Migration and PovertyThe relationship between migration and poverty may seem a little far fetched. From a general perspective, the two ideas seem disparate. An immigration/emigration officer for deals with people moving from one country to another (sometimes across entire continents). Alternately, poverty (and the alleviation thereof) deals with providing food, water and shelter. However, the two are not just intertwined; poverty is often the causative agent for migration.

The history of human migration and poverty starts at the very dawn of humankind, when our ancestors have still lived in Africa. Back then, early humans did not have the technologies that we have today, such as a writing system or mathematics.

Why is this important? It’s important because back then, human tribes already knew (at some primitive level at least) that in order to find a location with better resources, they needed to move to somewhere else. Consequently, humans have spread (and adapted) to all corners of the planet.

Even today, people generally migrate in order to have better access to resources, be they food or work opportunities. For people living in poverty, such as migrants from Ireland during the potato crisis, it was food. For people who are not direly poor, such as academic migrants, they migrate in order to find academic or employment resources.

But then, one can ask: does migration benefit everyone? Surely, once all the land has been populated and with the academic job market being ferocious, there should be no migration? Well, unfortunately, the topic is infinitely more complex than that.

Thousands of years ago, the only useful resource was food. Nowadays, “wealth” is a complex term that encapsulates a variety of resources: food, money, familial relationships, job prospects, culture and so on.

Some people leave countries because they don’t like their culture, (Switzerland was once described as a prison) because of familial relationships, (U.S. Americans moving across the country to be with family) or for job prospects (Poles moving to the U.K.). Because these migrations have been going on for literally thousands of years, we now live in a world where everyone has traces of multiple ethnicities.

Immigration and emigration has provided individuals with the ability to gain important skills and responsibilities in different communities. Additionally, population movement can help thousands find safer homes. Consequently, mindlessly stopping migration from happening can prevent these individuals from not only rising up in life, but also from achieving basic safety and survival. In fact, MarketWatch recently posted an article explaining why the U.S. still needs immigrants.

This is why migration and poverty are connected closely to one another. Foreign policy should definitely consider this relationship when discussing poverty reduction. The problem of migration cannot be halted by scribbling a few laws in place. However, with the alleviation of poverty, fewer people will find the need to emigrate for reasons of survival and resource necessity.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Flickr