Efforts to foster socio-economic cooperation and integration within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and to better manage migration in the region are being hampered by weaknesses in the collection and measurement of international migration data, according to a new report published by IOM.
Entitled: “Data Assessment of Labour Migration Statistics in the SADC Region: South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe,” the report assesses existing statistical infrastructures and systems for the collection, analysis and sharing of international migration data in the three Southern African countries.
The study was carried out in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Statistics Programme and is part of IOM efforts to promote regionally coherent and coordinated data collection and the sharing of mechanisms critical for effective regional economic integration and migration management.
Although international migration continues to increase within the region, weaknesses in migration data collection systems means data is not comparable and there is difficulty in accepting common definitions. Similarly, the true scale of migration as well as its impact on both sending and receiving countries cannot be effectively measured, making it difficult to develop informed migration policies.
The three countries chosen for the study are representative of different economic and political realities in the region. South Africa, with a population of 50 million, is regarded as the economic powerhouse of the region. Although a mainly migrant receiving country (including from Zambia and Zimbabwe), it is nevertheless witnessing a significant emigration of highly skilled workers.
Zambia draws migrants from all over the region because of its peace and stability, but it also loses a significant number of skilled and highly educated professionals because of its poor economy.
Zimbabwe, with a reported population of 13 million, has increasingly experienced high levels of emigration. A conservative estimate of three million Zimbabwean nationals are said to make up the Zimbabwean diaspora.
The study assesses how these countries collect and analyze international migration data. While similar tools are used for data collection, only South Africa has a centralized computer system to analyze the results. Introduced only recently, however, the system faces a number of teething implementation challenges.
The report also highlights that data collection does not often take into account irregular migration, which is a significant trend in the region and while the three countries maintain registers for asylum seekers and refuges, there are also problems with timely collection and processing of that data.
Censuses and household surveys could fill some of these gaps, but these do not typically take into account migration trends.
The study makes a number of recommendations to help address these challenges. These include better utilization of existing data sources and the need to harmonize terms and definitions.
It also suggests automating border control and permit information, training relevant officials to improve data collection and analysis, as well as strengthening data sharing and lines of communication among these actors.
Finally, the study recommends that an inter-agency task force be formed in each country to improve communication within the government and that the capacity of the SADC Statistical Committee be strengthened by harmonizing data collection systems and establishing a common database.
The report was funded by IOM’s 1035 Facility, which provides special support to IOM developing member states and member states with economies in transition to develop and implement joint government-IOM projects addressing particular areas of migration management. It can be downloaded online at: http://iom.org.za/site/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=42&Itemid=238.
For more information, please contact Yukiko Kumashiro at IOM Pretoria. Tel: +27 12 342 2789 (Ext 210), Email: email@example.com