Expert Group Meeting on Strengthening Capacities for Migration Management in Central Asia

20 Sep 2010 to 21 Sep 2010
Bangkok, Thailand

The Expert Group Meeting on "Strengthening Capacities for Migration Management in Central Asia" was convened in Bangkok from 20 to 21 September 2010. It was organized by the Social Development Division of ESCAP and attended by experts from Central Asia involved in the formulation and/or implementation of policies related to international migration and development.

The objective of the Expert Group Meeting was to increase the capacity of policymakers to design more effective policies on international migration and remittances. The meeting reviewed good practices and discussed the role of South-South Cooperation. Migration has become one of the most visible outcomes of globalization and overall migration flows have increased in the past decades.

The Asian region is a key region of origin of migrants to other regions, but at the same time experiences increasing migration within the region. One of the important migration flows in the region is from Central Asia and the Caucasus to the Russian Federation and, recently, Kazakhstan. As a result, remittances have become a key source of foreign capital inflows in several economies of Central Asia. In 2007, remittance inflows accounted for 45.5 per cent of GDP in Tajikistan, 19 per cent of GDP in Kyrgyzstan, and 9 per cent of GDP in Armenia. However, in 2009 a large number of migrant workers returned from the Russian Federation due to the global economic crisis. This is expected to result in a sharp fall in remittances of up to 60 per cent. An increasing number of migrants from Central Asia are women, with the majority of them migrating independently and only a minority migrating with their spouses. Studies have also shown that the level of education of migrating women is higher than the level of education of migrating men, although women migrant workers mostly perform low-skilled jobs in the countries of destination which are not attractive to the local population.

Labour migration from Central Asia and the resulting remittance flows are a rather new phenomenon in the Central Asian region. So far, most Central Asian countries have neither coherent policies on migration, nor an integrated strategy on harnessing remittances as a tool for financing for development. Designing adequate policies requires a realistic picture of the on-going migration processes and an objective assessment of the levels of stocks and flows of international migrants, the volume of remittances and their impact at the macro-economic and household level as well as the social impact of international migration. The migration of women deserves special attention, since female migrants are often more vulnerable due to the nature of the work they perform abroad and because of the larger impact on the children left behind and gender dynamics when the mother migrates.

At the same time, migration of women, which turns them into the main breadwinners, has been pointed out as a tool for empowerment and allowing a shift in traditional gender roles. Some countries in the Asian region have long experience with the management of labour migration and remittance flows and have found ways to better harness remittance flows as a tool for development. Exchange of experience and information, and South-South-Cooperation with other Asian countries could strengthen capacities in Central Asian countries to design policies on international migration and development which would lead to a better use of remittances.