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Is migration truly global?

Updated: Nov 27, 2021

Gender, location and more; inequalities in the ease and experience of migration


This research is an attempt to analyse the migratory trends around the world to answer the question “Is migration truly global?”

It is an accepted fact that globalisation is hardly uniform. It is felt differently in different regions and the process of migration, which contributes to deepening globalisation, is experienced unevenly too. Migration is a process that influences and is in turn influenced by globalisation. This research aims to convey that the trends of migration in different parts of the world are highly uneven, and there exist differences in how migration is experienced by different groups of people. There are many reasons behind this. It is important to analyse these trends to understand the processes shaping these diverse experiences, thereby gaining a better understanding of globalisation and its effects. The research also aims to look into the issue of gendered migration and the specific experiences of women migrants. Global governance is also taken into consideration keeping in mind the intricacies of it and the concepts of sovereignty associated with it.

Keywords- migration, economy, globalisation, gender


Migration is a major policy issue in the international arena. Most countries see it as an infringement upon their sovereignty, and as an undesirable effect of globalisation. Migrants from different cultures are looked down upon as they are expected to propagate different forms of lifestyle or culture considered to be alien. Concerns of brain drain and loss of able population due to migration too is an issue plaguing many nations. After 9/11, Muslim migrants were viewed with suspicion and have been viewed so since then. The calls for stricter migration policy usually arises from the fear of migrants making the host economies suffer by depriving the indigenous population of work, even though this hasn’t been the case.

Migration is a global phenomenon now with 3.5 per cent of the global population being migrants. There is no overarching institution that regulates migration currently except the International Organisation of Migration, which has very limited power. Most nations view an international institution to control migration as an infringement on their sovereignty and national security. However, this has led to the lack of regulation of migrants and other issues like illegal migration and trafficking. Nations need to cooperate on the issue of migration and jointly work towards regulating it.

The increased mobility due to advancements in travel technology and means for travel has greatly increased the ease with which migration takes place. This increased mobility has brought about newer additions and changes to the regional demographics of host and receiving areas as well as an intermixing of cultures, attitudes etc. While globalisation has provided for this mobility, it has also given rise to its inequalities.

Migration is not experienced uniformly in all parts of the world. There are differences in migratory trends across the world which points a finger towards various social, political and economic factors. These trends need to be analysed to gain a better understanding of the process of migration and the factors influencing it.

There exist differences in the way different groups of people experience migration and one major difference is between men and women. Gendered experiences of migration too are an important topic of discussion. Migration is experienced by women differently from men. The reasons and the effects of migration vary greatly for women. By analysing gendered experiences of migration, better policies can be devised which would help in making it a much safer ordeal for women and reduce the discrimination they face.


Migration is the flow of population from one region to another due to economic, social, environmental, cultural or political factors. A migrant is defined by the International Organisation for Migration, as “a person who moves away from his or her place of usual residence, whether within a country or across an international border, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons”

The change in place of residence can be permanent, semi-permanent or temporary. Migration happening within an administrative boundary is called in-migration and out-migration. A relatively permanent migration across international borders is called immigration or emigration.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is an intergovernmental organisation established in 1951 as Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM). The IOM works in the four broad areas of migration management: Migration and development, Facilitating migration, Regulating migration and Forced migration. However, the IOM has a very limited area of power and migration is still a largely unregulated activity. The issue of migration is considered to be of national importance and an issue of sovereignty and thus, many nation-states are unwilling to give up their control to an international organisation with no supranational powers.

International migration and globalisation are interconnected. While globalisation drives international migration, international migration deepens globalisation through increasing the flow of money, information, labour etc. According to the IMO, 272 million people were migrants in 2019 which made up 3.5 per cent of the total world population while the globally forcibly displaced people stood at 70 million in 2018 including 26 million refugees, 3.5 million asylum seekers and 41 million internally displaced population. 38 million migrants are children while 164 million are workers out of the total migrant population.

There is a wide range of reasons that suggest that international migration is not truly global. The region-wise variations in international migrants can be seen if the trends are looked at country wise. While 10 per cent population in Europe, North America and Oceania are international migrants, only 2 percent of the population in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean are international migrants. 31 per cent of international migrants are from Asia, 30 percent from Europe, 26 per cent from the Americas, 10 percent from Africa and 3 percent from Oceania. While the USA has the highest number of migrants coming in every year (50.6 per cent), Tuvalu has the least (239). By 2020, the total number of migrants reached 280.6 million. Half of the international migration takes place in 10 countries. India leads the country of origin of migrants with 18 million people abroad with Mexico having 12 million, China with 11 million, Russia with 10 million and Saudi Arabia with 8 million followers.

Second, all things considered, a developing extent of worldwide travellers are without authorisation, reacting to worldwide draw and push factors however in expanding repudiation of public laws, strategies and interests. Third, in numerous nations, a worldwide movement is progressively (and normally mistakenly) seen as a danger, fuelling Xenophobia. There is one last field where the worldwide movement has an uncomfortable relationship with globalization, and that is global governance. Until the International Organization for Migration (IOM) turned into a related office of the UN in 2016, it had regularly been called attention to that worldwide relocation was one of only a handful few worldwide issues without a devoted UN office. Indeed, even now the coordination of IOM in the UN framework stays challenged. It is still evident that there is no single legitimate or regularizing structure that applies to all transients – the privileges of sporadic travellers remain particularly challenged.

There are many factors influencing migration. The push factors or the factors encouraging migration are the high natural pace of population growth leading to pressure on the current assets; fatigue of common assets; dry spells, floods and regular cataclysms, for example, quakes and starvations; and intensely social, street and political clashes convincing individuals to relocate to different spots for reasons of security. The social factors that impact relocation are cultural richness, better government assistance programs, better schools, a framework, a solid informal community, the presence of companions and family members who have effectively moved, and so on. All these pull factors that draw in an individual to relocate to a new place. Political freedom too is a major reason influencing people to migrate. Environment migration is caused by natural calamities like famine or drought, flood, tsunami, earthquake etc. Demographic factors such as the carrying capacity of an area are important factors that influence migration. When the carrying capacity of an area reaches its limits migration takes place and if such a trend continues, it leads to spatial redistribution of population.

Gender and migration: important implications

Gender is a major factor that determines the ease, probability and shapes the experience of migration. Understanding the interlinkages between gender, space and mobility is a recent area of study within feminist research. Feminist scholars use intersectionality as a research tool to build gender perspectives in the area of migration. According to Rita Afsar, three features of intersectionality can be used to comprehend the interconnections between gender, space and mobility. They are gender relations being an important form of social differentiation that influence migration, gender being a fluid category in itself that guarantee diverse experiences with regard to space; and intersectionality framework treats gender as an active agent in the migration research. Therefore, we can conclude that gender relations can influence the process, cause and outcome of migration. It can create cultures and personalities in various spaces and finally, gender relations can contest and challenge institutionalised inequalities in migration research. Cecilia Tacoli and Richard Mabala (2010) argue that gender and generation are necessary factors that influence the process of migration and mobility in rural and urban contexts. Migration and mobility are inherently advanced processes encompassing kinds of movements, sociology and cultural experiences. They replicate socio-economic, cultural and political transformations at native, regional and international levels. Gendered understanding of migration and mobility expands the scope of research in multiple directions including household members’ access to resources and political decision-making, nature of livelihood strategies, evolving gender relations and analysing inter-household conflicts based on class, caste and ethnicity.

Boyd noted that migration is not gender-blind nor gender-neutral, but gender-sensitive. According to a United Nations (UN) survey in 2006, unjust legislation and beliefs made it difficult for women to migrate. The discriminating factors can also disempower women, by limiting their economic, social and political capabilities. Women migrate for different economic reasons. Some women migrate as primary caregivers like mothers and in such domestic roles while other women migrate alone to gain personal autonomy and escape the traditional gender roles in their home countries. Other women follow their husbands to reunite as a family in a foreign land. Economic and social upheavals can drive women to migrate. Educated women experiencing discrimination in the home countries’ work environment migrate to find better jobs. Discriminatory traditions can deprive women equal chance to work and be independent. Hence, women may decide to migrate to claim their deserved opportunities in host countries where social systems are non-prescriptive. Women also will migrate to escape abusive marriages, domestic and socio-economic inequalities in home countries. For instance, according to the Refugee Studies Centre (2015), in the first nine months of 2014 more than 25,000 women and girls from female genital mutilation-practising countries sought asylum in the European Union, out of which an estimated 71 per cent had already undergone female genital mutilation.

Gender is another aspect that enhances the integration of migrants in host countries. Migrant men and women integrate differently in host countries. While migration leads to economic betterment for the individual concerned getting a job in the host country, may all subject women to gender dynamics together with ethnic and racial discrimination in the host country; hence migrant women are triple-disadvantaged in the host country.

As women take up the role of a provider in their families, there is a gradual shift from the traditional expectations from women. The various capabilities, in the form of skills that the women bring with them and their ability to act on those skills, enable them to assimilate into the host communities, successfully navigating some of the conversion factors with negative effects. Women’s labour migration has the potential to reduce poverty and improve wellbeing in both host and sending countries. It is within this understanding that the potential contribution of women to development ought to be recognised and the discrimination faced by them ought to be dealt with. Global governance is still an uncomfortable topic for many nation-states. However, it could help create safer spaces for women migrants and migrants in general. The lack of a regulatory body has led to numerous issues such as illegal trafficking, inhumane treatment etc.


Globalization, as political scientist David Held and his co-authors put it, is the "widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life. However, neither is globalisation nor its effects are felt and experienced uniformly. Migration too is one such effect. Even though deemed global, it is a highly uneven and differentiated process that needs to be analysed taking into consideration the lack of uniformity of it and the reasons for it being so. This could provide insights into the social political cultural factors that drive the process of migration. Unlike many other cross border issues such as trade, finance, or the environment, international migration lacks a coherent institutional framework at the global level.

. However, migration is taking place at unprecedented levels today and needs to be carefully looked into. It can no longer be effectively managed by national policies. There are growing numbers of migrants around the world who are vulnerable and exploited, and insufficiently protected by either states or international institutions

The gendered experience of migration too is an important issue that requires country-level talks. According to a United Nations (UN) survey in 2006, unjust legislation and beliefs made it difficult for women to migrate. Hence, an overarching body that can take into consideration all these factors is a necessity in the changing scape of international migration.

Though considered a global phenomenon, migration is not uniform. The trends of international migration point to various inequalities existing in the ease, intensity and even the experiences of migration. International migrants comprised 2.8 per cent of the population in 2000 which increased to 3.3 per cent in 2015 and 3.5 per cent in 2019. There are a lot of reasons that may lead to migration. These trends must be studied and analysed to get a clear picture or migratory map of the world which would help in better governance possibilities.


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