I challenge the ‘World’s Biggest Diasporas’ report by Forbes Magazine

I have been studying and writing on Guyanese and Caribbean migration for decades, and so, naturally, when information surfaces on that theme, particularly from outside of Guyana, I am drawn to it.

A recent report, “The World’s Biggest Diasporas” by Statista data journalist, Katharina Buchhoiz, in Forbes magazine, republished in the dailies and on social media, caught my attention.
The gist of the report is that the largest movement of people occurs in developing and less developed countries rather than in developed ones, and the reasons for this unfortunate event – the hierarchy of migration – are wars, economic stagnation, and a lack of vision regarding development, which the writer dubbed as “a lack of perspective.” It is also stated that the size of countries and their remoteness add to out-migration.

Although the writer has repeated the obvious in the field of migration, there are some merits in the missive. By looking at “global development strata”, the writer espouses, “the world’s least developed countries saw the biggest exodus with diasporas making up an average 12.5 per cent of their native-born populations, way ahead of less developed and more developed countries at around 3-6 per cent of people living abroad.” Nonetheless, I am confused with these labels: least developed, less developed, and developed countries in the above declaration.

To clarify, it is Emmanuel Wallerstein who developed the world system theory to explain how the world has been stratified. He used and applied a host of indices such as access to basic life needs, education, healthcare, per capita income, and so on to explain why some countries fall into specific stratification brackets which he labelled as the core, semi-periphery, and periphery, later modified into developed, developing and less developed or industrialised, industrialising, less industrialised. World migration, in all forms, is directly connected to Wallerstein’s stratification theory. I would call his theory smartification.

By now, you should know that I am leading up to something. I am not sure why the dailies and indeed politicians felt comfortable sharing and discussing the world diaspora report with so much intensity other than to say it is news that Guyana leads the list of countries with the largest diasporas, meaning that “Guyana had the biggest share of its native-born population — 36.4 per cent — living abroad.”

If you are a Guyanese living in the jungle of Guyana since Forbes Burnham died some decades ago and you are reading the Forbes Magazine report, you would not get through the first pages because you would know that the figure of 34.4 per cent of native Guyanese living abroad is dead wrong. It is much higher.

Let us use common sense which seems to be the methodology, as opposed to empirical evidence which the writer used to arrive at some conclusions in the report. Let us assume that the population of Guyana is 750,000. I know some sources cite a somewhat lower figure, but we accept the former for the sake of argument. The following is an estimation of native-born Guyanese who are currently living outside of Guyana: Suriname (50,000), Trinidad (20,000), Barbados (15,000), Venezuela (10,000), wider Caribbean (10,000), Canada (200,000) and US (300,000).

I am not sure about the size of the Guyanese population in England. These are modest estimates. If you do the mathematics, you will see that substantial numbers of Guyanese have been living outside of Guyana. I take it that when the writer stated that “its native-born population” meant Guyanese who were born in Guyana but out-migrated. If we were to add children born of Guyanese parentage outside of Guyana, for example, my children were born in St. Croix, the United States Virgin Islands, and those born in New York, the figure would be much higher. However, I suggest, or I feel comfortable with the thought that Guyana’s native-born population overseas is around 60 per cent.

My purpose here is not to embarrass the writer. It is always difficult to write about “foreign” places, but small population countries are sensitive as to how they are portrayed, especially since that “Sh.. Hole” comment from once the most powerful person in the world.

I must admit that I like one point, and that is, “they [Guyanese included] are inherently at a disadvantage when offering opportunities and chances to move within the country first.” This is factual. Despite internal movements after slavery and indenture from the plantations to settlements and from rural to urban areas brought about by economic opportunities, individual aspirations, and violence such as the Wismar massacre, the predominant pattern of Guyanese migration has been to overseas countries, already stated above.

Apart from the movement from the other regions to Georgetown, there have not been any major movements from one county to the other. For example, individuals from Berbice do not migrate to Essequibo and vice versa. May I tout this aphorism: Migration is the wave in which Guyanese have sailed to greener pastures (lomarsh.roopnarine@jsums.edu).

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