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South-South migration in Latin America: Commentary in the Latin America Advisor

22 Nov 2013



In an issue of the Inter-American Dialogue’s Latin America Advisor, Research Coordinator Katja Hujo contributed to a featured Q&A on South-South migration in the Latin American region. In the commentary she proposes measures that Latin American countries receiving immigrants can make to benefit more from intra-regional immigration flows. The commentary was published on 27 September 2013.

Q: There are 232 million international migrants living abroad worldwide, according to statistics recently released by the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs, with as many international migrants born in the South living in other countries in the South as in countries in the North. In Latin America between 1990 and 2013, Chile, Ecuador, Argentina and Venezuela saw the largest increases in their immigrant populations, while the number of migrations to Brazil and Uruguay dropped. Will South-South migration grow more than migration to developed countries in the period ahead? What factors are driving migration trends in the region, and what are the economic and social consequences of these trends? How well are countries in the region handling inflows of migrants?

A: Katja Hujo, Research Coordinator at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD): "Whereas South-South migration is very significant in sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately two-thirds of international migrants move within the region, the picture is different in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC): by 2013, only 14.7 percent of international migrants born in LAC lived and worked within the region, whereas 85.3 percent of LAC migrants resided in North America and Europe. Nevertheless, South-South migration has recently gained relevance in LAC, not least because of the economic and financial crisis in the United States and Europe. It is also the result of intensified regional integration processes, robust growth performance and more migrant-friendly legislation in some host countries, whereas immigration policies in Northern destinations are increasingly restrictive and employment prospects bleak. It is however unlikely that intraregional migration will catch up with movements to developed countries in the near future. Even so, both sending and receiving countries in Latin America could do more to get more out of intraregional migration flows, increasing benefits for both the countries and the migrants themselves. They could reduce poverty-driven emigration through better employment opportunities and social policies at home. Promoting regional cooperation and integration would facilitate regular migration for skilled and unskilled workers. They could guarantee basic rights and inclusion of migrants and their families in national social protection programs in host countries and provide stronger support to family members left behind. They also need to engage migrants more actively in political and cultural life in both host countries and their countries of origin."

The full issue of the Latin America Advisor can be found
here.