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Center for Global Development Issues Migration Data Report Card
Center for Global Development
[Click Here to Access the Report]
WASHINGTON,D.C.(May 25, 2009)- Inadequate statistics on global migration are a serious obstacle to crafting policies that benefit migrants, the countries they leave and those they move to. Yet better data could be gathered easily and at low cost with a few clear steps, such as by adding a few questions to each national census, according to a new report by a blue-ribbon commission convened by the Center for Global Development (CGD).
“The glaring lack of migration data means that it is possible to systematically track the cross-border movements of toys, textiles and Treasury bills, but not people,” said Michael Clemens, the commission project director and a CGD research fellow.
The commission’s report, Migrants Count: Five Steps Toward Better International Migration Data, urges low-cost measures that would improve available data in the next few years. Prominent among these is that every national census include a small number of questions that are critical to understanding rapidly shifting global migration patterns, such as “In what country were you born?”
An answer to this simple question and questions about previous residence other countries could be a powerful tool for systematically tracking all types of international movement, in part because departures from one country could be matched against arrivals elsewhere.
The Commission and other CGD research on migration policy is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
“Better international coordination among countries as they count the people that cross their borders is fundamental to helping us maximize the gains from migration for countries or origin, countries of destination, and migrants themselves,” said MacArthur Foundation President Jonathan Fanton. “Collecting better international data on migration can improve both policy and scholarship.”
Lack of migration data perpetuates myths and misconceptions and can lead to policies that that hurt poor people and work against the interests of the countries they leave (or would like to leave) and the countries where they settle. For example:
Sailing Ship Policies in a Jetliner World: When people migrated on ships, return trips were expensive and rare. With cheap air travel, circular movement is probably the new norm. Lacking data on such movement, government policies are based on outdated assumptions and may be more restrictive than necessary, especially for unskilled workers. Temporary migrants who could benefit their families, their countries of origin, and their countries of destination are forced to stay home instead. Better data on the reality of circular migration could open the way for policies that support mutually beneficial temporary worker permits.
Closing the Entrance also Blocks the Exit: Policies at odds with the realities of international movement can have a separate effect of turning temporary migrants into permanent migrants: people who would have returned home if they knew they had the option of temporarily working abroad again decide not to make the trip. Better data could show how opening paths for authorized temporary movement could decrease unauthorized permanent movement.
Assuming Brain Drain Where It May Not Exist: Britain prohibits recruiting doctors and nurses from most low-income countries, including all of Africa, on the assumption that so-called “brain drain” will undermine health care. It is impossible to assess whether “brain drain” is real, or whether the benefits of such restrictions are worth the costs, if the movement of African health professionals cannot be measured and compared with health outcomes in the places they leave.
Yet, according to the report, about one third of all countries do not ask in their census about previous residence in another country.
To encourage improvements in such data collection, Clemens has compiled a Migration Data Census Report Card that grades dozens of countries based upon whether or not they plan to include such questions in the 2010 census round.
In this Report Card, which was inspired by the Commission’s recommendations but was not produced by the Commission, countries that score an “A” include Australia, Canada, Tonga and Malta, showing that countries of different sizes and levels of development are able to collect such data.
Migration Data Census Report Card
The United States and France score a “B” because they ask about country of birth but less detailed information about country of previous residence than the Commission recommends. Countries that ask no questions about country of birth or previous residence, thereby scoring an “F”, include Egypt, Ethiopia, Japan, Malawi, and the Philippines.
The Commission’s other four recommendations suggest ways to compile and release data that governments already collect but often keep locked away from view, and ways that existing household surveys in developing countries can generate valuable migration data at low cost.
One recommendation proposes that the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) compile and house a database of existing Labor Force Surveys from around the world, as Eurostat has done for the same surveys from around Europe.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría welcomed the Commission’s report. “Migration is our biggest weak spot on globalization,” he said.
“It’s not only a problem of tracking undocumented workers. Good data on migrants exist in many OECD countries, but migrants are simply not counted in the same way in different countries—even for those who legally enter or leave their territory. The OECD has made significant progress on this in recent years, but much more could be done, ” Gurría added.
Implementing these recommendations would have several benefits. Commission Co-Chair Patricia Santo Tomas, a former Philippines cabinet minister and current chairwoman of the board at the Development Bank of the Philippines, said better data is crucial for developing countries because the vast differences in income across nations mean that even tiny changes in labor mobility can have big effects on labor-sending countries.
“Developing countries can only effectively manage the power of international migration if the community of nations builds better ways of tracking global labor movements,” said Santo Tomas, who co-chaired the panel along with Lawrence Summers when he was at Harvard University. Summers, a former U.S. Treasury secretary, has since been named director of the White House’s National Economic Council.
CGD President Nancy Birdsall said that in the 21st century accurate migration data has become more important than ever before for understanding and coping with accelerating global change.
“We know that migration will shape global development in this century, interacting with current and future economic crises, demographic shifts, large and growing international wage gaps, increasingly global economic systems, and climate change,” Birdsall said.
“People will be on the move in numbers and ways we have not seen before. To understand these unprecedented movements of people and design effective policy responses, we need to start with better data. The commission report shows how.”
Read Migrants Count: Five Steps Toward Better International Migration Data
Marketplace Radio interviewed Todd Moss on economic growth in Africa since the financial crisis.
From the interview:
The long-term issue is whether Africa is going to turn its back on some of the economic reforms that were the basis of the positive performance more recently."
Listen to the interview (Moss clip, 4:50-6:40)
Climatewire quotes CGD senior fellow David Wheeler on the U.S. budget for the World Bank's Clean Technology Fund.
From the article:
David Wheeler, a fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former World Bank economist who has criticized the institution for funding coal-fired power plants, praised the request. Said Wheeler, "If the U.S. really backs truly clean technology with this $500 million, then it can certainly assist the fund in having its intended catalytic effect."
Read the article (subscription required)
The San Francisco Chronicle quotes CGD visiting fellow Nora Lustig on the impact of H1N1 virus on Mexico's economy.
From the article:
""First there's the economic crisis, second there's the whole insecurity situation as a result of the drug-related crime, now third you have this epidemic compounding an already bad impact on the economy," said Nora Lustig, a Mexico expert at George Washington University and the Center for Global Development. "It means the average Mexican is going to be in a pretty horrible situation with not many other places to go.""
Read the article
The New York Times' Freakanomics blog cites CGD visiting fellow James Habyarimana's paper on traffic safety, Heckle and Chide: Results of a Randomized Road Safety Intervention in Kenya.
From the article:
"It’s interesting how we hear all the time about malaria and mosquito nets (it was even World Malaria Day last week), but we never hear about third-world traffic accidents.
Habyarimana and Jack report the results of a fascinating field experiment they carried out, putting posters in over 1,000 randomly chosen Kenyan mini-buses. The posters told passengers to speak up if the driver drove dangerously.
And it really seems to have worked. Using data on insurance claims, the authors find that the buses that got these posters saw large declines in crashes relative to the control group, and the accident reduction appears to persist, as long as the signs remain posted.
I love it when I stumble onto a paper that A) teaches me some important facts, B) has a clever idea, C) is believable, and D) makes the world a better place."
Read the blog
The Washington Times cites CGD in its coverage of Strauss-Kahn's speech ahead of the World Bank/IMF spring meetings.
From the article:
"In addition to pledging to triple the IMF's lending capacity to $750 billion, the G-20 asked the IMF to provide an additional $6 billion in concessional funding to low-income nations over the next two to three years, Mr. Strauss-Kahn explained in his speech Thursday at the Center for Global Development at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies."
Read the article
A Washington Post blog cites CGD co-founder Ed Scott's philanthropic efforts.
From the article:
"What makes it groundbreaking is the participants: the meeting is led by the U.N. Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, and the legendary social entrepreneur Ed Scott, who co-founded the Center for Global Development, the Bono-led advocacy organization DATA, and the new Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty (CIFA). Together, they have convened African and U.S. faith leaders, global policymakers, and global health NGOs. (I have more than a passing interest--I am serving as president of CIFA)."
Read the article