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Foreign Aid 'Less Effective Than Expected' At Curbing Migration, Study Says (The Guardian)

February 12, 2018

From the article:

Europe’s policy of using overseas aid to persuade people to stay in their own countries has been challenged by research suggesting the strategy may instead encourage migration.
A new paper by the development economist Michael Clemens and his colleague Hannah Postel for the Center for Global Development suggests that, far from discouraging migration from the poorest countries to the developed world, foreign aid programmes may actually accelerate it.
The paper – entitled Can Development Assistance Deter Migration? – turns on its head the key assumption of much EU assistance policy, arguing that “economic development in low-income countries typically raises migration”.
The new research by Clemens and Postel suggests that, while “greater youth employment may deter migration in the short term for countries that remain poor”, that effect is both temporary and negligible in its effects on migration.
Instead, they argue, “sustained overall development” shapes “income, education, aspirations, and demographic structure” in ways that actually encourage emigration.
In contrast to the short-term effect delivered by decreasing youth unemployment in the poorest countries, say Clemens and Postel, the longer-term impact that encourages migration can last for generations, with the pressures contributing to migration only beginning to drop as countries develop beyond middle-income status.
The paper calls for a complete rethink of strategies based on deterring migration and argues instead for new policies that shape how migration takes place.
The research appears to offer a direct challenge to the approach – notably adopted by the EU – of attempting to target aid towards “root causes” of migration, which the two writers suggest are ill-defined in aid project mandates.

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Photo of Michael Clemens
Co-Director of Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy and Senior Fellow