Global Human Development Report 2009 - Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development

Oct 6, 2009

New Delhi, 5 October 2009 - According to the 2009 Human Development Report, migration within and across borders brings many benefits to all, yet opportunities are often lost due to barriers and constraints to movement.

Migration within and across borders brings many benefits toall, yet opportunities are often lost due to barriers and constraints to movement, accordingto the 2009 Human Development Report launched here today.The Report, Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, was launched byMontek Singh Ahulwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Government of India,and Patrice Coeur-Bizot, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ResidentRepresentative and UN Resident Coordinator designate.It shows that migration can have a significant impact on reducing poverty in a country.This is especially true for internal migration, since it is much easier for people from poorfamilies to move within borders than across them. Evidence from Bangladesh and Indiashows that poverty rates fall for households with at least one member who has movedelsewhere within the country.

The Report recognizes that not all movement is beneficial. People forced to migrate, suchas refugees, often suffer devastating consequences. Overcoming barriers encouragespolicymakers to ensure access and treatment for forced migrants.This is the latest publication in a series of global Human Development Reports, which aimto frame debates on some of the most pressing challenges facing humanity, from climatechange to human rights. It is an independent report commissioned by UNDP. Jeni Klugmanis the lead author of the 2009 Report.

Internal migration

The poverty-reducing effects of internal migration are significant. In Andhra Pradesh andMadhya Pradesh, poverty rates in households with a migrant fell by about half between2001/02 and 2006/07, and similar results were found for Bangladesh.Internal migration far exceeds the number of people who have moved across countryborders. Rapid urban growth, often associated with internal migration, can pose majorchallenges. In several South Asian countries, migrants living in urban slums face constantthreats of clearance, eviction and rent seeking from those in power.Internal movement is also impeded by regulations and administrative procedures thatexclude migrants from access to public services like water and electricity and legal rightsthat locals have. A review of urbanization experiences in South Asia, commissioned for theReport finds that a number of governments continue to pursue policies aimed at slowingdown internal migration. Instead of viewing internal migration as a problem, the Reportencourages South Asian countries to view it as a possible solution to development needsthat can be managed.


Especially in Asia, many migrant workers rely on commercial agents to organize job offersand make other arrangements, such as housing. Overcoming barriers believes that the highE-1 5-2fees middlemen demand can be a problem, especially for low-skilled workers. These costs hit the pooresthardest. For example, few migrant nurses pay recruitment fees but most domestic helpers do. Asian migrantsmoving to the Gulf often pay 25–35 percent of what they expect to earn over two or three years inrecruitment and other fees. Additional costs may come in the form extensive administrative regulation,which may encourage corruption and demands for bribes to speed up processes. The Report urges SouthAsian countries to consider ways to reduce these costs and combat corruption in order to see greater gainsfrom movement.

Links to development

Migrants’ gains are often shared with their families and communities at home. In many cases this is in theform of cash. For India, remittances are 1.5 times greater than foreign direct investment. But the families ofmigrants may benefit in other ways too. These ‘social remittances,’ as they are called, include reductions infertility, higher school enrolment rates and the empowerment of women. According to the Report, nationaldevelopment plans offer an opportunity to better integrate mobility into overall development priorities, andthat migration—while not a panacea for a country’s problems—must be considered when creating strategiesfor development in South Asia.Overcoming barriers concludes that failure to address mobility issues slows human development’s progressat individual, community, national and global levels. The core package of policy reform described in theReport stresses rights for migrants, ensuring benefits for migrants and destination communities alike,making it easier for people to move within their own countries and mainstreaming migration into nationaldevelopment strategies.

Human Development Index

Referring to the Human Development Index (HDI), Patrice Coeur-Bizot said, “Overall India has madesteady progress on the Human Development Index. India’s HDI value has gone up steadily from 0.556 in2000 to 0.612 in 2007.” This year India ranks 134 out of 182 countries.


The Human Development Report continues to frame debates on some of the most pressingchallenges facing humanity. It is an independent report commissioned by the United Nations DevelopmentProgramme (UNDP). Jeni Klugman is the lead author of the 2009 Report. The Report is translated into more than adozen languages and launched in more than 100 countries annually. The 2009 Human Development Report ispublished in English by Palgrave Macmillan.


Human Development is the expansion of the freedoms that people have to livetheir lives as they choose. This conception—inspired by the path-breaking work of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen andthe leadership of the late Mahbub ul Haq, and known also as the capabilities approach because of its emphasis on thefreedom that people have to achieve vital ‘beings and doings’—has been at the core of UNDP’s approach since thefirst Human Development Report in 1990, and is as relevant as ever to the design of effective policies to combatpoverty and deprivation. This approach has proved powerful in reshaping thinking about topics as diverse as gender,human security and climate change.


UNDP is the UN’s global development network, advocating for change and connecting countries toknowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. We are on the ground in 166 countries,working with them on their own solutions to global and national development challenges. As they develop localcapacity, they draw on the people of UNDP and our wide range of partners. and

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