main cause. There is a generally reliable correlation
between recessions and a drop in the migration of
undocumented labor. This is because such workers
represent an agile labor market, responding directly
to the availability of new jobs or a decline in employment opportunities. In contrast, the flow of legal
permanent residents has been relatively steady this
2 Authorized or legal immigrants tend to be
less affected by business cycles, since family reunification is their primary motivation for moving.
No one can estimate the precise fall-off in remittances. But any change is certain to have a major
impact. In the last three decades, the number of transnational migrants has nearly doubled from an estimated 105 million to approximately 200 million today.
this decade, global remittances have become one of the
world’s great poverty alleviation mechanisms.
There are now about a dozen countries where
between 20 percent and 25
percent of GDP is repatriated by a relatively small
percentage of immigrants
working overseas. According to World Bank estimates
for 2008, India, China and
Mexico continue to be the
top three recipients of remittances among developing
countries. In 2008, the top
10 recipients list also
includes the Phillipines,
Poland, Nigeria, Romania,
Egypt, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. In contrast, the top
recipients in terms of the share of remittances as a
percentage of GDP included many smaller economies
such as Tajikistan ( 45 percent), Moldova ( 38 percent),
Tonga ( 35 percent), Lesotho ( 29 percent), and Honduras ( 25 percent).”
The implications of these revenue streams on economic growth, social cohesion and future development
Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco is the Courtney
Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization
and Education at New York University.
in the originating countries are significant. In each of
these countries, remittances supply a critical source
of income. More than just fueling consumerism (as is
sometimes speculated) it helps supplement incomes
that support health care, education and nutrition.
A World Transformed
The recent decades of unprecedented global migration reshaped every region of the world—whether
as sending, transit or receiving regions—and often
all three at once. While Europe, Asia and North
America, became the main migration destinations,
the whole world was on the move. By 2008, Latin
America and the Caribbean had more than 30 million emigrants worldwide, and in 2006, received
over $67 billion in remittances.
Looking back we can think of this phenomenon
as globalization’s “
Migration Nation” and its citizens
as homo sapiens mobilis.
Only China and India have
larger numbers of people
than the new Migration
Nation. Wherever we look,
homo sapiens mobilis is busy
remaking the landscape:
Frankfurt today is about
30 percent immigrant; Rotterdam is about 45 percent
immigrant. Spain, once the
paradigmatic country of
emigration—to the New
World and to northwestern
Europe—seemingly overnight became one of the top
10 destinations for migrants in the world. (See Figure 1.)
The foreign-stock population of the U. S. (migrants and
their U.S.-born children) is over 70 million people.
The impact on the societies where these immigrants have settled is profound. Children of immigrants have become the fastest-growing sector of
the child population in countries such as Canada,
the United States and a number of European countries—presenting in the process new challenges to
domestic policymakers relating to the social cohesion of their societies.