UN World Youth Report

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WYR 2013 Chapter One

The Underlying Causes of Youth Migration

The reasons for youth migration vary. Often, a combination of several major factors leads to the decision to migrate. Personal considerations, socio-economic circumstances, and the political situation in the country of origin may be important contributing factors. Often, the main driving force behind youth migration (particularly international migration) is the magnitude of perceived inequalities in labour market opportunities, income, human rights and living standards between the countries of origin and destination. Some young people migrate to escape conflict, persecution, or environmental threats.

Life Transitions

The decision to migrate is often related to important life transitions, such as pursuing higher education, securing employment or getting married. Marriage migration has become a distinct feature of international migration in Asia as a large and increasing number of young women from developing countries in the region are migrating to developed Asian countries for this purpose. This phenomenon has led to social, cultural and demographic transformation of the communities of origin and destination. Because these young women are able to send remittances to family members, they often enjoy a higher status in their communities of origin, although they may find themselves in a more restrictive, patriarchal environment in their marriage household. This trend has resulted in an increase in cases of depression and anxiety for many young men living in the sending communities over their diminished status and dwindling marriage prospects.

Youth with at least some secondary education tend to be more likely to have the desire to migrate (internally and internationally) than those with less education. There are young people who migrate because they want to satisfy a desire for adventure or experience a different culture. Aspirations towards increased social prestige as well as family pressure or responsibilities can be influenced by the attitude of returning migrants and ultimately inform the migration decisions of potential youth migrants in places of origin.

Globalization and social networks facilitate youth migration

The availability of faster and cheaper means of transportation has improved human mobility and thus facilitated international migration, but it is arguably the development of information and communications technology (ICT) that has played a key role in facilitating the migration of young people. Youth who have access to information about better opportunities elsewhere are more likely to take advantage of them in today’s world. Web-based social networking platforms such as Facebook, YouTube weblogs (blogs) have been particularly important within this context, in addition to more traditional information technology, such as television and radio, in less connected parts of the world.

Social networks are playing an increasingly visible role throughout the migration process, from initial decision-making to permanent settlement or return. Evolving ICT options have transformed the nature of transnational communication and, to some extent, the cultural experience of migration by allowing young migrants to stay connected to their home communities as they deal with the challenges of adapting to their new surroundings. Diaspora communities can communicate with one another more easily, stay in touch with friends and family members in their places of origin, and provide information and assistance to potential youth migrants. Social networks can also play an active role in facilitating return migration. Furthermore, the knowledge and skills acquired in destination countries can be transferred back to the community or the country of origin through the new ICT options, thus contributing to the development process in the place of origin.

Migration can be a risky undertaking, as will be discussed further in the following chapter, so most youth migrants prefer to move to areas where members of their network already reside. Maintaining regular contact within migrant networks has a number of potential benefits; the exchange of information, resources and assistance can reduce the risks and costs for new migrants and ease their transition to a new setting (from the journey itself to finding housing and employment).


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Read 15475 times Last modified on Sunday, 02 February 2014 02:13
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The UN Focal Point on Youth aims to build awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations, working toward greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means for achieving peace and development.

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You are here: The 2013 Report Chapter 1: Youth, Migration and Development: Basic Facts The Underlying Causes of Youth Migration