South-South migration generally draws less attention than migration from the South to the North but it is still important. Even though we do not have the exact figure, it is estimated that in 2010 up to 86 million people migrated from one country in the South to another compared to 127 million people who migrated to the North. In many parts of the world, these moves are more frequent than those to developed countries.
In Gulf countries, Qatar, Kuwait and the Emirates, 90 % of the workforce is foreign and comes from Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, India …). In Africa, even though no figures are available, most migration takes place within the continent, often over short distances and between neighbouring countries.
This migration is often very different from migration in Europe. The Pakistani workman in Dubai and the Filipino cleaner in Singapore, for example, do not take their families with them. They leave them behind in their home countries. Usually, they don’t intend to settle in their destination country. It is for example impossible to obtain Saudi or Emirati citizenship. These types of migrants often return to their home countries after a few years. Their livelihoods are precarious and they often have very few social benefits even if they are living in the destination country legally. They are watched closely and are at the mercy of employers who can fire them at a moment’s notice.
In spite of this, on the whole, this migration is good for the destination countries and the home countries. It usually meets identified workforce needs in the destination country. The money that is transferred to the migrants’ home countries increases incomes and allows more people to be educated, better access to health services, less poverty etc. All these factors are part of the millennium development goals. Migration, especially South-South migration is therefore a development factor.