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More development - more migration? The "migration hump" and its significance for development policy co-operation with sub-Saharan Africa

Many view development co-operation as a key to reducing irregular migration from sub-Saharan Africa. However, critics note that increased socio-economic development is likely to lead to more, rather than less, migration. Historical and cross-country comparison studies have shown that emigration initially increases when economic growth and rising income levels enable countries to emerge from the status of a low-income country.

Only when the status of upper middle-income country has been achieved can a decrease in international migration be anticipated. Known as a “migration hump”, this correlation between development and migration also applies for sub-Saharan Africa.

However, it cannot be explained solely by rising incomes and increased education. It is also driven by other factors, including demographic transition, changes in economic structures, emulation effects in migration processes, rising inequality, credit restrictions and the lowering of migration barriers.

The implication that positive socio-economic development in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa would inexorably lead to an increase in irregular migration to Europe is therefore an oversimplification. Irregular migration in particular is not driven by economic motives alone. Instead this is an example of so-called “mixed migration”, in which the drivers of voluntary and forced migration blend together. Factors such as corruption, weak rule of law, human rights infringements and fragile statehood are key drivers here. Read further  

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Every Monday, the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) comments on the latest issues and trends of international development policy by its Current Column. The column is intended for politically interested readers who want to get a brief overview on the state of German and international development policy.

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