<< view all Publications

Why Didn’t the Global Economic and Financial Crisis Have More of an Impact on International Migration?

GCSP Policy Paper N°6

Release Date:

September 2010

Download publication

Key Points

Economic and financial crises always impact on migration patterns, processes, and policies, as witnessed by the experiences of the Great Depression, the Oil Crisis, and the Asian, Latin American, and Russian financial crises in the 20th Century.

Even though it has been the most severe global recession since the Great Depression, the recent global economic and financial crisis has not had as severe an impact on international migration as earlier crises did, contrary to predictions at the start of the crisis.

Five reasons explain why this is so:

  • The crisis did not last long enough to disrupt migration plans that were already prepared before it began;
  • Migrant labour has become an integral component of many advanced economies especially at the lower end of the labour market and cannot readily be replaced with native workers even during times of recession;
  • The underlying forces that drive contemporary migration are not only economic, and in any case are so powerful that they are relatively immune to economic cycles and policy interventions;
  • Both migrants and their employers calculated that the crisis would be short-lived and therefore neither took drastic measures to change their employment relations;
  • To a large extent governments have learned the lessons from previous crises.
  • The international community played a fairly insignificant role in protecting migrant workers’ rights during the recent crisis, and the crisis represents a missed opportunity for the development of more coherent global governance on international migration.
Photo by: Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902)