Migration: The Modern Catch-22


Migration: The Modern Catch-22

Humans have always been on the move since the beginning of time. Free land is spread out on Earth for about 510 million square kilometres, while a single human only needs 1 square metre to stand! Ever since the “Out of Africa” theory where we see humans spreading all around the world, first to Eurasia, then finally to America, we understand that it is in our ever-curious nature to keep moving, either out of boredom or as in majority cases – When conditions become unfavourable. 

We observe that the amount of unfavourable conditions for people to live a decent life is more likely in developing countries and third world countries.

Such countries put forward issues like unsatisfactory economic opportunities, where the wages you make are quite minimum, when you can get paid much more for doing the same activity in a more economically successful country. 

Another issue is the lack of first-rate education in the area in order to guarantee a stable livelihood in the future. Well-wisher parents encourage students to go and study abroad, so that their family might earn much more than they ever had. They are ready to invest for better returns from working in a developed country. 

Environmental factors and the culture or tradition of migration are also important reasons for the persistence of migration from developing and third world countries.


We take the example of the quaint city of Venice, a place which traveller enthusiasts around the world see as the “perfect city.” It’s equivalent to a street palace. Filled with alleyways and small routes: stereotypical places for crime to occur, despite all this Venice stands out as a safe place with a very low crime rate! While tourists inundate the floating city, the place’s very own children– the natives, are constantly moving out, but why? 

The first tectonic migration can be traced back to the one in Italy, mainly originating from Treviso, Venice. In the late 19th century, vast majorities of farmer families moved out and settled in Argentina, USA, Germany, Britain. But on the top of the list was Brazil. 

The reasons here are similar to the ones discussed before. Poverty, strong stigma against the rural classes, desire for better economic stability by owning land and other political conflicts are big reasons for migration. In the span of 50 years, around one and a half million Italians set foot on the soils of Brazil. 

Their journey wasn’t easy either. As it required them to cross the Atlantic, along with a vast majority of people, boats would sink and many lives were lost during these harsh times. 


We now start to wonder, out of all the countries during that time, including Germany and Britain who had already entered the industrial era while in Italy only Piedmont and Po Valley had achieved a slight increase in development, how did Brazil end up being the migration magnet? 

The first reason stands to be that the country was actually boasting of a large fertile land, but with a scarce population to make use of it. 

The second reason was the major but gradual shift of power to the owners of coffee crops. Cultivation of fertile lands required farmers, and more hands were needed for the cultivation of coffee crops, both as farmers and employees. 


We also see that the Italian immigrants were the primers for a positive change in Brazil. Their mass arrival led to the abolition of the prevailing slavery, expansion of agriculture in the country, and the significant shift of the Brazilian economy from export to industrialization.

Similarly, the inflow of immigrants to a country can boost its economic activity. The arrival of different cultures and people with varied mindsets opens up new possibilities and promotes innovation, this directly or indirectly improves the productivity of the workers native to that area.


The flip side of the coin shows that immigrants can cause, albeit gradually, a dislocation in the social and environmental fabric of the place. Problems include overcrowding and congestion, scarcity of well-to-do living facilities and an overall pressure on the public services, but these are problems that can be handled with a capable ruling system in the country. In that way, immigration shows to be beneficial both for the individual themselves and for the country as a whole. 


However, if we look back, while the receiving countries flourish, what about the givers? As we examine the sum of all the parts, there are quite a few benefits on either part. Emigration decreases the labour pool in the country, which promotes unemployment rates in the developed countries to rise. Emigrants also send the money they earn outside to the households in their homeland, increasing the financial and social wellbeing of the communities. 

However, it is a point to note that this causes a family to break apart, and possibly undermine the family’s ongoing state. 

There are also numerous accounts of abuse and exploitation of migrant workers and women domestic workers. As a result, some countries have attempted to impose ‘emigration bans’ on their own countries.

This decision is controversial at its best, as on one side it ensures the protection of its citizens in a straightforward way and on the other side, the citizens are left to face a catch-22, a sort of trap that they had led themselves into in search of better options for themselves and/or their family members. 


As much as the country tries to protect its citizens by ‘emigration bans,’ the prevalence of emigration in a country only goes down to show that there exists a pivotal issue in the developed country itself; we observe that we usually don’t see stories of a majority of the local population travelling out of developed countries.

The World Development Report 2023 sees the potential to make migration work better for economies and people. Wealthy countries as well as a growing number of middle-income countries—traditionally among the main sources of migrants—face diminishing populations, intensifying the global competition for workers and talent. Meanwhile, most low-income countries are experiencing rapid population growth, putting them under pressure to create more jobs for young people, 

It seems to resemble a vicious cycle, a wicked weaving loom where as we keep adding faulty threads, the more the entanglement develops and grows as an entity that eventually becomes harder and harder to defeat.

As we are in a time period that focuses on achieving the 17 global goals proposed by the UN by the year of 2030, looking to build ourselves as a worldwide community will indeed be the next big step in the advancement of humankind itself. 

SDG 1 Poverty: Migration can provide economic opportunities for individuals and their families, potentially lifting them out of poverty. 

SDG 8 Decent Work and Economic Growth: Migration can fill labour gaps and boost economic growth in host countries. Ensuring that migrants have access to decent work, fair wages, and safe working conditions is essential for this goal. 

SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities: It is easier said than done, but properly managed migration can help reduce the strain on urban areas and promote more sustainable and inclusive cities by addressing issues related to housing, infrastructure, and services. 

“Migration can be a powerful force for prosperity and development, when it is managed properly, it provides benefits for all people — in origin and destination societies.” Our current world is not like that of 50 years ago. It’s growing at an exponential rate, and community building just at the local level might not be the last thing we can do. We must be aware and make sure to extend outwards and work towards building a better and tension-free community, globally. 

Jennifer Jogy is an undergraduate student pursing Architecture in GEC, Thrissur, Kerala. She grew up fascinated by fantasy fiction and reciting poetry as well as writing free verse as a way to explore new emotions. She is easy-going, but also responsible, and never does the same thing everyday. She loves to read, write, make art, scrap-journal, watch shows, listen to all genres of music and the list goes on. In the end, she wishes to discover a new piece of the world everyday and help others to do so too.
Jennifer Jogi
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6 months ago

Informative 👍

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