Migration from Venezuela has brought additional demand for basic services in Colombia like health and education. This is placing pressure on finances over the short-term and affecting the most vulnerable, including indigenous people and children, both among migrants and local communities. However, if well managed, it can generate medium and long-term economic growth in Colombia, according to a World Bank report launched today.
According to the report, “Migration from Venezuela to Colombia: Impact and Response Strategy in the Short and Medium Term,” the cost of providing additional services in terms of education, health, water, early childhood, humanitarian care, job services and institutional strengthening would be between 0.23% and 0.41% of the country’s GDP, depending on each sector’s absorption capacity.
An example of this is the increase in the demand for healthcare services, which went from 125 cases in 2014 to almost 25,000 in 2017. On the other hand, it is estimated that at least 70,000 irregular migrant children currently find themselves outside the educational system.
“The Colombian government has responded proactively and with a complete sense of brotherhood since the beginning of this migration crisis. We have adapted our legal and institutional framework and we have allocated significant resources to serve both migrants as well as the population living in receiving areas,” said the President of Colombia, Iván Duque. “However, the magnitude of this migration demands additional efforts and a greater commitment from the international community.”
According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of last August, some 2.3 million people had abandoned Venezuela. Of these, close to 1.2 million reside in Colombia, the country hosting the largest number of migrants. Around 76% are Venezuelan, while a further 24% are Colombians returning to the country. Most of them are concentrated in eight of Colombia’s 32 departments, especially La Guajira, Norte de Santander, Arauca, Vichada and Bogota. Following Colombia, the countries that have received the largest number of Venezuelan migrants are Peru, Ecuador and Chile.
“The report analyzes the various consequences of this migratory movement, both from the social as well as the economic point of view,” said Vice-President of the World Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean Jorge Familiar. “This is a challenge that affects other countries, one that will demand regional, coordinated efforts with other players.”
According to the report, if this migration is managed well in the short term, it can contribute to long-term economic growth. According to models analyzing the impact of this migration on the country’s macroeconomic variables, half a million working age people moving to Colombia would accelerate economic growth by 0.2 percentage points. This is explained by an increase in consumption of 0.3 percentage points and in investment of 1.2 points.
In order to contribute to the management of this migration to Colombia, the report includes several policy and programmatic recommendations. Institutionally, it highlights the importance of strengthening coordination mechanisms and generating information to allow for an effective response. Another key point is to facilitate the social and economic integration of migrants, as well as to mitigate specific vulnerabilities among migrants and returnees, providing differentiated treatment to vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people.
The report also recommends strengthening resiliency systems in receiving areas and mitigating the impact on the local population by strengthening the municipal capacity to respond to the growing demand for services, enhancing the availability of relevant services and mobilizing financing to help manage the situation in the short term. Lastly, promoting a policy dialogue at the local, national and regional levels is crucial.
The report, undertaken jointly with the Colombian government and with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), forms part of the support that the World Bank provides to Latin American countries receiving migrants from Venezuela. As part of this work, it is providing technical support to Peru and will shortly begin the compilation of similar reports in Ecuador, building on the experience acquired by the World Bank in other regions.