Catherine de Wenden, researcher at the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales (CERI) in Paris on Globalisation of migration
08 November 2010
Could you describe the globalisation of migration?
It’s a rather recent phenomenon. It started about 20 years ago and affects almost all the world’s regions. Migration flows have strongly increased over this time period, in particular due to better means of transportation, access to television, transnational networks built by the migrants and family ties across continents.
What proportion of migrants are women today and how has this number evolved with the globalisation of migration flows?
At the same time, we see a regionalisation of migration flows. Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa for example most often go to other African countries or to Europe.
Over-all, migration policies haven’t caught up yet to the fact that general mobility has become the norm and that new forms of migration have appeared. Being a migrant today does not necessarily mean that you are going to settle in for good in another country. Migrants change places, go back and forth between their home country and the country of arrival. For some of them, mobility has become an actual life style.
Women represent around half of the migrants today. Their number has sharply increased in the last 20 years. Two types of situations are very frequent. On the one hand, older women migrate to become self-employed, by starting their own commercial activity for example, and on the other hand, young women migrating without their family and working as care takers, nurses or nannies.
For women, migration comes with great risks, especially when they work in poorly regulated jobs or illegally. The positive side however is that women are looking after themselves and gaining autonomy. With the economic and financial crisis, the migrant’s situation, in particular that of women, has become even more insecure. Migrants’ rights have been weakened and efforts to win them new rights have been slowed down. France for example has toughened its laws on family reunification. Some countries are turning towards protectionist national policies again.
What are your expectations for the conference “The female face of migration”?
I see mobility as a key factor for human development, a source of enrichment for both the countries of origin and the countries of arrival. The money transferred by migrants to their home countries is three times the total amount of official development aid. A lot of projects wouldn’t be carried out if there was only public aid. Migrants also often get training before or during their journey.
Their migration project is a great source of emulation. During their stay abroad, migrants get to know new life styles and customs. That can have a positive effect in terms of health or economic and cultural development in their home country. For the host countries, migrants satisfy important needs on the labour market, due to the ageing population in Europe for example. Their diversity is an important source of cultural enrichment. I’m happy that this conference will take place in Senegal, with the participation of many African Caritas organisations. I believe that the southern countries need to take hold of this issue, become more aware of the potential benefits of migration and actively promote the development that migrants can help generate.