Social protection and risk: the ultimate root cause of migration?
By Jason Gagnon, Development economist / PGD coordinator, OECD Development Centre and Jessica Hagen-Zanker, Senior Research Fellow, Overseas Development Institute
According to recent estimates, 258 million people in the world were living outside of their country of birth in 2017, up from a total of 161 million in 1990. That represents an increase of 60%. Under different circumstances, most migrants would never migrate in the first place; they would choose to stay close to their family and friends, and the food, music and culture they cherish. Migration – in these cases – is the consequence of something gone wrong.
So why do they leave? Poverty and lack of opportunities for a better future are the typical culprits. But it’s more complicated than that.
Risk is another factor that pushes many people to migrate. The mere risk of falling (back) into poverty can motivate migration. Indeed, migration theory has long described migration as a coping strategy to deal with risk. Empirical evidence confirms this. A 2016 qualitative study on Bolivia found that (internal) migration was a typical response by rural households in response to risks related to land access, insufficient work opportunities and low agricultural productivity. More evidence (on China) suggests that attitude towards risk can even determine who migrates from within the household. Continue reading “Social protection and risk: the ultimate root cause of migration?”