More than one billion people living in developing countries have moved internally, with 80 percent of moves involving rural areas.
Migration between developing countries is also larger than those to developed countries. For instance, approximately 85 percent of refugees globally are hosted by developing countries, and at least one-third in rural areas.
FAO’s senior economist and author of the report Andrea Cattaneo explained that in low-income countries, internal migrants are five times more likely to migrate internationally than people who have not moved.
A significant portion of international migrants are also found to have come from rural areas. FAO found that almost 75 percent of rural households from Malawi migrate internationally.
Migrants move out of necessity, not choice. It is the lack of access to income and employment and thus a sustainable livelihood that is among the primary drivers of rural migration. In China, significant rural-urban income gaps drove rural workers to abandon agriculture and migrate to cities. Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of China’s population living in urban areas increased from 26 percent to 56 percent, and an estimated 200 million rural migrants now work in the cities.
Poor environmental conditions and agricultural productivity have also driven rural workers away.
A recent study revealed that a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature is associated with a 5 percent increase in the number of international migrants, but only from agriculture-dependent societies.
In other countries such as Thailand and Ghana, migration is prompted by the lack of infrastructure and access to services such as education and health care.
In recent years, Uganda has seen an influx of refugees from conflict-stricken nations such as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With its open-door policy, the East African country now has 1.4 million refugees, posing strains on resources. Despite the challenges, its progressive refugee policy allows non-nationals to seek employment, go to school, and access healthcare. The government also provides a piece of land to each refugee family for their own agricultural use.
“This is a country that has looked beyond the challenges to see the opportunities, and they are making these people be productive part of society,” Cattaneo said.