Demography and Migration: an Outlook for the 21st century

By Rainer Münz

Rainer MünzDemography and migration in the 21st century are a complex topic for a policy brief, but that’s exactly the challenge Rainer Münz accomplishes in the MPI-Migration Policy Institute Policy Brief “Demography and Migration: an Outlook for the 21st century”. The paper is part of a MPI series on Migration and Development, and it states that although the current geography of migration is changing, international mobility will continue during the 21st century, as a function of economic and demographic disparities: “People will continue to move from youthful to aging societies, and from poorer peripheries to richer urban agglomerations”.


The policy brief suggests to‘re-think’ migration policies in relation to the changing geography of migration. Currently, development is characterised by a higher growth in middle- and low-income countries, regional (especially south-south) mobility and the consolidation of new pools of migration attraction. The rapidly changing demographic context also urges policy-makers to reformulate the link between demographic projections and welfare state, to reinforce intra-regional and international dialogue in migration policies, and to consider migration a tool for development and not only as a response to labour market shortages.


As long as the scenario of mobility is becoming broader in the 21st century –more countries become part of the international mobility flows, being origin, destination, transit or a sum of all– different challenges are on the agenda. Increased competition for skilled labour and talent will become global, as countries like China enter it. The impact of migration on welfare and development should be better analysed. Münz considers migrants agents of change in their countries and regions of origin (economic change, but also promoting democracy), although discussions on the role of migrants and their contribution to countries of origin have increased in the last years (for example, see Hein de Haas (2005): International Migration, Remittances and Development: myths and facts published in Third World Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 8 (December), pp. 1243 – 1258, and the concept of 'remittance euphoria').


In order to better manage migration flows in the international arena, to strengthen links between migration and development, but also to avoid migrants the risk of being exploited and mitigate brain drain in middle- and low-income countries, Münz suggests to reinforce dialogue and cooperation at bilateral, regional and multilateral level on migration policies. In fact, says the brief, “lack of cooperation between migrant-sending and receiving countries increases the cost of migration and decreases the positive effect on socioeconomic development”. This need of long-term discussions is crucial at international level, but also at the internal one. Addressing demographic changes and labour market needs (so also in order to promote better migration policies) decisions have to be taken beyond electoral cycles.


Demography and Migration: an Outlook for the 21st century, Rainer Münz