In which countries is it worth migrating?

Everyday global migration

Reasons for migration

Anyone who decides to move to another country for professional reasons, for study or for love has the freedom and the opportunity to decide about their own life. Not everyone plans to stay in a new place for several years or even for their entire life. Many people commute between different countries where possible. If migration is self-determined, it can promote development: through the exchange of culture and knowledge, it contributes to economic and social development in both the home and destination countries. But migration has its downsides: Even those who freely choose to leave their homeland know the feeling of loss and deprivation. Often it is not the migrants themselves who benefit from the advantages of living and working in a new country, but rather their children.

There are many reasons for migration, and the costs and risks are considerable. It is not uncommon for the deterioration in their living conditions to force people to leave their home countries. For example, because ecological problems and the consequences of climate change destroy the economic basis of life and there is a lack of money, technology or knowledge to adapt to the changed weather conditions and natural disasters on site.

Refugee or migrant?

The vast majority of migrants are not refugees. Most migrants also have countries other than Germany as their destination. Even a general trend towards Europe is not discernible. South-south migration significantly exceeds migration from the global south to the north. For example from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia or from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. Only in second place comes the group of those who move their center of life from south to north, for example from Morocco to Spain or from the Philippines to South Korea.

The distinction between flight and migration can often not be clearly made. Refugees can become successful migrant workers, migrants can become refugees - for example if civil war breaks out. State regulations often do not do justice to the everyday reality of migrants, are highly problematic or even disregard the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which applies equally to all people.

Downside of migration

For many migrant workers, the departure for another country ends in precarious working conditions, in exploitation and dependency up to slavery. Millions of construction workers, household workers, harvest workers and seamstresses work under inhumane conditions, are exposed to violence and receive little or irregular wages. Run-down mass quarters and excessive working hours are the rule in many places. In addition, many women are victims of sexual exploitation. It is not uncommon for migrants to have their passports and identity papers taken away from smugglers or employers so that they cannot escape or return to their homeland.

The construction sites for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar are an example of such criminal conditions. Hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been building the stadiums for years. Their jobs are barely secure and their wages are poor. The International Trade Union Confederation fears that by the time they are completed, at least 4,000 workers will have perished on the major World Cup construction sites due to devastating working conditions.

There are instruments under international law such as the United Nations Migrant Workers Convention and the International Labor Organization (ILO) conventions, which oblige states to guarantee fair and humane labor migration. In practice, however, these agreements often have no consequences: the great majority of states have so far refused to ratify the migrant workers' convention. In order for the situation of migrants to improve, it is important that they know about their rights. Even before they leave their home country, they should be aware of their residence and employment rights and how they can protect themselves against exploitation and abuse.

The supposed threat

People who want to improve their lives through migration are often defamed as “economic refugees” or criminalized as “illegal immigrants”. The polemical tone of many debates shows that it is often not about factual reasons, but rather about fear or hostility towards people who appear to be alien.

Labor migration from developing countries to industrialized countries is particularly often the focus of criticism. The uncontrolled migration of low-skilled people is a danger for the labor markets in the richer destination countries and leads to an irresponsible brain drain, i.e. a lack of qualified personnel, in the poorer home countries. However, such objections are far too general. Everyone can benefit from a smart migration policy. In view of demographic change, many countries urgently need migration if they want to maintain their level of prosperity. In addition, there are social and cultural gains and learning effects.

Many migrants' countries of origin benefit immensely from remittances from relatives who work in the diaspora. In terms of the share of gross domestic product, Haiti (28 percent), Kyrgyzstan (34.5 percent) and Nepal (30 percent) are the three largest recipient countries. Currently, these remittances triple all global government development funds. In the best case scenario, they enable families and communities to improve their economic situation by leasing a piece of land or opening a business and thereby becoming less dependent on remittances and migration. In addition, migrants also transfer skills, experience and contacts to their regions of origin. Some also return to their country of origin after a while because the initial situation there has changed or it is a result of their life plans.

Guidelines for a human migration policy

In many places, existing national and international legislation restricts freedom of movement and human rights. The current EU migration policy of isolation also contributes to this. Only relatively few highly qualified and skilled workers with appropriate residence permits travel to the EU countries. Entire industries are also dependent on less qualified workers, seasonal workers and harvest workers. Legal migration opportunities are also required for them in order to prevent undeclared work and exploitative working relationships. It is therefore necessary to formulate guidelines for a wise migration policy.

Such a migration policy must ...

  • ... make labor markets flexibly accessible for migrants, not only for highly qualified and skilled workers, as well as for the recognition of foreign qualifications and for a welcoming culture;
  • ... ensure employee protection that meets international standards and protects against exploitation and abuse as well as against dangers in the workplace;
  • ... offer independent international migration advice to enable those willing to migrate to make realistic considerations and decisions;
  • ... call for fair recruitment strategies in order to avoid the brain drain for the countries of origin and the exploitation of migrants;
  • ... offer more flexible options for so-called circular migration, so that migrants can return to their homeland for a longer period of time without losing the opportunity to go back to the destination country to live and work or to stay in other countries. Migration can promote the transfer of knowledge and experience ("braingain").

For the implementation of such a policy, Bread for the World supports local partner organizations that provide direct support to migrants and strengthens migration policy networks that campaign for the human rights of migrants all over the world. One focus of this work is in Southeast Asia, where, among other things, hundreds of thousands of migrant women work as domestic servants, cleaners and nannies. Their wages and working conditions are usually extremely precarious, and it is not uncommon for them to be victims of exploitation and abuse. The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants APMM, supported by Bread for the World, for example, educates migrants about their rights in workshops, creates information and educational material, arranges financial and medical help in emergency situations, exerts political pressure and networks migration initiatives from across Southeast Asia and pacific region.