Causes and consequences of migration

The causes and consequences of migration are political, social, economic or cultural situations that drive the departure from the place of origin or the arrival at the place of destination. In general, these are factors that reduce quality of life and that the migrant tries to solve by moving from their city or country.

For example, one of the causes of migration in Mexico, and one that is common in Latin America, has to do with poverty. This makes it difficult for many families to improve their living conditions and they are forced to migrate internally, changing cities, or to leave the country temporarily or permanently.

There are, then, two main types of migration: internal, when it is done within one’s own territory, or external, when one leaves the country. But there are also other types depending on the length of stay, the age of the migrants, the chosen destination, etc. All of them are driven by causes and have consequences both in the place of origin and in the final destination.

Causes of migration

They refer to the motivations of migrants to leave their place of origin. These causes can be political, economic, social, cultural, ecological or due to armed conflict, as described below.

1. Politics: coups, political violence, persecution

Political conflicts in a country can drive migration depending on the severity of the case. Coups d’état, instability in the alternation of power, disrespect for the expression of the popular will, etc., generate a situation of instability that usually forces migration.

When a person is persecuted for his political ideology and must leave his country voluntarily or because he was expelled by the authorities, he is called a political refugee.

For example, pressure from the current Chinese government against political dissidents has led many of them to leave the country after being persecuted or imprisoned. This is the case of human rights activist Teng Biao.

2. Economic: extreme poverty, hyperinflation, scarcity

The level of economic development of a country directly affects the quality of life of its inhabitants. For this reason, countries with serious economic crises are usually a breeding ground for migratory processes, since their inhabitants must move to find more or better income to survive.

An example is Venezuela, whose severe hyperinflationary crisis, coupled with food shortages and deterioration of public services, has generated an estimated migration of some seven million people by 2020, according to UNHCR figures. This is the equivalent to the population of Paraguay for the year 2021.

Another example is Haiti, a country with a serious economic crisis, which has generated the migration of 14% of its population by 2019, according to UN data. Those displacements are, for the most part, to the Dominican Republic.

3. Cultural: study abroad

The desire to know and integrate other cultures to one’s own is also a cause of migration, especially among the younger population. University studies, postgraduate studies or language courses are usually the most common ways to migrate, either temporarily or permanently.

A very common example in Europe is the Erasmus program, which promotes the mobilization of students from a large part of the European economic community. They can study from three to twelve months in another European country and when they return, the studies carried out abroad are recognized by their university.

4. Social: insecurity, unemployment

Migration can be driven by difficulties in the social environment that reduce the migrant’s quality of life and their family environment. Insecurity and unemployment are common causes of migration in Latin America, which promotes mobilizations to other countries inside or outside the continent.

For example, one of the causes of migration in Mexico has to do with insecurity, expressed in assaults, robberies and violence generated by drug trafficking cartels that operate in the country. These situations have stimulated migration within and outside the territory, in this case to the United States.

5. Ecological: natural disasters, effects of climate change

These causes have to do both with natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc.) and with the effects of climate change (desertification, disappearance of drinking water sources, extreme temperatures, etc.). These situations usually generate forced migrations, since the inhabitants of the territory must abandon their place of residence in order to survive.

An example are the islands that make up the Kiribati archipelago, in Oceania. As a consequence of climate change there is a progressive increase in sea level. This situation will generate the disappearance of all the islands by the year 2035. For this reason, many of its inhabitants have already left the islands, and the migration crisis is expected to worsen as the situation worsens.

6. War: civil wars, hostility from foreign forces

Wars, whether between forces in the same territory or between countries, create a situation of anxiety that forces people to move to preserve their lives. Wars are often the consequence of political conflicts, which is why they are two causes of migration that are closely related.

An example is the war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the United States. Since its inception, it has generated waves of massive migrations to different countries in Europe.

See also:

Consequences of migration

What happens when migrants arrive at their destination? Exchanges between migrants and the local population can have political, economic, cultural and social consequences. Furthermore, migration can have effects on people’s mental health. All these causes are described below.

1. Policies: changes in the laws of entry to the country

Migration can generate changes in the policies of the receiving countries, either to make laws more flexible and allow the entry of migrants, or to toughen them and discourage new incomes.

Migration can be used in political discourse to propose or promote xenophobic measures, especially in those countries that have received massive waves of migrants.

In 2017, for example, then-US President Donald Trump proposed the creation of a border wall between the United States and Mexico to stop irregular migration. This proposal was severely criticized, especially by the Mexican government.

2. Economic: greater workforce in the host country

Mass displacements have a direct impact on economic indicators, both in the country of origin and in the host country. A country whose labor force has migrated cannot produce, and if it does not produce it does not generate income. This in turn has repercussions in the decrease in employment, increase in inflation, increase in poverty levels, etc.

On the other hand, at the duty station, the arrival of potential workers can have a positive impact. Migrants help to diversify the workforce, and when their situation is regularized they begin to make tax contributions to the receiving State.

An example is the data from BBVA Research, which indicates that the economic impact of Venezuelan migration in Peru helped to increase the Gross Domestic Product of that country by 0.08% between 2018 and 2019. These are an extra 175 million dollars for the Peruvian economy generated by Venezuelan workers.

Another relevant aspect is the remittances that migrants make to their families in the countries of origin (remittances). In 2020, money transfers by Mexican migrants to their country represented an equivalent to 3.8% of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product, according to a report by BBVA Research. This would be about 39 billion dollars for the Mexican economy.

3. Cultural: miscegenation, cultural exchange

Migration generates new cultural dynamics that are expressed in an exchange of experiences, languages, customs and traditions that in the long term may even mix. Migration favors miscegenation and enriches the culture of the host country.

An example is the European migrants who arrived in Latin America at the end of the Second World War. In addition to integrating with the destination countries (Venezuela, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, etc.), they also shared their cultural legacy, which is expressed in the enrichment of the language, miscegenation and gastronomy.

4. Social: demographic changes, xenophobia

Migration generates a redistribution of the population in the place of origin and in the place of destination. In the place of origin, there may be a decrease in the young population and an increase in the adult and / or older population. In the long term, states will have to take care of a growing economically inactive population (retirees) while the growth of the productive population is slow or stagnant.

In the destination country, demographic changes can be expressed in a greater demand for people in need of employment, access to health and education, as well as an increase in local consumption.

As a consequence of these changes, the local population may feel threatened. This uncertainty, and the problems that already existed in that place before the migratory wave, can generate xenophobic ideas, such as the presumption that foreigners are taking their jobs or that crime is due to the presence of migrants.

See also Difference between racism and xenophobia

5. Psychological: stress, anxiety, depression

Migration processes can be very difficult in psychological terms. Especially when it comes to forced migration, when the people are minors or when the mobilization is done alone.

The way of dealing with the immigration process varies from person to person. In some cases, they may experience sadness about what they left behind, uncertainty, and fear of the unknown. In more severe cases, migrants may experience anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress syndrome, especially in cases of migration caused by armed conflicts or situations of violence.

An example can be seen in the integration processes of migrant children. In some cases, they may experience stress at the thought of starting a new school, understanding another language, or making new friends, while at the same time dealing with the homesickness of being away from friends or family.

See also Nomads and sedentary

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