Contrary to popular opinion, international migration does not stem from a lack of economic development, but is part and parcel of the development process itself. The principal driver of migration is the globalization of the economy and the worldwide integration of factor markets. As markets for goods, financial capital, information, commodities, and services globalize, so do markets for labour and human capital. We observe the global integration of markets for skilled and unskilled labour as immigration.
The extension of markets into predominantly agrarian nations and former command economies is inevitably transformative and disruptive, displacing many people from traditional livelihoods. In the context of rapid development, migration becomes an accessible strategy that common people can use to adapt to the flux and change occurring around them. Most of those uprooted in this way simply move internally to expanding cities and contribute to urbanization. Historically, however, a fraction has always moved internationally by seeking work and opportunities in higher wage areas overseas.
As industrialization spread across the face of Europe during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, successive waves of migrants were unleashed in country after country, and more than 50 million Europeans ultimately left the continent for destinations in the Americas and Oceania. Likewise, as globalization accelerated in the last quarter of the twentieth century and nations became linked by international flows of investment, trade, transportation, and communication, immigration rebounded--only this time the flows were from Asia, Africa and Latin America in the now developed nations of Europe, the Americas and Oceania.
As before, today's migrants do not come from stagnant, backward areas of the world, but from those regions that are in the throes of dynamic social, political and economic change. In many ways, what is surprising is not how many immigrants exist today, but how few there are given the massive economic inequalities that prevail between nations. Presently, only 3 per cent of the world's people live outside the country of their birth. However, half of them are local displaced persons who happened to cross an international boundary or immigrants who were "manufactured" by the late twentieth century dissolution of multinational nation states, such as the Soviet Union. Only around 1.5 per cent are long distance migrants produced by the actual...