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Migration and the false promise of growth

Matti Heinonen (Head of the Section of International Cooperation, Finnish Immigration Service, Helsinki, Finland)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 9 August 2013




The purpose of this paper is to analyse interaction between the economic growth and population explosion on migration and impending global crises, resulting from a congruence of the ills affecting the world today, including climate change, water and food scarcity, poverty and environmental degradation.


This is a comparative analysis of future‐oriented literature. The paper applies the “Limits to Growth” thinking and suggests an approach where the concept of material and population growth is questioned.


Multidisciplinary examination of research literature reveals what is normally considered to be problems such as energy, food and water scarcity, poverty and environmental degradation really are not problems but symptoms; the problem is the continuing economic and population growth on a finite planet. Migration has always been a possible coping strategy for people facing economic and political problems as well as environmental changes. Continuing growth has not erased poverty and closed the gap between the rich and poor, which is a major driving force of migration. Only changing the structure of the system will do that.

Practical implications

The present unsustainable way of life means that society risks a multitude of crises. Many breakdowns will most likely be happening simultaneously throughout the entire environmental and socioeconomic system on a worldwide scale. Humanity has set the scene for the overshoot scenario and reversal of growth will be necessary to get out of it. New kinds of methods are needed to respond to the current challenges. It is imperative to reinvent economic theories and create new monetary and fiscal policies to solve the multidimensional ecological, economic, demographic, political and social crises humanity is facing today.


In a world where the lack of foresight exists to an alarming degree at every level of society, it is important to be constantly reminded of the imminent global crises resulting from growth. It is becoming apparent that fragmented strategies cannot address the pressing challenges. New values are needed to guide society to peaceful and equitable development in an increasingly interconnected world. This can only emerge from a new critical self‐awareness and the will to act.



Heinonen, M. (2013), "Migration and the false promise of growth", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 197-208.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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