Gurucharan Gollerkeri and Natasha Chhabra, authors of Migration Matters: Mobility in a Globalizing World, published by Oxford University Press, tell Sarika Malhotra of BT that migration will impact global economies in the times to come.
Q. What will be the role of migration in the global economy in future?
Gollerkeri: Despite the remarkable global economic progress in the second half of the twentieth century, the last decade has been a rude awakening to what is essentially an asymmetric world. The great divide between the rich and poor countries, between those who control the transnational movement of goods and capital and those who do not; between countries that are growing old and those that are young, has placed us on the path of an unsustainable development model of exclusion. This has seriously jeopardised long-term prospects of human progress.
Geographic and inter-generational equity deficits now pose a serious threat to the future of the global economy. Transnational movement of people is an inevitable and inexorable process in a globalised world. As we progress towards a more integrated economy globally, the challenges are to find ways to enable free movement of people as the natural corollary to the movement of goods and capital. This will help bridge gaps like demographic deficits, labour supply shortages and skill shortages. It will also help drive productivity and innovation. In sum, migration will be one of the most important drivers of growth in the global economy.
Q. With increasing pressures on working visas and job preferences to their own nationals in some European countries... How do you see the migration scenario unfolding?
Chhabra: Our analysis suggests that this view is more local than global. Creating artificial barriers to the mobility of people whether in Europe or any other ageing economy constitutes a short-sighted and reactionary vision - one that enables elections to be fought and won. However, these are temporary measures - measures such as making visas for foreign nationals difficult, postponement of the retirement age, increasing participation of the women workforce etc. are not a panacea to the structural gaps created by the forces of the demographic transition.
These, for example, cannot reverse the below replacement fertility rates in some of these countries of destination. Migration policies fail to respond to the needs of employers despite the economic case for mobility being evident. Therefore, our analysis suggests that the choice is between economic decline and embracing the imperatives and subsequent benefits of migrant populations.
Q. Indians make for one of the biggest diasporas in the world... What role do you see the old and new Indian migrants are playing? What will their interactions in the host countries entail?
Gollerkeri: The size and spread of the overseas Indian community is widely recognised as the 'Knowledge Diaspora'. Even so, there is no 'great Indian Diaspora'. In fact, there are communities within communities, each differentiated by time and distance and with distinct expectations from both the home and host countries. However, if we were to speak of them collectively, as migrants they have distinguished themselves as innovators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders.
Their 'virtual presence' across sectors and in most parts of the globe thus makes them a strategic resource. Your reference to 'new migrants' has resulted in India occupying a small but significant part of the global mind space and is led by its IT revolution in only the last two decades.
Q. What are the challenges new age Indian migrants can face? How should India develop its policies to cater these challenges?
Chhabra: The challenges that India faces are common to many other countries. These include integration in the host countries; brain waste resulting from the lack of mutual recognition of skills and the inability to claim contributions made towards social security programmes due to lack of coordination between countries of origin and destination. For a response to any of the challenges listed, it is important that we develop policy coherence. The mainstreaming of migration policy across government will be central to achieving strategic outcomes.
The interests of diverse stakeholders and those of countries of origin and destination, hitherto seen as adversarial, centre around one question - 'How can we maximise the development impact of migration for all?' There are four fundamentals that policies should focus on.
These include: fostering circular migration; defining the nature of engagement with overseas Indians and harnessing their potential as a strategic resource; acknowledging the role that emigration can play for India given our demographic imperatives and positioning India as a preferred country of origin; and finally establishing economic depth in new destination countries.
Q. What are the big trends emerging in new age Indian migration?
Chhabra: There are some trends that distinguish 'new age Indian migration' from the old. The first is the diversification of the destination base. The already widespread Indian community is growing in countries that were not perceived as 'traditional' countries of destination for Indians. Secondly, there is a larger number of highly-skilled professionals from India. Third, little as it may be known, India is also an important country of destination and is home to a large number of migrants. Fourth, there is a small but discernible stream of return migration spurred by the opportunities offered by the Indian economy. Finally, India distinguishes herself from other countries of the sub-continent in terms of lower numbers of irregular migrants. The irregularity in many cases is a result of either expiration or termination of visas in countries of destination.