Sustainability Science

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 433–451 | Cite as

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

  • Laurens H. Speelman
  • Robert J. Nicholls
  • James Dyke
Original Article


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.


Migration Small Islands Climate change Theory of planned behaviour 



Thanks to the people working at LAMER Pvt Ltd in Malé, Maldives for their organisational support and fruitful discussions during the fieldwork. This work is supported by an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre Grant (EP/G03690X/1) and the faculty of Engineering and the Environment of the University of Southampton. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the organisations mentioned above.

Supplementary material

11625_2016_410_MOESM1_ESM.docx (132 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 132 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laurens H. Speelman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Robert J. Nicholls
    • 1
  • James Dyke
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering and the EnvironmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Institute for Complex Systems SimulationUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  3. 3.School of Geography and EnvironmentUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK

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