Exploring the potential development consequences and impact of return migration to Guyana

Bristol, Marlon Anthony (2018) Exploring the potential development consequences and impact of return migration to Guyana. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis investigates the potential for return migrants to have an impact on development in the small-state case of Guyana, relative to the non-migrant population. To do this in a fairly comprehensive manner, three specific questions are posed. Firstly, what are the differences among return migrants, non-returning migrants, and non-migrants? Secondly, what are the determinants of return migration to Guyana? And thirdly, what are the potential consequences of return migration to Guyana? The first question allows for an understanding of critical differences among return migrants, non-returning migrants, and non-migrants. This provides information on where, potentially, return migrants show important differences relative to the other groups, and if those differences observed would be useful for development in Guyana. Further, I explore the sustainability of return migration through the concept of mixed embeddedness, looking into the influences of return migrants’ desire for re-emigration. Hence, answering the first question is an early signal of where, potentially, return migrants demonstrate attributes that arguably are useful for development in the origin country. In answering the second question, an insight is provided into what determines return. In particular, determinants of return take on a more real-world context, factoring a key eligibility of policy – that of duration of time spent abroad. Lastly, given the multidimensional link between migration and development, the final question tries to understand what the actual nexus between return migration and development is for the case of Guyana. Especially, I explore the direct and indirect impact of return migration, whether return migrants are likely to be of more use in development over non-migrants, and the measurable indicators of this nexus for Guyana.

To facilitate the analysis, the thesis first justifies why it is useful to revisit return migration as a potentially useful impetus for development. Here is where the small state case is presented as still valid. It then delves into the relevance of return migration and development linkages for the particular case of Guyana. In the process, it reveals why Guyana is an interesting case, contextualizing the theoretical perspectives that help to rationalize the general arguments, for and against, why individuals leave and some return. The account then notes, where data are available, existing policy practices in some small states as they relate to how governments demonstrate an interest in return migration as useful for origin-state development. The above summarizes the content of chapters 1 and 2. Chapter 3 explains in detail the mixed-method approach used to collect the qualitative and quantitative data required to develop the critical arguments and research results presented in chapters 4, 5, and 6.

A two-stage stratified sampling approach with disproportionate fractions was used to collect data on 451 return migrants and 528 non-migrants. This data was pooled with 210 non-returning migrants captured in an online survey using an ethno-survey framework. Additionally, qualitative interviews with representatives of several local institutions with responsibility for return migration policy, data, and concessions delivery were conducted to support the quantitative framework. Notwithstanding the fairly large sample size, the return migration and development story told in this thesis not only dwells on averages, but also on individual reflections of return contained in the data.

For the analysis, a mix of standard and novel approaches is utilized. The transnationalism approach, which recognizes the current characterization of the fluidity of migration, combined with the capabilities approach to migration and development, enables a general view on how the nexus is manifested in development outcomes at the individual level. These are the main reference points adapted to guide the conversation on determinants and consequences respectively. Techniques employed for the analysis of determinants and consequences are survival analysis and exploratory factor analysis, including the OLS and Ordered Probit models.

The sample demonstrated that return migrants were different on personal and socioeconomic attributes. Migrants returned mainly from countries within the CARICOM region rather than from those further away such as the North America and Other International areas. Return migrants have a tendency to remit prior to returning, even acquiring personal assets before, which can be linked to their duration spent abroad and their host location. On returning, returnees in the sample differed from non-migrants, especially in the areas of educational attainment and current earnings in terms of monthly household income. International migration in terms of the level of development at the host location is an imperative. Return migrants’ exposure and enhanced capacity are potentially useful for development. But, the jury is still out on whether this is harnessed to fill development gaps in the origin country Guyana. Nevertheless, returnees can be viewed as ‘elites’ which puts this group among those most equipped to (re)-emigrate. Hence, desires for re-emigration are vested not only in the institutional and structural stressors, but also reflect individual attributes of return migrants. Return migration thus does not necessarily complete the migration cycle.

Return, demonstrated in the sample mostly by those in the CARICOM region, has been subjected to a number of personal characteristics – migration status among other reasons. Structural factors have not been captured well to reflect the differences in the host countries to that of origin, but something is definitely happening at host locations that engenders the agency of returnees. Capabilities and achievements of migrants returning are indicative of systems and structures at the host locations. Even in the presence of heterogeneity among returnees, return migrants seem to have a positive impact on development in Guyana relative to non-migrants. Returning was also importantly a function the migrant’s position/membership in the household at origin, as social attachments inclined them to return. But their contribution on return correlates with the duration spent abroad; the longer time giving migrants better opportunities to prepare, remit, and acquire local assets in some cases.

The signal given, therefore, is that, while returnees seem positively related to local development through their human capital, there is no guarantee that they will be contributing to local development if the policy is not designed to extract necessary obligations. While return might be interpreted as success in some cases, migrants juxtapose economic and noneconomic factors in navigating return and re-emigration. As it already obtains, if migrants do not return some still remit which can also contribute to the development of Guyana. This happens if diaspora policy and thoughts of returning are engendered by the non-returning migrant. Transnational ties help to reinforce such thoughts. Notwithstanding, the transnational approach alone cannot explain the many contexts of migration and return. Such would require multiple contextual approaches.

The relationships of the consequences of return migration for development in Guyana has been reflected in the extraction of 13 observable indicators. The variables give ideas into the relationship of return and development, that is to say the capabilities and achievements of returnees as compared to non-migrants. But return migrants’ achievements, even when this is above that of non-migrants, does not guarantee inputs to wider local development in the presence of structural rigidities. In fact, during the period of exchange rate and foreign exchange restrictions, non-returning migrants could not remit formally, intending migrants could not get access to passports at will, inter alia. The result was a massive underground economy as a coping strategy under import substitution development. Notwithstanding, in the presence of liberal policies and transnationalism, at minimum, migration does do something positive for the migrants and/or the households from which they originate, even if the models used in this thesis exaggerate these outcomes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Geography
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN370 Migrations of peoples (General)
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2018 08:52
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2018 08:52
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/78467

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