Migration and Development Conference in Accra

Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to a conference “Migration and Development: Opportunities and Challenges in a Globalized world”. It was a great experience in many ways – inspiration, networking and the personal growth that comes with sharing your work.

To me,  it is always inspiring to learn about research that is ongoing some favorite new aspects of migration involved gold scams in Ghana, changing migration patterns of unskilled labor to Accra (kayayeis, scrap collectors and others) and student migration out of the Congo finding new destinations.

The networking was superb – I met with many graduate students at University of Ghana – as migration naturally is interdisciplinary we never knew of each other! We have exchanged contacts and will meet up again soon. Also, in the main frame of the collage above, I met with a former lecturer to Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan!

Finally, the pressure that comes with synthesizing your work and presenting some aspect of it feels horrible, but I am convinced it is good for me. I presented a paper in progress about the migration policies of the north and their impacts on academe in the global south, naturally with a focus on Ghana.

Later this year, a publication from the conference will be put together. If my work meets the quality target (and I manage to submit in time), I will tell you  more!

See more of my photos from the conference here.

 

Emigration Out of Developed Countries

It is crunch time for an important presentation next week, but let me share with you an insight that came to me through text yesterday.

Emigration rates are highest not from the so called Global South, but out of developed countries!

Migration researcher Ronald Skeldon suggests in a overview of the migration and development debate in the book “Migration in the Globalised World” from 2010 that mobility is an integral part of development:

Migration is essentially a response of populations to changing development conditions and what governments need to do is to lose their fear of population migration. Migration needs to be accepted as an integral part of the development process, not feared as something unusual…Rising prosperity brings increased population mobility and migration. (p.156)

Skeldon further points at evidence of developed nations having high levels of migration (UK is mentioned as a case in point with 5,5 million citizens, or 9,2%, living outside the country ) and concludes that developed societies are “based upon systems of high mobility” (p. 157).

As a twist, when I came home the top news on the Swedish news site I follow was that Swedish levels of emigration is higher today than under the peak emigration years in the 19th century.

Point taken.

 

Ghana Migration and Development Policies: New Working Paper from DIIS

This morning as I was brainstorming migration topics for my Migration Monday series, I was happy to discover the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS) have recently published a working paper on Ghana’s Migration and Development Policies.

The paper is written by Dr. Nauja Kleist, who I met two years back over a bowl of Maquis Tante Marie soup in Accra, and is called
  “Let us Rebuild our Country” Migration-development scenarios in Ghana (the link takes you to a page where you can download the working paper).

What is wonderful with this type of well-written, current and to-the-point publication is that it summarizes big chunks of data: in this case the recent history of Ghanaian migration policy to today, views from high level state officials, diaspora and academics on those policies and finally the implementation of them. Which proves to be minimal. Or in Kleist’s vocab

“Migration-development scenarios in Ghana thus have a strong symbolic and performance dimension, constituting a policy spectacle with several audiences” (my italics).

In looking closer on this so called spectacle; what is new in migration policy, is that migration is not only seen as a threat, but also as an opportunity to increased development. In accordance, migrants are seen “as development actors”, Kleist suggests in the paper. This follows an international agenda to couple the two streams of discourse.

Although the international agenda seeping through African policy making does not strike Kleist, nor me, as strange (Kleist soberly states “Ghanaian migration policies and initiatives not only reflect efforts to strengthen national development, but also are shaped by European agendas”), something else does. Why is that in the “Migration-Development nexus” which sees opportunity in migration (“if well managed”),  remittances or a returnee is seen as great news, while the alternative gains – a native working in his/her country of origin – is never assessed?

Kleist addresses this only indirectly, but quite elegantly, by addressing the problems of the overtly positive scenario advocated by some Ghanaian officials:

“win-win-win situations for the sending and recieving countries and the migrant alike…not only presume ‘orderly’ and informed migration decisions and processes but also a range of other preconditions… emigrants are assumed to be from professions characterized by unemployment rather than a shortage of labour to avoid brain drain; in addition this scenario presupposes that social frictions primarily are rooted in (presumed) unemployment and not in other political, social or economic structures. Likewise, this scenario presumes that migrants get employment that match and upscale their qualifications, are exposed to high-level technology, and finally, that they return to Ghana and are able to utilize their new skills there.”

However, many of the Ghanaian migrants I know are well qualified, but work abroad in jobs below their qualifications. Still, Ghanaian migration provides opportunities for class mobility/salaries one can live on/education etc. for individuals. Migrants send money home and sometime, just like Kleist reports buy land, property and come home to retire. But does it lead to development for migrant sending countries?

Ultimately, Kleist states the obvious regarding the win-win-win scenario: “Such preconditions are rarely fulfilled” and mentions, without going into any detail, that there are also conflicts of interest between migrant sending and receiving nations. I agree and have written about such conflicting interests like the strategies the EU (with inspiration from Canada and the US) employ to sustain its knowledge economies of today and tomorrow.

I think it is where Kleist signs off that my research will pick up. I understand that sometimes you have to take what you can get (a returning migrant that might or might not have relevant skills or a bundle of her cash in an envelope), but isn’t it very clear that is always less than what you could have had (Africans finding gainful employment and paying taxes in their home countries)?

Instead of aiming for “well managed” migration, can migrant sending countries not aim higher?

The EU Blue Card – What Will It Mean to African Professionals?

Today, I am researching The EU Blue Card, a directive passed by the EU in 2009 to simplify immigration for highly skilled workers from non-EU countries. The directive is to be fully implemented into legislation by member countries this year.

The EU Blue Card is modeled on the US Green Card and is hence a temporary work visa (1-4 years) and at the same time a one-stop-shop for applying for residency and work permit.

On the europa.eu website which collects, summarizes and explains EU legislation it is stated that the objective of this particular directive is to:

improve the European Union’s (EU) ability to attract highly qualified workers from third countries. The aim is not only to enhance competitiveness within the context of the Lisbon strategy, but also to limit brain drain. (my italics)

The Lisbon strategy or agenda was drafted in March 2000 and reviewed in 2005 and was the overarching direction for the union aiming to turn EU into “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010”. I can see how the EU Blue Card is in alignment with this ambitious goal  and how it helps to attract highly qualified workers. However, I have a hard time understanding how it will limit brain-drain.

I am not the first to question this, migration and development have been discussed together for many years now and others before me have pointed this out for this particular directive. In 2007, African ministers of health viced their worry of that this scheme would increase the brain drain of health professionals from their countries. Also, Professor Kingsley Banya has also written a conference paper where he in the abstract suggests the EU Blue Card scheme is “poaching Africa’s talent” (I am yet to find the full paper).

The rationale behind the EU Blue Card is the fact that EU has a low level of highly-skilled foreigners in its workforce when comparing to the US and Canada. Levels of 4% and 7% of the total labor force for US and Canada respectively, comparing to 1,7% for the EU is brought forward by the Migration Information Source here.

To qualify for the EU Blue Card, one must have a college diploma or five years occupational training, already have landed a job (countries can choose if individual or companies hiring them should apply) as well as show that the job the worker is migrating to do pays more than 1,5 times the country’s average salary.

Despite above-mentioned critique against the directive, it is being implemented as we speak (although some say it is way too slow) with very little debate within Europe and in the countries that are likely to be affected by the policy change.

In my opinion, what needs to be discussed further (and very soon measured)  is how the EU Blue card is to affect African professionals and their migration desicions. It seems nobody yet knows.

Will it lead to increased migration and possibly brain-drain or could there be positive effects for developing countries like increased circular migration when opportunity for legal migration increases? As my research area – Ghanaian students’ migration aspirations- encompasses the migration environment,or legal frameworks for migration, I will be including this European development in my study and discussion.

I will try to write on migration issues every Monday from now on! Need to get back into the research game!

Pic borrowed from The Swap Blog.