family separation, and the impact of migration on gender roles are also of great concern to the region. In order to be able to address the challenges, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the economic and social implications of migration in the region. The initial costs of migration are high, recruitment processes and loan packages are not transparent, and the transfer and investment options for remittances to mountain areas are poor. The financial institutions which could offer saving, credit, and insurance services have shown little interest as yet to reach out to remote mountain communities. Further, blinded by the economic benefits of incoming remittances, the human dimensions of migration often receive marginal attention in policy discussions.
The United Nations recommend in its Fifth Asian and Pacific Population Conference to promote research on the interrelationship between migration, development, and poverty reduction, as well as to build national capacity for the relevant data collection, analysis, and research. ICIMOD is responding to this challenge by further exploring and understanding the linkages between migration and development so that benefits can be maximised and negative impacts minimised. The Centre aims to build a regional framework to facilitate cross-border dialogue; to improve the collection, disaggregation, and analysis of data; and to assess the costs and benefits of migration for migrants, their left behind families, and the HKH environment. Foremost, ICIMOD aims to identify and test innovative methods and technologies to leverage migration for poverty reduction and development among the people of the HKH mountains.