Potential scenario narratives for future migration

2020 December 17

In the FUME project, the future migration projections will be based on various scenarios that motivate people to move to and within Europe. Project partners led by the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demography Institute (NIDI) are developing the overall storylines to be able to sketch realistic scenarios of migration to cities in Europe.

Overview of existing narratives

During the first year of the project, the team working on the migration scenario narratives have identified already existing studies on migration scenarios:

“The inventory illustrates that migration dynamics are very complex, given that they are driven by future developments in the demographic, economic, technological, social, political and environmental domains. To deal with such complexity, prior migration scenario studies have often distinguished a comprehensible yet limited number of imagined futures, without systematically addressing interactions between each of these domains,” says Petra de Jong, Postdoctoral Researcher at NIDI.

As Petra further notices, migration scenario studies seldom quantify the impact of different storylines on the size and composition of future migration. The small number of studies that did provide a quantification of migration scenarios typically only did so after formulating complete storylines, and therefore give limited insight into how specific elements of each scenario may lead to higher or lower future migration levels:

“To address this limitation, we propose a new method for migration scenario building. This method will focus on quantifying the key drivers of migration prior to combining them into different scenarios” – Petra explains. “This way, we aim to connect migration scenarios to future population projections in a less arbitrary, more systematic fashion.”

Key drivers for international migration

As a part of scenario development, researchers from the National Research Council in Italy (CNR) have analysed the main drivers and patterns for international migration through the perspective of the aspiration/ability model. Such work intends to offer a consistent and evidence-based framework to formulate better-informed migration scenarios and to support forward-looking policies.

“What we learned so far, gender, age, education and social networks are some of the determining forces for migration,” says Stefano degli Uberti, a researcher at CNR. “Often, young and better educated are more inclined to emigrate. On the macro level, poverty and economic hardship are strong motivators to emigrate,” confirms Frank Heins, a colleague of Stefano’s.

At the same time, researchers are also looking into the pulling factors such as the demand for the labour force in Europe that open the economic opportunities and the migration policies that shape at different scales the international migration flows.

“The relationship between drivers and international migration flows is never direct or deterministic but operates through the individual and its context of family and social group. The drivers touch various spheres like the political and socio-cultural context, the economic and environmental situation in origin, transit and destination areas. Economic disparities and opportunities are playing a key role - in the form of resources available for the migratory project of the individual and in the form of the economic situation in the origin countries and in the destination countries,” Frank observes.

Next steps

In the upcoming year, the team aims further to develop the methodological strategy for migration scenario building, using input from experts to identify and quantify the main building blocks of the scenarios. After quantifying the scenarios based on these building blocks, they will be linked to population projection models. The models will assess the outcomes of different scenarios for European societies and provide crucial information for researchers, policymakers, and practitioners alike.

The work package on Scenario Narratives is led by Petra de Jong, The Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demography Institute.

Written by Vaida Ražaitytė