The impact of migration policies on global inequality is a complex and multi-dimensional issue, influenced by various factors including global economic imbalances, demographic trends, climate change, and individual countries’ migration governance.

According to the World Development Report 2023 by the World Bank, approximately 184 million people, or 2.3% of the world’s population, live outside their country of nationality. The report highlights the growing complexity of human mobility, which is increasingly driven by factors such as climate change, conflict, divergent demographic trends, and income inequality. These factors not only push people to relocate for better opportunities but also present challenges and opportunities for migration policy across different levels of development. The report proposes an integrated framework to maximize the development impacts of cross-border movements on both destination and origin countries, and on migrants and refugees themselves. This framework, based on labor economics and international law, rests on a “match and motive” matrix that focuses on how closely migrants’ skills and attributes match the needs of destination countries and what motives underlie their movements​​​​.

Migration policies can have varying impacts on global inequality. On one hand, migration offers individuals from lower-income countries opportunities for improved wages, labor market opportunities, and lifestyles. However, the ability to migrate is not equally shared, and individual characteristics such as citizenship, financial means, access to the internet, and language skills can determine people’s ability to migrate. Inequalities can also arise from migration itself, as migrants may face unequal access to rights and social resources. This includes the right to seek protection for those fleeing conflict, violence, and persecution. Furthermore, persisting development inequalities and distinct migration patterns within countries and communities need to be considered in understanding how migration contributes to or counterbalances inequalities​​.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that migration is a direct reflection of global inequalities. IOM’s strategy under the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities, focuses on migration governance and the reduction of transaction costs of migrant remittances. Effective migration governance is seen as key for safer, more orderly, and regular migration, acknowledging the need for comprehensive policy frameworks to manage migration for the benefit of all. This includes promoting regular migration that respects the rights of all migrants and leveraging the positive development impact of migration for migrants, communities, and countries. Additionally, reducing remittance transaction costs is important as remittances are a significant economic resource for many low-and middle-income countries, often surpassing traditional types of development financing​​.

In summary, migration policies have significant implications for global inequality. Effective management of migration, focusing on both the needs of migrants and the countries involved, is crucial for harnessing the potential benefits of migration and mitigating its challenges. This requires a nuanced understanding of the different types of migration movements and the implementation of comprehensive, fair, and well-managed migration policies that respect the rights and dignity of migrants while contributing to the reduction of global inequalities.