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This paper argues why and how migration should be conceptualised as an intrinsic part of broader processes of development and social change instead of as the antithesis of development, as dominant discourses hold. When societies go through the various economic, cultural, technological, political and demographic transitions associated with ‘development’, this leads to increasing levels of internal and international out-migration. Low-income societies generally have lower emigration levels because poverty tends to constrain people’s movements. Development leads to more instead of less migration because it increases people’s capabilities and aspirations to move. The paradox of development-driven emigration hikes shows the inability of conventional push–pull and neoclassical models to explain migration as well as the need for a new vision of migration as part of broader development. Migration is shaped by development in both origin and destination societies and also contributes to further change in its own right. However, the embeddedness of migration in broader processes of social transformation and development also means that its potential to affect structural change is fundamentally limited. This shows the logical fallacy of narratives that cast development as a ‘solution’ for perceived migration problems or that cast migration and remittances as panaceas with which to solve fundamental development problems.



Working paper

Publication Date





1 - 22


Migration, development, social transformation, migration theory