Introduction[1]

Today the estimated number of people migrating in different parts of the world is around 214 million.[2] Some are travelers and others forced to move outside of their nation-state borders. Around 90 million people are working outside their countries of origin. These movements are occurring among and within developed and developing countries. Each type of migration shows different but related types of challenges for the migrants. Current migratory flows are not necessarily a one-way ticket to a single destination, but migrants may leave one country to work in a second, and then either return to their home country or move on to a third country. They may even live in one country and cross a national border on a regular basis to work in another. What is common to these different types of migrations is the increasing mobility and increasing level of connectivity between different locations across borders.

 

Interdisciplinary

Academic research may not overlook such recent migration processes. Scholars face challenges to focus on these new types of transnational activities and transnational spaces in which migrants establish social fields that cross geographic, political, social, and cultural borders. It is obvious that no single discipline can investigate all relevant components of this increasing international transnational migration. Therefore, researchers representing different scientific backgrounds need to be brought together both at national and international levels.

I argue that other disciplines also need to be brought into collaboration. The collaboration of educational scientists with social scientists is of upmost importance. As an example, in Finland, where there is a national system of preparatory education for all immigrant students, researchers highlight issues related to migration and the education system. Each immigrant student has a right to study at least for half a year, sometimes for one year, in a preparatory class in order to study Finnish or, in some cases, Swedish, and the main purpose of this is to insure their school success. As highlighted by Prof. Kağıtçıbaşı, it is crucial to be informed about the work conducted not only in other countries, but also among researchers representing different disciplines. In short, interdisciplinary studies focusing on institutional changes across countries should be able to speak to each other.

Questions related to international migration and development are connected to today’s world in multiple ways, but still the researchers focusing on these issues mostly engage in separate research projects. Particularly, questions about why and how migration takes place are closely linked to the multilevel processes of economic, political and sociocultural development. Researchers across different disciplines need to be brought together to investigate interconnections between international migration and development. The key research question lies in the causes and consequences of the increasing international mobility and in the effects they evoke in origin and destination countries. Contemporary and burning research questions that needs to be addressed are on the phenomenal role of migration circulation in the current global migration system; on the ways to channel final remittances to the real productive investments in the origin countries; on the role of social remittances; and last but not the least, policy research to channel migrants’ remittances to truly increase people’s welfare in different parts of the world. Too often international migration has uneven effects in developed and developing economies. Labor migration, in particular, entails many challenges in this respect. Developed countries increasingly compete with each other to attract highly skilled migrants through offering privileged entry and resident rules and right to family reunion and permanent stay. High rates of emigration of skilled people may hinder development in developing countries. A crucial question is what should be done in order to contribute to sustainable development both in developing, transformation, and developed countries. Ideally, international migration may bring benefits both to migrant sending and migrant-receiving countries. For instance, the mobility of highly skilled and lower skilled people can help fill critical labor gaps in richer economies and reduce unemployment and demographic pressures in those countries. In practice, however, developed countries often seek to compensate for deficits in their own education and training systems by stripping the human assets of other countries.

Most issues related to international migration appear to be remarkably complex for researchers. In other words, they need to move to more holistic understandings by taking into account the multilevel transformation processes on the way. The key task should be to aim at understanding the ways international migration affects the sending and receiving communities not just at the national level but also at transnational and global levels. In today’s increasingly interconnected world, global research collaboration will be needed. Labor migration in particular is becoming increasingly global due to economic restructuring. In a similar vein, the increase in global mobility of high school students and asylum seekers entails many complex challenges that deserve to be paid attention to by policymakers and academics alike. However, there are not many funding organizations making global multidisciplinary research collaboration possible. The European Commission is one of the pioneers in this field.

Academic freedom from the political agendas of funding organizations is a topic of concern for many researchers. My research experiences with the EC Framework projects, however, indicate that the political agendas of the grantgiving institutions do not interfere with the research process. For example, the project entitled TRANSNET[3] is a transnational research project with eight partner countries. Such transnational research collaborations are very rare due to a lack of funding opportunities. For a more effective research agenda, research partners not only from different countries but also from different regions of the globe should engage in more collaborative efforts to enhance different funding opportunities and increase research networks within the scientific community.

 


[1] I am grateful to Ayşem Biriz Karaçay for her support in editing this opinion piece.

[2] See information by the International Organization for Migration for recent facts and figures on international migration: http://www.iom.int/cms/en/sites/iom/home/about-migration/facts–figures-1.html

[3] For more information on TRANSNET project, see http://ec.europa.eu/research/socialsciences/projects/442_en.html.

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