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Strengthening social cohesion

The fourth priority of migration-based development strategies should be aimed at strengthening social cohesion, not only in the countries of destination (see Chapter 3), but also in the countries of origin. Policies linking migration and development tend indeed to focus on economic rather than social outcomes. Policy agendas give priority to the productive use of remittances and the return of talent, but tend to forget the social repercussions of emigration, particularly for those left behind (see Chapter 4).

By generating problems related to social cohesion, family disintegration not only affects migrant communities, but also entire countries (see Box 4.2). For this reason public authorities need to apply adequate and timely solutions to a problem that will be growing as the care drain phenomenon continues to gain amplitude:

  • • Prevention is fundamental in making migrants aware of the risks of migrating without documentation, being victim of human trafficking and leaving children behind. Information campaigns can be promoted through a variety of media but also schools, migrant organisations and community groups (e.g. religious communities) and NGOs.
  • • Support for those left behind can improve their welfare and minimise any social disruption caused by emigration. Such support may take different forms, including legal and financial assistance and general guidance, for instance through safety-net programmes to support households with absent migrants (e.g. Philippines and Sri Lanka) and granting scholarships for children left behind. Guidance on parenting and campaigns on how to address parenting problems, depression and mental health issues resulting from migration for those left behind are also needed.
  • • Support for care-givers is required to minimise the negative impact of the loss of care workers. This can be achieved by reinforcing the care arrangement for those left behind. Financial support should address the provision of child allowances directly to the care provider regardless of employment, providing more resources to schools and teachers to monitor the welfare of children and take action when necessary. Legal support is also needed through legislation on domestic work in the event that migrant-sending households employ migrant women from within the country or women from poorer backgrounds to fill the demand for care work.
  • • As the negative impact of parental migration depends on the length of the separation and the frequency of contacts, methods of linking families by distance must be addressed. Providing better and cheaper telecommunication tools while training migrants and their households to use them is essential. More flexible migration schemes would also facilitate and increase the number of contacts between separated household members.

But emigration not only generates social costs; it also represents an opportunity to strengthen social cohesion in sending countries. The links discussed earlier with diasporas can also generate social capital (Guarnizo, 2003).14 In addition to brain circulation, diaspora links help attract collective remittances. These funds, raised by HTAs or channelled through Internet community networks, are used to finance local initiatives, particularly infrastructure and educational projects.

Remittance-related programmes, such as those implemented by Mexico15 and El Salvador,16 have the advantage of enabling migrants to contribute not only to the welfare of their own families, but also to the improvement of the economic and social conditions in their local communities. The state can take advantage of the implication of migrant associations to increase public investment projects in the areas that need it more, in particular social protection programmes. By serving as a stimulus for the government to act the effect of collective remittances can be leveraged on both social cohesion and development.

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