Lack of Migration Data Hampers Cooperation and Integration in Southern Africa: IOM
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
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
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
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
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:
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