IOM Releases Results of Largest Survey on Drivers of Migration in Bangladesh

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh earlier this month released the report, Bangladesh: Survey on Drivers of Migration and Migrants’ Profiles which is the first to cover the country as a whole. Interviews were conducted in all 64 districts of the country reaching over 11,000 potential migrants who were arranging to migrate internationally.

Along with unpacking the nuances of what drives people to migrate, the research also presented the demographic and socioeconomic profiles of potential migrants. Previous studies on the drivers of migration in Bangladesh had been targeted and more limited in scope and scale.

The report found that the majority of potential migrants were young, working age men who had attained at least some level of formal education. Forty per cent of potential migrants were unemployed before electing to migrate, and 90 per cent had no personal income or insufficient income.

The report noted that Bangladeshi regular and irregular potential migrants are very similar. A general perception of migration in Bangladesh has been that irregular migrants are younger, less well educated and less likely to be employed. Instead, the report found that regular and irregular potential migrants are the same ages and have similar levels of education.

The key drivers of migration identified in the report were that most potential migrants were planning to migrate because they wanted better job opportunities and livelihoods. Another important reason for migration was to increase potential migrants’ social statuses.

The same things drew potential migrants to specific countries: the availability of jobs, access to social networks or the migration of a family member. The Middle East was the most popular destination, with Saudi Arabia the most popular country.

The report also debunked the widely held perception that migrants leave countries in the Global South to travel to countries in the Global North. But, as indicated in the data, this is not the case in Bangladesh. Instead, migration is predominately South – South, with most migrants going to countries in the Middle East or elsewhere in Asia.

Only 1.4 per cent of the respondents expressed interest in migrating to Europe and the Americas. Potential migrants were asked whether they would consider remaining in Bangladesh if certain changes took place, and, according to the survey, 91 per cent of potential migrants surveyed would consider staying in Bangladesh if there were more work opportunities.

Regular potential migrants were more likely to be unemployed than irregular potential migrants (42 per cent of regular potential migrants compared to 37 per cent of irregular). While the general perception is that irregular migrants make use of migration facilitators and their services, the findings from the study indicate that 71 per cent of migrants, who have registered their intention to travel with the government, also use migration facilitators to arrange their travel.

These potential migrants paid similar amounts to migration facilitators as the irregular migrants did. While regular potential migrants who only paid the government had low migration costs, the additional costs that some potential migrants paid to migration facilitators made the total costs paid by regular and irregular potential migrants comparable overall.

The largest amount paid (to a migration facilitator) was BDT 1.6 million (USD 18,857). Potential migrants to Europe and the Americas and the Middle East paid more to migrate than those going to other destinations. The average amount irregular potential migrants reported paying was BDT 229,488 (USD2,705), and 10 per cent of irregular migrants paid less than BDT 50,000 (USD 589).

The role of migrant networks was prominent during the preparatory arrangements of the respondents’ migration. Over 65 per cent of the potential migrants reported to have friends or extended family living in their potential destination country, many of which supported with documents, finding employment, financial support, transport and accommodation.

IOM’s Chief of Mission in Bangladesh, Giorgi Gigauri, expressed hope that “this important research will contribute to the evidence platform that we need for effective policymaking in Bangladesh.”

Watch video of IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri.

The report presents pre COVID-19 dynamics, however, the comprehensive analysis of drivers of migration and profiles of potential migrants will provide a baseline, which can be used to understand migration in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as well.

Bangladesh is the sixth largest origin country for international migrants in the world, with 7.5 million Bangladeshi migrants living abroad as of 2019, according to the World Migration Report, 2020. Due to the importance of international migration to the country, the Government of Bangladesh has prioritized migration as a development strategy in its 7th Five Year Plan (2016-2020), and evidence-based policy formulation and programming is a key to achieve better migration management in any context.

This research is part of a series of reports funded by the European Union under the collaborative project Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy (REMAP) under the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) whose objective is to strengthen the evidence-based formulation and implementation of humanitarian and development policy and programming on migration in Bangladesh, as well as Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Iraq and Pakistan.