UNFPAState of World Population 2004
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HOME: STATE OF WORLD POPULATION 2004: Migration and Urbanization
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Migration and Urbanization

Urbanization and Relocation
Policy Developments since the ICPD
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Policy Response

Policy Response

The 2003 UNFPA global survey found that 73 per cent of developing countries responding (110 out of 151) reported having taken some action to deal with international migration, compared to 18 per cent in a similar inquiry in 1994. Nearly half of the countries had adopted programmes or strategies on international migrants or refugees; 37 per cent had enacted legislation on international migrants and migrant workers; 33 per cent had adopted a migration policy; 11 per cent had undertaken efforts to enforce international conventions on refugees, asylum-seekers and illegal migrants; and 10 per cent had passed laws on the trafficking of humans, especially women and children.

A growing number of countries have established coordination mechanisms of various types—across government agencies, between governments, and among governments, NGOs and international donors.

Policies in some African countries, like Ghana and the United Republic of Tanzania, emphasized settling refugees. In Latin American and Caribbean countries, the focus was on providing incentives for returning nationals, while the emphasis in Eastern Europe, the Arab States and Central Asian Republics was on protecting labour markets and combating drug trafficking.

To better integrate immigrants into their society, a few countries have adopted measures promoting equal opportunity in access to jobs, housing, health and education. Some developed countries have changed their family reunification policies in the past decade.

Since July 2002, for instance, Denmark no longer offers a statutory right to reunification with a spouse, and in most cases does not grant reunification if one of the spouses is younger than 24. New Zealand recognizes a wider range of family structures than it used to, but has also strengthened the legal responsibility of sponsors for the family members they bring into the country. Canada’s policy, on the other hand, has become less restrictive, now including dependent children under 22 instead of 19.

A number of developed countries have introduced initiatives encouraging the immigration of skilled workers in response to labour shortages. Some have adopted policies aimed at attracting and retaining highly skilled students from developing countries.

To counter the growing trafficking of human beings, countries have tightened border controls and made asylum policies more restrictive; in some cases this has inadvertently made trafficking more profitable. In response, some countries have introduced severe penalties for human trafficking.

Although most receiving countries recognize the positive contributions of migration to the economic, social and cultural development of both migrantreceiving and migrant-sending countries, the growing levels of illegal immigration and the continuing flows of refugees and asylum-seekers remain major concerns.

Many countries favour more international cooperation to manage migration more effectively. Since 1994, eight regional and subregional consultation processes have been set up, covering nearly every country. The International Migration Policy Programme begun in 1998 has organized 15 regional meetings to promote cooperation and capacity building. And a Global Commission on International Migration was launched in December 2003; it is scheduled to issue recommendations to the UN Secretary-General in mid-2005.


Information systems developed in the past decade provide precise geographic information about people responding to demographic surveys. This will allow more detailed examination of the distribution of wealth, opportunities and challenges within countries, and better understanding of the push and pull factors driving population relocation and the impact of policies addressing it.

For example, recent research combines census and survey data to map the distribution of populations. The results suggest the land area covered by urban centres and their peri-urban settlements—and their impact on the environment—may be much greater than earlier estimates based on administrative boundaries. The new methods also allow measurement of populations along coasts and in other ecologically sensitive regions.

This mapping has been used to study infant mortality in 10 West African countries. The results reaffirmed long-established findings (e.g., higher male mortality, urban advantage over rural areas, and the protective effects of mothers’ education and improved sanitation), but also provided unexpected new insights into the high concentration of the poorest performing areas, which could lead to better targeting of programmes.

Significant investments in capacity building and technology transfer will be required to take full advantage of new data collection technologies and analysis methodologies. More-detailed analyses of urban social networks and the characteristics of neighbourhoods also need to be incorporated into developing country research and programming.

This could facilitate more local development decision-making, and lead to better policies addressing the variety of settlement patterns with the aim of reducing poverty and improving the quality of life. For instance, mixed income communities may offer avenues for quicker advancement of the poor. Geographic targeting and use of local associations may help realize the ICPD vision of social participation. See Sources

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