Migration is increasingly recognized as a potential climate adaptation strategy, but how successful it is as an adaptation plan still needs to be discovered, particularly under what conditions and for whom.
Impacts of migration on households and families in the place of origin
When the husband migrates, leaving the family behind, remittances can improve the household’s material well-being. However, the wife’s well-being decreased due to their growing work burden and constrained decision-making. Women experience increased stress, anxiety and loneliness.
At the same time, children of migrants, although their material well-being improves, lose their bond with their parents and all the benefits that come with it.
In patriarchal and developing countries like Pakistan, women are not generally included in state programs and interventions, particularly in resilience-building activities such as early warning training or information, which constrains their adaptive capacity.
Due to labour shortages brought by migration in Pakistan, children of migrants will go to work to fill the gap and drop out of school, jeopardizing future generations’ well-being and adaptive capacity.
These examples in the study reveal the adverse effects of migrations to families left in the place of origin that could lead to maladaptation.
Impacts of Migration in destination countries
The success of migration as an adaptation is closely linked to the migrants’ experience in the place or country of their destination. Citing Pakistan as an example, migrants who moved from rural to urban areas find themselves in informal settlements on the periphery of urban societies. Hence, this lack of access to essential services and poor housing conditions affects their ability to send money home.
In cases where migrants move to other countries, the loss of family connections is replaced by social support and networks formed with other migrants from their destination countries. To continue sending remittances to their country of origin, they restrict their food intake, live in poor quality and hence cheaper accommodations, take loans, sell assets, or use their savings – erosive strategies that can be detrimental and maladaptive in the long run.
Some migrants also take dirty, complex, and dangerous jobs, putting them at risk for occupational hazards and accidents. To make matters worse, due to a mixture of structural and psychosocial barriers, migrants have limited access to healthcare and essential support.
However, not all migrants share the same experience. According to the study, others have more favourable experiences in their destination city or country. Their circumstance varies according to gender, class, caste, race, and age, which could influence access to opportunities and support.
In Bangladesh, women struggle to find support and information about health care or job opportunities compared to men. The general invisibility and lack of recognition of migrants in labour, social protection, urban planning, and even climate adaptation policies hamper their successful adaptation.
Regarding migrating to another country, the lack of citizenship or resident rights, political representation, language barrier, and discrimination based on ethnic or religious affiliation at their destination diminishes the migrant’s ability to challenge wrongdoing or raise grievances. Instead, migrants adopt a culture of endurance and avoidance, which, over time, can erode their physical and mental health and well-being, affects their remittances to their country, and becomes maladaptive.
The growing recognition of migration as a potential adaptation strategy to respond to climate change and environmental conditions can produce widely differentiated outcomes and consequences ranging from maladaptation to sustainable adaptation based on the evidence of the study.
The authors argue that if future migration is to be implemented as a successful adaptation that simultaneously fulfils the criteria of equity, well-being, and sustainability, then the evidence suggests that it needs to account for distributional, procedural, and recognitional elements of climate justice.
Knowledge gaps exist regarding where and when migration will occur. Closing this can help inform policies in making destinations safe and facilitating international movement to make migration a successful, equitable, and sustainable climate adaptation strategy.
Szaboova, L., Adger, W. N., Safra De Campos, R., Maharjan, A., Sakdapolrak, P., Sterly, H., Conway, D., Codjoe, S. N. A., & Abu, M.. (2023). Evaluating migration as successful adaptation to climate change: Trade-offs in well-being, equity, and sustainability. One Earth, 6(6), 620–631. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2023.05.009