From a new McKinsey Global Institute report,
Refugees might be the face of migration in the media, but 90 percent of the world’s 247 million migrants have moved across borders voluntarily, usually for economic reasons. Voluntary migration flows are typically gradual, placing less stress on logistics and on the social fabric of destination countries than refugee flows. Most voluntary migrants are working-age adults, a characteristic that helps raise the share of the population that is economically active in destination countries.
These voluntary movements have potentially large benefits,
Moving more labor to higher-productivity settings boosts global GDP. Migrants of all skill levels contribute to this effect, whether through innovation and entrepreneurship or through freeing up natives for higher-value work. In fact, migrants make up just 3.4 percent of the world’s population, but MGI’s research finds that they contribute nearly 10 percent of global GDP. They contributed roughly $6.7 trillion to global GDP in 2015—some $3 trillion more than they would have produced in their origin countries. Developed nations realize more than 90 percent of this effect.
Much depends on integration,
Realizing the benefits of immigration hinges on how well new arrivals are integrated into their destination country’s labor market and into society. Today immigrants tend to earn 20 to 30 percent less than native-born workers. But if countries narrow that wage gap to just 5 to 10 percent by integrating immigrants more effectively across various aspects of education, housing, health, and community engagement, they could generate an additional boost of $800 billion to $1 trillion to worldwide economic output annually. This is a relatively conservative goal, but it can nevertheless produce broader positive effects, including lower poverty rates and higher overall productivity in destination economies.
Predicted counts of first-generation immigrants aged 15-64 (millions)
According to a new VOXEU article on the future of immigration in the US and EU,
Whether the US chooses to “build a wall” to immigration will become increasingly irrelevant to patterns of international migration, while the decisions the EU makes about policing its external borders will become more consequential.
George Borjas of Harvard makes several recommendations for immigration policies. Read the entire linked article for full details.
Winners and Losers. And what about legal immigration? The time has come to start talking about legal immigration more realistically. Despite what the Chamber of Commerce claims, legal immigration is not manna from heaven. As with all other social policies, legal immigration creates winners and losers, and any rational discussion of immigration policy must consider that tradeoff. The employers who gain, along with many willing co-conspirators in the media and academia, have effectively silenced debate by reframing the issue as a battle between white-hatted globalists who carry the banner of progress on the one side and the xenophobes and racists on the other. If nothing else, the widespread revolt against globalization makes it obvious that there are indeed losers, and the losers are tired of being lied to and being left behind. American workers had no voice in setting up a system that was bought and paid for by the economic interests that gain from increased immigration. It is time to change that balance of power—those who gain should bear part of the costs, and those who lose should receive some of the benefits. There are many ways of redistributing the gains—ranging from taxing those industries that most benefit from the hiring of immigrants to making employers pay tens of thousands of dollars for each H-1B visa granted. If nothing else, this would help employers internalize the cost of the policies that they have benefitted so much from, and lead to a much more rational discussion of how much and which type of immigration we should have.