Migrations and inequality: implications for development research and practice
Tanja Bastia, Laura Hammond and Anita Ghimere, UKRI GCRF South-South Migration, Inequality and Development Hub (MIDEQ)
Migration, whether internal or international, is always a response to existing inequalities. Moving from one area to another also has the potential to reinforce, transform or produce new forms of inequalities (material, symbolic, structural). However, it is not always clear how best to begin thinking about this circular and complex relationship. The sheer diversity of migration streams in the global South and the complex interplay between different forms of inequality and migration requires frameworks that capture both the positive potential of migration as a force for progressive social change alongside its capacity to reinforce existing inequalities and support the status quo.
This three-part panel discussion at DSA2020 sought to grapple with exactly these issues. Contributions ranged from efforts to develop conceptual frameworks for studying migration and inequality across multiple contexts in the global South to in-depth case studies of migrant flows within and between countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
A diversity of contexts and a concern with every stage of the migration process – from aspirations to journeys to decisions about return – posed the challenging question of where to focus in ‘locating’ inequalities – at origin, at destination or between the two. Similarly, many contributions showed how investigating inequalities and migration requires the inclusion of non-migrants alongside the experiences and outcomes for migrants themselves. This includes those who are ‘left behind’ by migrant family members, those who choose not to migrate while others in their community do and those already living in destinations where migrants settle.