25 October 2005

Breaking down the barriers

Human migration is at an all-time high in terms of absolute numbers. More people have moved from their home territories to new areas in the past 5 years than ever before. According to Gaia Watch of the UK, at the start of the 21st century, one out of every 35 persons worldwide was an international migrant. In 2002, almost one in every 10 persons living in the more developed regions of the world was a migrant. In the 1990–2000 period, the more developed regions were gaining about 2.6 million persons annually through net international migration and this migration was accounting for two thirds of the population growth in these regions.

Not only has there been cross-border or international migration, even within countries, people have moved from rural areas into towns and cities. Recent population figures indicate that the urban population of the world is continuing to grow faster than the total world population. In 2003, about 48 per cent of the world population lived in urban settlements. Economists say, this was foreseen and is really a by-product of rapid urbanisation. With globalisation, the growth of urban industries and lack of employment in the agricultural sector, cities promise prosperity to millions of people across the world. Of course, this is prevalent in Asian and African nations, but migration figures also support Latin American nations and Eastern Europe.

People migrate for various reasons. Most people move for economic reasons, but some migrate to escape political or religious persecution… or simply to fulfil a personal dream. Widespread unemployment, lack of farmland for agriculture or business opportunities, natural calamities, or war at home are some clear reasons for migration. Encouraging these are factors that attract migrants to another country or a city: a thriving economy, a labour shortage, and favourable immigration laws where international migration is concerned. However, there’s no denying that the greatest attraction lies in the promise of wealth and better living standards.

Perhaps this problem is yet to spark a political or religious war, but it certainly is breaking down some of the economic barriers.

[Citation: Gaia Watch of the UK, Population Research Bureau.]

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