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Empirical analyses of migration in small islands: the role of environmental and social factors

Empirical analyses of migration in small islands: the role of environmental and social factors
Empirical analyses of migration in small islands: the role of environmental and social factors
Low-lying atoll islands are highly threatened by anticipated sea-level rise, and migration is often mentioned as a potential response of island residents to this challenge. However, understanding of contemporary migration processes in small island settings is limited. This thesis analyses contemporary and potential future migration in small island settings, using the atoll nation of the Maldives as a case study. It asks four research questions: (1) What is known about present migration in small island settings to provide an empirical foundation for migration studies, including the potential role of climate change?; (2) What are contemporary drivers and indicators of migration flows in small islands?; (3) What are contemporary migration decision-making processes in small islands, including the role of the environment?; and (4) What are plausible future demographic and migration pathways for small islands? These research questions are answered using a systematic literature review, analysis of census and environmental vulnerability datasets, a survey conducted in 2015, and an agent-based model of migration using this data, respectively.

The results are as follows. Important drivers of migration in small island settings include professional opportunities, size of migration networks, population policies and pressure, and quality of living environment. Migration within the Maldives has been a significant process over the last few decades with the heavily urbanised capital area ‘Greater Malé’ growing at the expense of the other islands. This has resulted in a strong dichotomy between professional opportunities, health services, and quality of life between Greater Malé and other islands. An important result is a high potential for international migration from the Maldives, which is not presently being realised. Both internal and international migration intentions of Maldivians are mainly driven by perceived professional opportunities. Historic climate change has not influenced migration to date. Further, internal or international migration in anticipation of climate change is not apparent from the data collected, and seems unlikely unless conditions change significantly. A significant population increase is projected for Greater Malé for all development scenarios up to 2050. The highest migration flows occur under a scenario with high population growth, high impacts of climate change, international migration, and low government involvement.

Hence, today’s migration is due to multiple non-environmental factors. To understand the direct impacts of environmental change on migration considerations, its interaction with non-climate drivers of migration must be understood. Successful population and adaptation policy, such as land reclamation and raising islands, need to consider migration dynamics, employment, education, and other services. In the Maldives, and other small islands, this requires an integrated and nation-wide view of development and adaptation.
Speelman, Laurens Hessel
dc8346ef-5301-4c03-82ee-9a8b52065a13
Speelman, Laurens Hessel
dc8346ef-5301-4c03-82ee-9a8b52065a13
Nicholls, Robert
4ce1e355-cc5d-4702-8124-820932c57076

(2015) Empirical analyses of migration in small islands: the role of environmental and social factors. University of Southampton, Faculty of Engineering and the Environment, Doctoral Thesis, 201pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Low-lying atoll islands are highly threatened by anticipated sea-level rise, and migration is often mentioned as a potential response of island residents to this challenge. However, understanding of contemporary migration processes in small island settings is limited. This thesis analyses contemporary and potential future migration in small island settings, using the atoll nation of the Maldives as a case study. It asks four research questions: (1) What is known about present migration in small island settings to provide an empirical foundation for migration studies, including the potential role of climate change?; (2) What are contemporary drivers and indicators of migration flows in small islands?; (3) What are contemporary migration decision-making processes in small islands, including the role of the environment?; and (4) What are plausible future demographic and migration pathways for small islands? These research questions are answered using a systematic literature review, analysis of census and environmental vulnerability datasets, a survey conducted in 2015, and an agent-based model of migration using this data, respectively.

The results are as follows. Important drivers of migration in small island settings include professional opportunities, size of migration networks, population policies and pressure, and quality of living environment. Migration within the Maldives has been a significant process over the last few decades with the heavily urbanised capital area ‘Greater Malé’ growing at the expense of the other islands. This has resulted in a strong dichotomy between professional opportunities, health services, and quality of life between Greater Malé and other islands. An important result is a high potential for international migration from the Maldives, which is not presently being realised. Both internal and international migration intentions of Maldivians are mainly driven by perceived professional opportunities. Historic climate change has not influenced migration to date. Further, internal or international migration in anticipation of climate change is not apparent from the data collected, and seems unlikely unless conditions change significantly. A significant population increase is projected for Greater Malé for all development scenarios up to 2050. The highest migration flows occur under a scenario with high population growth, high impacts of climate change, international migration, and low government involvement.

Hence, today’s migration is due to multiple non-environmental factors. To understand the direct impacts of environmental change on migration considerations, its interaction with non-climate drivers of migration must be understood. Successful population and adaptation policy, such as land reclamation and raising islands, need to consider migration dynamics, employment, education, and other services. In the Maldives, and other small islands, this requires an integrated and nation-wide view of development and adaptation.

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More information

Published date: December 2015
Organisations: University of Southampton, Energy & Climate Change Group

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 397375
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/397375
PURE UUID: 84d16599-81a6-48f8-a53e-31f9d2429af4
ORCID for Robert Nicholls: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-9715-1109

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 06 Jul 2016 14:05
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:44

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Contributors

Author: Laurens Hessel Speelman
Thesis advisor: Robert Nicholls ORCID iD

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