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Reference: Hein de Haas, (2009). Mobility and human development.Citable link to this page:


Mobility and human development Series: IMI Working Papers

Abstract: This paper argues that mobility and migration have always been an intrinsic part ofhuman development. Migration can be considered as a fundamental capabilitiesenhancingfreedom itself. However, any meaningful understanding of migration needsto simultaneously analyse agency and structure. Rather than applying dichotomousclassifications such as between forced and voluntary migration, it is more appropriateto conceive of a continuum running from low to high constraints under whichmigration occurs, in which all migrants deal with structural constraints, although tohighly varying degrees. Besides being an integral part of human development,mobility also tends to affect the same structural processes of which it is part.Simplistic positive-versus-negative debates on migration and development can beovercome by integrating agency-structure dialectics in the analysis of migrationimpacts. This paper argues that (i) the degree to which migrants are able to affectstructural change is real but limited; (ii) the nature of change in sending and receivingis not pre-determined; and (iii) that in order to enable a more focused and rigorousdebate, there is a need to better distinguish and specify different levels anddimensions at which the reciprocal relationship between human mobility anddevelopment can be analysed. A critical reading of the empirical literature leads to theconclusion that it would be naïve to think that despite their often considerable benefitsfor individuals and communities, migration and remittances alone can remove morestructural development constraints. Despite their development potential, migrants andremittances can neither be blamed for a lack of development nor be expected totrigger take-off development in generally unattractive investment environments. Byincreasing selectivity and suffering among migrants, current immigration restrictionshave a negative impact on migrants’ wellbeing as well as the poverty and inequalityreducing potential of migration.

Publication status:PublishedPeer Review status:Peer reviewedVersion:Publisher's version


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 Bibliographic Details

Publisher: International Migration Institute

Publisher Website:

Series:IMI Working Papers

Series website:

Issue Date: 2009

Copyright Date: 2009 Identifiers

Urn: uuid:abd7bd06-93d4-4ac4-8439-d3240df6f862 Item Description

Type: Working/Discussion paper;

Language: en

Version: Publisher's versionSubjects: Migration Tiny URL: ora:5426


Autor: Hein de Haas - institutionUniversity of Oxford facultySocial Sciences Division - Queen Elizabeth House,Department of Internationa



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