Jul 5, 2020

Is migration bad for anyone?

Recently I started to read Good Economics for Bad Times, a book recommended by Bill Gates and written by Nobel Laureates ...

One of the early chapters of the book talks about migration and its benefits. I knew migration was generally a good thing in that it benefitted the migrants country of origin as well country of residence, but I didnt realise the large extent to which migration is good for the world. 

To begin with, migrants make more than they would make back home. Often times, they send money back to their home country which helps the economy of their country of origin. Their kids, whether or not they come along, can get a better education and higher level of expsure to the world. More so, migrants add value to the economy of their country of residence. Low skilled migrants often do jobs the locals won't do, such as cleaning, gardening, domestic help. A lot of this allows for the local workforce to take up higher level jobs. The locals who were originally a factory worker can now manage the migrants who are doing their former job. Mothers who otherwise would have to stay home for child care can hire a migrant as a nanny and go to work. In the case of high skilled labor, often times, there are not enough locals in a population to perform tasks that the market needs, which high skilled migrants are equipped for. In the case of Silicon Valley, developers are in high demand and all positions would be hard to fill if it wasn't for migrants.

However, this isn't the story we hear on a day to day basis. When it comes to reading the news, it's not rare to hear about another developed country trying to reduce immigration. Immigration hasn't drastically increased much since the 1960s. Migrants account for 3 percent of the world's population. However, migration policies seem to get tighter. 

So why are migrants opposed by sections of the world population? One of the common misconceptions on the basis of which policy makers announce anti immigration policies is that they threaten the local population's employment rates. Based on the book, the numbers have hardly shown this to be true for low skilled immigration. Low skilled migrants often take jobs that locals dont want for pay that locals wont agree to. If migrants are taken out of the picture because of new immigration policies, their employers either switch to some form of automation or stop production of that product altogether instead of hiring locals at a higher wage. In the scenario that locals and migrants are competing for the same job, employers will often prefer the familiar ie. the local population anyway, which means the migrants are the losers of that type of situation. 

There are also other benefits migrants bring with them. Other than adding to their destination country's GDP, they also spend money in the destination country on food, shelter and other goods and services they require. This often creates jobs for the locals because of an increased demand. These jobs are typically created for the strata that most needs it - such as restaurants, barbers, shops, etc. In the case of high skilled migrants, many of them are willing to go places that the locals wouldn't. Relatively rural areas benefit from high skilled labor such as doctors, lawyers, etc which they otherwise wouldn't have as easy access to. 

One of the arguments politicians like Trump use against immigration is national security. Its unfortunate that many terrorist attacks come from the Muslim population. However, many of the immigrant populations of the past were not welcomed either when they started immigrating, such as the Germans and the Chinese in the United States. It almost seems like there is a threshold beyond which a certain migrant population becomes familiar, and is no longer a threat. For this to happen, however, there has to be some level of contact and integration of the population, such as mixed schools or neighborhoods where migrants live alongside locals. This may take some time to happen and lead to increased alienation and hatred until there is social integration. 

All in all, the book really made me think about why migration earned such a bad reputation in the first place, despite all the benefits it has brought to the world. Is this just another pure case of hatred and xenophobia? That's the only possible answer I can see. 

No comments: