Migration, globalisation and diversity

Posted: June 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: diversity, Estonia, migration | No Comments »

Until a few days ago, I thought that globalisation has increased the migrations of people, because there are more planes in the air, more cars on the road, more refugees trying to escape war and persecution, etc. But that has turned out to be a very deceptive picture. Last year, Mathias Czaika and Hein de Haas from the University of Oxford analysed migration from a globalisation perspective in their article “The Globalization of Migration: Has the World Become More Migratory?” It appears that some of the common conceptions there are about migration today are wrong, or at least very misleading.

Czaika and de Haas come to the somewhat unexpected conclusion that international migration has not accelerated. This is not so much due to the restriction of immigration by the destination countries, but much more due to the impact of technological change. While one might think that improvements in transportation and communication technology has made it so much easier to move around, these also make it easier to stay at home. You can commute long-distance (i.e. work in Finland and live in Estonia) and you can work from home. You do not need to physically relocate yourself in a country to do at least certain level of business there, and you can use different internet-based services such as Skype.

But how does one then explain the congestion in the skies and the rapid rise of the overall volume of people moving? The authors say, that the growth has come mainly from non-migratory forms of mobility, i.e. people commuting long-distance, going on tourist trips, business trips and short-term assignments. So the increase in mobility has not resulted in an overall relative increase of migration.

It is also not true that migration has made all countries more diverse. It has made the countries to which people migrate more diverse (with the benefits and challenges that come with it), but source countries have become more homogeneous as a result. This is also applicable to Estonia, from which 22 495 people more have emigrated from than have immigrated to in the years 2004 – 2014. At the same time, ethnic diversity has decreased: the share of ethnic Estonians in the population has grown from ca 68% in 2001 to ca 70% in 2011 (data from Statistics Estonia). This means that minorities emigrate in a larger share than others, presumably due to discrimination and lower economic opportunities resulting from their social status.

Migration trends also show the concentration of talented people in certain cities and regions, which results in more inequality and obstacles for development for those left behind. Richard Florida has stated that successful areas focus on the quality of place to attract high-skilled creative people that produce high-value economic growth.

Quality of place cuts across three key dimensions: what’s there or the combination of the built environment and the natural environment, the setting it provides for the pursuit of creative lives; who’s there or the diverse kinds of people that can be found, signaling that anyone can make a life in a community; and what’s going on, the vibrancy of street life, café culture, arts, music, and outdoor activities. (Florida 2014)

In this sense globalisation can make countries/cities/regions winners and losers. Winners are those which are able to create an environment to attract (and grow) the creative class. Losers become more homogeneous and will be left behind with less talent and more challenges.

Migration flows are not something that happen in themselves. They are a result of political choices. Restriction of immigration (especially refugees) and unwillingness to deal with sexism, racism, xenophobia, homo- and transphobia is a political choice that Estonia has made in the past. In my opinion that choice is hurting Estonia’s future.


Czaika, M. and de Haas, H. (2014), The Globalization of Migration: Has the World Become More Migratory?. International Migration Review, 48: 283–323.

Florida, R. (2014). The Creative Class and Economic DevelopmentEconomic Development Quarterly28(3), 196-205.

Leave a Reply