Guest essay by Eric Worrall
An African Development Bank study suggests the people most likely to emigrate to escape third world climate shocks are the highly skilled middle class.
Climate-linked migration has garnered political attention amid a global refugee crisis
By Nellie Peyton
DAKAR, April 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – People who are driven to migrate by floods, droughts and other disasters linked to climate change come overwhelmingly from middle-income countries, not the poorest parts of the world, as is commonly believed, new research finds.
And those who move abroad due to natural disasters are likely to be highly educated, suggesting climate change could exacerbate “brain drain” from developing countries, according to Linguere Mously Mbaye, a consultant for the African Development Bank.
Very poor people cannot afford to migrate and the richest have other ways of coping such as accessing social services in the wake of disasters, she found.
The study referenced by the press release;
Climate change, natural disasters, and migration
The relationship between migration and natural events is not straightforward and presents many complexities
In developing countries, international migration due to disasters may be driven by highly educated people, which may foster brain drain in a vulnerable context.
Migration can also serve as a coping mechanism through the remittances sent back by emigrants to communities affected by climatic shocks and natural disasters. Remittances help increase the resilience of households toward natural disasters and reduce their vulnerability to the effects of shocks. As migrants are, by de nition, not present in their home communities, their transfers provide insurance in case of shocks for their left-behind relatives. Consequently, remittances help households deal with income shocks caused by disasters.
An example from the Philippines shows that transfers of money back home from international migrants increase when natural disasters occur in their country of origin. Filipino households with overseas migrants managed to completely mitigate the income losses they suffered as a result of rainfall shocks with the receipt of remittances; this was not the case for households without overseas migrants . In this context, it would thus be important to nd ways to reduce the cost of sending remittances, which currently remain high, particularly in the case of international migrants’ transfers.
Obviously nobody wants to wish disasters on others, but whatever the reason for migration, it is difficult to see the downside of skilled people migrating to rich Western countries.
The people who migrate gain access to better economic opportunities.
The migration also helps people back in the home country – when the skilled people send remittances, folk back home deal better with whatever problems they are facing.
The destination countries gain the economic advantages of all those imported skills.
When the highly skilled climate refugees finally return home, their experience of participating directly in a first world economy is undoubtably immensely valuable, for those who choose to set up their own business. Whatever short term loss third world countries might suffer from losing their best and brightest to first world countries is surely compensated by the additional skills those people bring back to their home countries, when they decide to return.
The only potential negative impact is on the employment prospects of citizens of the destination countries, who might find themselves crowded out of job markets by more skilled immigrants, but this can be mitigated by restricting skilled immigration intake to fields where there is a desperate shortage of local talent.
Bring it on.