Expats help to shape the great cities of the world

by Ray Clancy on November 2, 2015

People moving abroad prefer to live in big cities and their decisions on where to move are shaping the world’s largest urban areas, according to new research.

The report from the International Organisation for Migration reveals that nearly one in five of all migrants live in the world’s 20 largest cities and in many of these cities’ migrants represent over a third or more of the population.

Crowded-StreetSome 54% of people across the globe were living in urban areas in 2014 and the current urban population of 3.9 billion is expected to grow to some 6.4 billion by 2050. It points out that it is migration that is driving much of the increase in urbanization, making cities much more diverse places in which to live.

A key finding of the report is that human mobility is growing and will continue to be overwhelmingly urban.

“The geography of migration flows is changing in line with changes in the global economy. For example, migrants are increasingly attracted to the cities in the countries experiencing higher economic growth in East Asia, Brazil, southern Africa and western India,” said June Lee, the report’s editor in chief.

Increasingly, the cities of developing countries have become places of both immigration and emigration, the report shows and rising migration to cities brings both risks and opportunities for the migrants, communities and governments concerned.

“Super diversity brings challenges, such as residential segregation when certain ethnicities, nationalities or a socioeconomic status concentrate in particular neighbourhoods of a city or metropolitan area. Although there are some positive effects of ethnic clustering, policy makers try to combat residential segregation becoming generational,” said Lee.

The report also points out that multi ethnicity is the normal condition of many cities in the less developed world and such cities often face mixed migration flows, with a particularly high concentration of internally displaced people and migrants stranded in transit.

Noting the reality that many cities are insufficiently resourced and motivated to become truly inclusive, the report calls for a platform for migration and urbanization to discuss how to balance knowledge, capacities and commitments towards good policymaking and practice for inclusive urban governance across countries.

“The report focuses on how migration is shaping cities and how the situation of migrants in cities, how they live, work and shape their habitat, and helps to reveal the close connection between human mobility and urban development,” said Lee. “We need to consider what roles international communities and organizations play, while bearing in mind that the good practices of more advanced countries might not be globally applicable.”

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