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The push and pull of populations - Immigration and its relationship with population overgrowth

Written by - VivekaMansata

What is immigration?

Immigration refers to the international movement of people to a destination country of which they are not natives nor do they possess citizenship. It is the intentional act of crossing international borders with the purpose of settling as permanent residents or naturalised citizens in a foreign country.

The root causes that drive people to migrate from their native country to a foreign one can be understood in terms of push and pull factors: push factors are reasons why people would want to leave their home country, and pull factors are reasons why people would want to relocate to a new country. These factors can be economic, environmental, social and political. Push factors include persecution, violence, and war (which threaten the safety of individuals and lead them to migrate), poor wages and lack of job opportunities (economic), pollution, natural disasters, crop failure and famines (environmental), lack of opportunities and basic amenities, family separation, and a poor standard of living (social). Pull factors include safety, stability, and freedom, higher wages and better job prospects, availability of food and basic amenities, a higher standard of living, and many more.

With improved transportation and technology, immigration has become increasingly common worldwide. Immigration numbers impact both the home country and the host country.Certain regional factors such as employment prospects, wage rates, the standard of living, and immigration laws all contribute to contribute to immigrants’ selection of a specific host country.

Immigration and population growth -

Immigration is a key factor contributing to population growth; however, the converse is just as true (one leads to another). Trends studied by global change scientists suggest that both in human as well as non-human species, when the number of newly-born offspring is so high that food is scarce and living space is inadequate in the species’ home range, the younger members disperse in search of new territory and better lives. This phenomenon explains why migrants tend to flee those regions when and where the population increases exponentially.

Rapid population growth ultimately results in an intensified competition for resources, jobs, and even such basic amenities as food and water. In order to escape these living conditions, people migrate to nations with greater resources, which typically also have lower birth rates and more stable population densities – this further fuels population expansion. Similarly, urban-bound migration occurs from rural areas when the local population exceeds the carrying capacity of the land. In this way, increasing poverty and excessive pressure on land resources leads to immigration, which then becomes a major factor contributing to population growth in urban areas and more developed countries.

If an increased competition for basic resources occurs in countries where there is an established hostility between multiple religious or ethnic groups, the situation may escalate into a war which forces people to escape to save their lives. This was the case in 2014, when war-torn Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia accounted for nearly 20 million immigrants.

Some countries in Southeast Asia, northeast Africa, and the Middle East, which are already densely populated, economically lacking, and politically unstable, have witnessed mass exoduses due to rapid population growth and unusual climate events (rising sea levels, energy shortages, disrupted food and water supplies).

Immigration is still considered a highly controversial topic and its advantages and disadvantages are often debated. Some believe that it brings many positive aspects to a country both for the economy and society as a whole. Others believe that high immigration numbers threaten national identity and national security (through illegal immigration or terrorism), increase dependence on welfare, and cheapen labour. Historically, the process of immigration has been of great social, economic, and cultural benefit to states by creating multicultural societies; many modern states are characterized by a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities that have originated through immigrants.

Some of the positive consequences of immigration include economic growth and a reduction in unemployment (because immigrants add to the labour force of the host country), an improvement in the standard of living of the immigrants resulting from greater employment and educational opportunities, and a reduction in the population density and birth rate of the home country. Moreover, a study published in the 2018 World Happiness Report(based on 36,000 immigrants from over 150 countries) found that immigrants across the globe are generally happier following migration, reporting more life satisfaction, more positive emotions, and fewer negative emotions.

On the other hand, immigration can also have certain negative consequences such as increased pressure on natural resources and infrastructure, poverty, discrimination, and exploitation of the immigrants, population growth, and greater competition.Immigration-driven population growth also has a huge impact on the environment.

Whether seen as positive or negative, immigration is a very real phenomenon. According to a United Nations report, Indiawas the leading country of origin of international migrants in 2019, with 17.5 million people living abroad, while the number of migrants globally reached an estimated 272 million.

Photo Credits -

Photo by Metin Ozer on Unsplash

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