Monday, June 25, 2007

The Age of Migration

“I cried, but I wasn’t sad because I knew she needed to go,” he said. “ She went to give us better conditions.”
11-year-old Steven Ramos
talking of his mother leaving him behind in Cape Verde 5 years ago.

The New York Times had an interesting article about immigration ...

An estimated 200 million people live outside the country of their birth, and they help support a swath of the developing world as big if not bigger. Migrants sent home about $300 billion last year — nearly three times the world’s foreign aid budgets combined. Those sums are building houses, educating children and seeding small businesses, and they have made migration central to discussions about how to help the global poor. A leading academic text calls this the “Age of Migration.”

Despite current alarm, migration is likely to grow. Rich economies with aging work forces need labor. Workers in poor countries need jobs. Border crossings are hard to prevent, and the rewards of moving have never been greater. The average pay raise awaiting today’s unskilled migrants, in inflation-adjusted terms, is about twice as high as that which greeted migrants a century ago, during the last great period of global migration.

Economists generally argue that migration has helped rich economies expand by supplying needed labor, though some low-skilled domestic workers may suffer wage reductions because of increased competition.

2 comments:

Peter said...

"though some low-skilled domestic workers may suffer wage reductions because of increased competition": guess that's basically the problem.

Humo (www.humo.be) ran a series on how low-skilled migrants from the new EU countries like Poland (wages: 6 times lower) or Romania (wages: +10 times lower) arrived in bus loads for construction work on a daily basis. Many Belgian construction companies felt forced to employ these 'cheap' workers on legally complex but low-paid contracts, just in order to compete in the "we do it cheaper" rat-race.

The article is not available on line, but what struck me most that very few had to intention to stay permanently, unlike most of the African or Muslim migrants.

Belgium's workforce is 'aging' fast, our very low birth rate will force this country to welcome more migrant labor.

But given the fact that low-skilled labor is not a priority (China can provide billions of those..) it's basically a question of priorities.

If this country is to keep up its standard of living it will have to select who gets in, but also make sure to stop the brain-drain to the US and every country that rewards talent way better than Belgium does.

Taking a look at eg Australia, the 'Belgian approach to migration' has been a total disaster.

womanwandering said...

I think everyone is grappling with how to do the whole border control and immigration 'selection' well.

The article sounded interesting, thanks for the summary. I remember a Belgian friend telling me that he had a Polish guy painting his house and although he was cheap he was making enough money to get someone to paint his house back in Poland.