Migration on the Move

Migration – when it is safe, legal, and voluntary – is the oldest poverty-reduction and human-development strategy. Fortunately, it seems that this long-ignored reality is finally sinking in, with world leaders signaling their willingness to include migration in the post-2015 development agenda.

LONDON – In 2000, the United Nations established the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to drive progress on important development objectives, such as reducing poverty, promoting gender equality, and curbing disease. But the architects of the MDGs neglected one critical issue: migration. Fortunately, it looks like world leaders will not make the same mistake with the post-2015 development agenda.

The scale of remittances alone should be enough to convince the world that migration deserves a prominent spot in the post-2015 agenda. Last year, migrants from developing countries sent an estimated $414 billion to their families – triple the total of official development assistance. More than a billion people rely on such funds to help pay for education, health care, water, and sanitation. As if that were not enough, remittances have important macroeconomic benefits, enabling countries to pay for essential imports, access private capital markets, and qualify for lower interest rates on sovereign debt.

But many of migration’s benefits are squandered. Financial intermediaries extract 9% of remittances, on average, for an estimated total of $49 billion in migrant earnings last year. Rapacious recruiters, who often keep one-third of a migrant’s pay, skim billions more. Meanwhile, smuggling, trafficking, exploitation, and discrimination take an incalculable human toll.

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