The Economist: “Rich countries are likely to benefit from looser immigration policy “


"Immigrants networks are a rare bright spark in the world economy; rich countries should welcome them," claims The Economist.

The authoritative weekly international affairs newspaper The Economist has dedicated the cover of its 19 November issue to the contribution of international migration to the growth of the world economy, claiming that rich countries are likely to benefit from looser immigration policy.

Noting how migration has become a phenomenon of unprecedented proportion ("Diaspora networks…have always been a potent economic force, but the cheapness and ease of modern travel has made them larger and more numerous than ever before"), the issue's leader lists its main benefits both to host and to home countries.

There are currently 215m first-generation migrants in the world today, that is 3% of the world’s population, who tend to cluster in ethnic and linguistic groups in various areas of the globe according to consolidated patterns of emigration, as well as to new directions of flow.

These clusters, defined as '"diaspora networks," make it easier to do business across borders, the business publication argues, as kinship of culture and language speeds the flow of information and fosters trust. Modern communications make these networks an even more powerful tool of business.

Diasporas help spread ideas, claims The Economist, as many of the emerging world’s brightest minds are educated at Western universities and increasingly return go home, taking with them both knowledge and contacts. Returning immigrants have played a big role in bringing economic reform to developing countries, and have thereby helped foster the onset of political reform.

Diasporas spread money, too. Migrants into rich countries not only send cash to their families; they also help companies in their host country operate in their home country. "By linking the West with emerging markets, diasporas help rich countries to plug into fast-growing economies."

Migrants tend to be hard-working and innovative, notes the Economist. That spurs productivity and company formation. A recent study carried out by Duke University showed that, while immigrants make up an eighth of America’s population, they founded a quarter of the country’s technology and engineering firms.

At the same time, the valuable skills acquired abroad are often put to the advantage of the home economies, as skilled migrants often return to set up new businesses. One study found that unless they lose more than 20% of their university graduates, the brain drain makes poor countries richer.

On the contrary, The Economist contends that the arguments made against immigration by its foes, have been either been refuted or proven to be small or non-existent.

For instance, the alleged drain that migrants place on the public purse by access to welfare is generally not true ("in Britain, for instance, immigrants claim benefits less than indigenous people do") while " some studies do indeed suggest that competition from unskilled immigrants depresses the wages of unskilled locals, but others find this effect to be small or non-existent.

The illiberal turn in rich countries' attitudes to migration is the result of cyclical economic gloom combined with a secular rise in pressure on rich countries’ borders, allows The Economist, but the Old World's desire to close its borders is "understandable but dangerous".

"Migration brings youth to ageing countries, and allows ideas to circulate in millions of mobile minds. That is good both for those who arrive with suitcases and dreams and for those who should welcome them."


Read the full article: "The magic of diasporas"





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