The volume and Significance of migration full text

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UN figures show that about 120 million people were resident outside their country ofbirth in 1990, and that the number ofinternational migrants was growing only slightly faster than world population as a whole (Zlotnik, 1999). Even allowing for faster growth in the 1990s and for the fact that many temporary migrants return home after a period abroad, this indicates that international migrants are a minority of 2—4 percent of global population. Some analysts therefore argue that the real task for social scientists is to explain why so many people stay at home when there appear to be sound reasons to move (Arango, 2000:293). This is indeed an important issue, but in my view the volume of migration is significant, and is likely to increase.

One reason for the significance of migration lies in its concentration in certain areas where it becomes a key factor in social transformation, The UN study shows that 90 per cent of the world’s migrants were living in just 55 countries. In absolute terms, most migrants move between less-developed countries: 55 percent ofall migrants in 1990. But in relative terms, the developed world has been far more affected by immigration: 4.6 percent of the population ofthe developed countries were migrants in 1990, compared with 1 .6 percent in developing countries. The immigrant share in total population was highest in Oceania (17.8%) followed by North America (8,6%) and Western Europe (6.1%). The immigrant share in population was far lower in Asia (1,4%), Latin America and the Caribbean (1.7%) and Africa (2,5%) (Zlotnik, 1999). In the 1980s and 1990s, flows from less-developed to developed countries grew rapidly, despite attempts by receiving countries to restrict such movements. In addition, there have been large flows of labor migrants from the least developed countries of the South to the newlyindustrializing countries (NICs), especially in East Asia.

Migration affects certain areas within both sending and receiving coun— tries more than others. As migratory chains develop, large proportions of the young men and women of specific villages or neighborhoods leave, which may lead to local labor shortages as well as major changes in family and community life. In immigration countries, newcomers become concentrated in industrial areas and urban centers where there are chances ofemployment and where previous migrants can provide help with settlement, In Europe, North America and Australasia, virtually all major cities have large concentrations of immigrants. Typically, certain neighborhoods become centers of immigrant settlement, marked by distinctive businesses, associations, social facilities and places of worship. Such neighborhoods are the basis for ethnic community formation and cultural and linguistic maintenance.