IPMA International Project Management Association
13 December 2017 / 8:09

Global migration´s impact and opportunities for project management

People are on the move! That´s one key conclusion of a report published by McKinsey Global Institute about global migration´s impacts and opportunities. Approximately 250 million people live outside their country of birth. The impact (at least in some regions) is a significant labour force growth (40-80% in top destinations between 2000 and 2014), migrants contributed 9.4% of the Global GDP, accounting to $6.7 trillion, much more than they would have produced in their own countries, migrants of all skill levels contribute to the productivity of the top destinations, and last but not least, they do not harm the long-run employment or wages of native workers.

More than 90 percent of the world’s 247 million cross-border migrants moved voluntarily, usually for economic reasons. The remaining 10 percent are refugees and asylum seekers who have fled to another country to escape conflict and persecution. Roughly half of these 24 million refugees and asylum seekers are in the Middle East and North Africa, reflecting the dominant pattern of flight to a neighbouring country. But the recent surge of arrivals in Europe focused the developed world’s attention on this issue. Roughly half of the world’s migrants have moved from developing to developed countries, where

immigration is a key driver of population growth.

Workers moving to higher-productivity settings boosts global GDP. As already mentioned, migrants contributed roughly $6.7 trillion, or 9.4 percent, to global GDP in 2015—some $3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries. North America captured up to $2.5 trillion of this output,

while up to $2.3 trillion went to Western Europe. Migrants of all skill levels make a positive economic contribution, whether through innovation, entrepreneurship, or freeing up natives for higher-value work. Employment rates are slightly lower for immigrants than for native workers in top destinations, but this varies by skill level and by region of origin. Refugees typically take longer than voluntary migrants to integrate into the destination country. Immigrants generally earn higher wages by moving, but many studies have found their wages remain some 20 to 30 percent below those of comparable native-born workers.

The economic, social, and civic dimensions of migrant integration need to be addressed holistically. Some of the successfully applied guiding principles include changing the narrative to recognize the economic opportunity inherent in immigration; beginning integration interventions early and sustaining them over the long term; empowering local stakeholders to implement initiatives that work for their communities; making integration a two-way process between native-born and immigrant communities; and building partnerships with the private sector and NGOs.

In Germany, after the influx of more than 1 million refugees from Syria and other countries, one of the key challenges was the integration of migrants in the labour markets. A pre-dominant view was that dealing with migration is a government or social-sector undertaking. However, also private-sector companies are  beginning to engage with the issue. Their involvement goes beyond corporate social responsibility efforts and includes business activities. Some get involved because they see real benefits in building more prosperous local communities, tapping into a new pool of potential employees, or winning loyalty from a new customer segment. Companies in many industries now look to immigrants to handle labour-intensive jobs, while others want to be able to hire highly educated candidates with specialized skills from anywhere in the world.

Integrating migrants into local labour markets ultimately comes down to the needs of domestic industries and individual companies. A concerted effort by the private sector to forecast labour needs and identify skill gaps can help governments create entry policies that are more purposeful about the mix and number of immigrants who are admitted; some may go even further and establish bilateral arrangements with origin countries.

What are the opportunities for project management? Besides adding necessary resources to the projects, migrants bring new perspectives and insights into the projects, helping the project teams to be more innovative as well as adopting lessons learned from other countries, cultures or contexts. Projects, dealing with customers in the migrant´s origin countries could benefit from language skills and specific expertise of the migrants. They could even link the business of  German employers with potential customers and suppliers in the countries they migrated from. A challenge may be to get the migrants to understand the language spoken in their host country, it may also cause the rest of the staff to speak English and get ready for international business. Migrants need to learn the way of working in their host country, including the way projects are dealt with. Training sessions and support services like coaching or mentoring may help them to learn fast and adapt to the new business environment. GPM, the German Project Management Association, supported Syrian refugees during previous years in getting necessary know-how of project management before starting into a new job. Later, when returning to their countries of birth, they will spread this know-how and help their own country to prosper. Past experiences in Germany also show, that migrants stay in touch with their host countries (employers, families and friends) after returning to their own country, this may help to seize business opportunities on both sides of the border…

 

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Reinhard Wagner

Author of this post

Reinhard Wagner has been active for more than 30 years in the field of project- related leadership, in such diverse sectors as Air Defense, Automotive Engineering, and Machinery, as well as various not-for-profit organizations. As a Certified Projects Director (IPMA Level A), he has proven experience in managing projects, programmes and project portfolios in complex and dynamic contexts. He is also an IPMA Certified Programme and Portfolio Management Consultant, and as such supports senior executives in developing and improving their organizational competence in managing projects. For more than 15 years, he has been actively involved in the development of project, programme and portfolio management standards, for example as Convenor of the ISO 21500 “Guidance on Project Management” and the ISO 21503 “Guidance on Programme Management”. Reinhard Wagner is Past President of IPMA and Chairman of the Council, Honorary Chairman of GPM (the German Project Management Association), as well as Managing Director of Tiba Managementberatung GmbH.

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