Migration: How to overcome obstacles and increase opportunity?


With climate change, scarcity of resources and conflict on the rise, the tackling of global migration remains a topic of utmost importance. These factors combined contribute to a surge in the flux of migration and displacement. At the speed these changes are occurring, it seems uncertain if countries can keep up the adaptation process of their policies regarding housing and the labour market. The ICMPD Migration Outlook 2023 report has stated these issues to be very relevant in the coming years.       

By Nadine Ponce

Looking back at migration trends of the last couple of decades, many of its negative repercussions could have been mitigated, had countries been prepared. Foresight can support hosting communities and help them prosper. Operating reactively doesn’t necessarily build a strong future. But how can countries see migration as an opportunity instead of tackling it with fear?

Russia’s war in the Ukraine has also shown how the stay of those fleeing conflict can be prolonged in hosting communities. A transition towards more durable solutions is particularly pressing in the case of housing. According to the International Migration Outlook report by the OECD (2022), inflationary housing costs, due to the rapid influx of Ukrainian refugees, has limited short term but also medium to long-term housing options. Amongst several OECD countries, the Netherlands has identified housing shortage as a main challenge to host. Capacity constraints are a particular problem especially in metropolitan areas, as that is where migrants are mostly concentrated. In a short term scenario, Poland as well as the Slovak Republic have provided financial compensation for private hosting. This helped to ensure the availability of temporary housing options in otherwise over-strained market conditions. However, some of those measures aren’t expected to last forever, with many of them having already expired in late 2022.

Dispersal policies as used in Switzerland, Germany, and several other OECD countries, have helped with the issue of spatial allocation, with the downside that such policies pay little attention to employment concerns. How migrants are introduced into the job market is a complex issue that has several factors impacting it. New technologies such as robotics or artificial intelligence will call for greater automation in the coming years, thus changing how workers will become employed in the market. It could free up considerable space for workers to contribute more in other areas that ask for less routine tasks. These technological changes will require many jobs and companies to adapt. Recent OECD estimates suggest that over the next couple of decades, 14% of all jobs across 32 OECD countries are at risk of automation, while another 32% of jobs may experience significant changes in how they will be carried out. While some evidence shows that native workers will be pushed into more complex roles, migrants with lower educational attainment might find themselves in a vulnerable position.

Some long-term solutions might lie in asking all levels of government to conduct forward-looking analysis about the future of migration and integration, alongside policy developments. Anticipatory tools could detect early warnings signs, which could help build contingency plans for migration management and develop the appropriate living conditions for these different scenarios. Recognizing the impact of trends such as labor market shifts, demographics, geopolitics, and technology can also lead to better policies for the future. This can also help to avoid basing policy choices on short-term developments, as they might mask significant long-term trends.

The ICMPD Migration Outlook 2023 report states, inter alia, a second wave of refugees, visa procedures, cost of living and labour shortages as important migration issues that will be very relevant on the European agenda in the coming years. If well tackled, migration has a great potential to provide countries with human resources and talent, needed for economic growth.


Image Credits: Sébastien Goldberg on Unsplash