Improving international migration measurements

February 14, 2022

Jasmine Ha, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Story by Rob Rombouts

Tracking and comparing migrations statistics across jurisdictions and international boundaries can be very difficult, and Jasmine Ha is working to fix that.

Ha has joined the Department of Sociology as an Assistant Professor. She researches international migration and globalization, and how to improve migration measurements. While many countries track and count in-coming migrants, most do not necessarily track emigrants who leave the country. Beyond the counts, important characteristics that inform policy such as age, gender, nationality, education level are usually unavailable. Ha said the definition of an immigrant also varies from country to country, making even comparing numbers a problem.

“In looking at the Asian Pacific region, it has over 60 per cent of the world’s population. There are lots of big population countries, lots of migration, but the data are missing, and the definitions don’t align,” said Ha.

She has contributed to policy discussions to improve the collection and usage of migration statistics. She has worked with the UN Expert Group on Migration Statistics, to synthesize methods of integrating various data sources, such as administrative data, to enrich existing migration statistics. Her work also contributed towards the increased attention to complex migration patterns, such as onward and step migration.

“Increasingly people are recognizing more migration forms, previously thought of as temporary – such as international students or seasonal workers,” Ha said. “They wouldn’t always be counted before. Now they are getting more attention and there are more efforts to capture information on these groups.”

Her work also looks at how places transform in the context of international migration and globalization.

Through a study in Vietnam, Ha and her collaborators looked at how different cities changed and integrated different approaches to building global and sustainable cities, including integrating technology, integrating local and international migrants, and incorporating knowledge exchange opportunities.

“As people come in some cities become more diverse, more global, and now they are also focused on becoming more sustainable,” she said. “We are interested to know if these efforts make cities more inclusive and resilient in the face of external shocks such as climate change and the pandemic.”

Ha describes herself as ‘a repeated migrant’, being born and raised in Vietnam, moving to Singapore to complete her undergraduate education, the United States for her PhD studies at the University of Minnesota, and then taking jobs in Australia and Vietnam, before moving to Canada.

Ha takes an interdisciplinary approach to her work, having previously held positions in a business school and a demography department. She is excited to find ‘an interdisciplinary home’ in the Faculty of Social Science. Along with the strong group focused on population dynamics and social demography, she said there are many opportunities in Social Science for interdisciplinary work, and she looks forward to potential future collaborations.