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Contemporary migration intentions in the Maldives: the role of environmental and other factors

Speelman, Laurens H., Nicholls, Robert J., Dyke, James
Sustainability science 2017 v.12 no.3 pp. 433-451
atolls, attitudes and opinions, climate change, employment, health services, issues and policy, migratory behavior, people, quality of life, sea level, social environment, socioeconomic factors, surveys, urbanization, Maldives
Migration is often mentioned as a major potential impact of climate change for small island states, especially low-lying atolls. Understanding future migration flows, including the potential role of environmental change, requires an interdisciplinary approach, focusing both on environmental and socio-economic factors. This paper presents a detailed analysis of contemporary migration decision-making processes in a small island nation—the Maldives—based on a survey conducted in 2015. The results challenge the view that climate change is influencing contemporary migration behaviour in the Maldives. The survey shows how attitudes influence intention to migrate both internally and internationally. Existing analysis of the national census shows a strong urbanisation trend, with significant net migration to the capital island Malé and its environs, dominating national migration flows. People consider perceived employment and educational opportunities, quality of health services, and expectations about general quality of life, happiness, and social environment. In addition, many Maldivians have a high intention to migrate internationally. Hence, the reduction of barriers to international migration by, for example, establishment of international migrant networks, or policies enabling migration from the Maldives, is likely to increase international migration. Maldivians widely express knowledge and concern about climate change and sea-level rise, recognising the high vulnerability of the island nation. However, such considerations are not presently important in their decisions about migration.