Drivers of Migration

Modern communications not only drive the forces of globalisation but also ensure that awareness of widening global inequality is ever more intense. The dream of relocating from a poorer to a richer country is a natural and inevitable human response.

International Migration – this animation offers an overview, from weareedeos.

Demand for migrant labour is determined by the extent to which a domestic workforce is unable or unwilling to meet the needs of its national economy. There may be shortages of skills or, more typically, vacancies arise in jobs rejected by the local population, often described as “3D” (dirty, dangerous and difficult).

Globalisation has commoditised labour migration, notably in many Middle Eastern countries which are almost totally dependent on Asian migrants for 3D jobs rejected by nationals. The hosting of the 2022 football World Cup in Qatar has boosted this demand. Airlines construct their schedules to serve the routes taken by migrants; the receiving countries build infrastructure not just to house foreign labour but also to accommodate cultural needs.

However, these formal channels of migration can never provide an adequate match with the global supply of labour. Ideological passion for free movement of goods, capital and information is not extended to people. Many aspiring workers choose to take their chance as “undocumented” migrants, entering a country by overstaying a visa or by crossing an unprotected border.

Work is often to be found thanks to opportunist employers who ask no questions in return for a pliant labour force, unable to demand the protection of minimum standards of pay and conditions. The UN estimates that there are over 30 million undocumented global migrants, including 11.3 million in the US.


more Migration briefings (updated March 2018)