Incentives needed for skilled migrants to go home
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
One of Australia's leading demographers, Professor Graeme Hugo AO from the University of Adelaide, has today told the United Nations that developed countries should provide incentives to skilled migrants to temporarily return to their home countries.
In a keynote address to the United Nations in New York early this morning (Australian time), Professor Hugo gave a snapshot of new trends in migration. He was invited to speak to the 46th session of the UN's Commission on Population and Development.
Professor Hugo, who is Director of the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre at the University of Adelaide, spoke on the changing dynamics of migration and what opportunities that presents to both developed and developing nations.
"In 2010, almost 214 million people were living outside their country of birth. Migration, more than any other change in population, is strongly influenced by government policy," Professor Hugo says.
"At the policy level, the emphasis tends to be on permanent migration but the situation is now more complex than that. Migration has become more diverse in recent years, and this holds great opportunities for policy makers.
"No longer are people simply taking a boat to their new home and staying there, returning once every 10 or 20 years. Today there is a lot of movement back and forth between countries. People's ties with their home countries have also strengthened through improved telecommunications - it's easier to talk to Nonna back in the old country on Skype than it is to write a letter."
Professor Hugo says developed nations should harness this new mode of migration, and through policy create incentives for skilled migrants to return home.
"With skilled migration, it doesn't have to be an absolute brain drain for one country and an absolute gain for the other," he says.
"Skilled migrants should have the opportunity to return to their original homes for a short period, so they can contribute to the community - through training, outreach, expertise and advice. These skilled migrants would then come back to their new homes the better for that experience. Both nations can derive a benefit, and the ties between countries can be strengthened because of it."
Professor Hugo says most developed nations, including Australia, need to move past political rhetoric and approach migration as a more serious, complex issue.
"In an election year, Australia has a challenge to come to grips with what we want from migration policy. It's not helpful to think of migration issues as simply 'stop the boats' - there are real opportunities here for our nation to set itself apart. We are one of the world's biggest target nations for migration and there could be many potential economic, cultural and political gains for our country from the right migration policies."
Director, Australian Population and Migration Research Centre
School of Social Sciences
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5646
Mobile: 0416 205 181
Mr David Ellis
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
The University of Adelaide
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