Immigration has become the number one issue for many voters and governments around the world.
By the end of the 2010s, more than 250 million people were living in places other than their country of birth, twice as many as in 2000.
- Many, approximately 65 million have been forcibly displaced by war, violence or natural disasters.
- Most immigrants simply move to a neighbouring country, often not much better off then the one they left.
- Only a small fraction of the world's most vulnerable migrants succeed in moving to the rich countries in Europe, Oceania, or North America.
Complains against immigration
The most common complaint against immigration, especially of low-skilled workers, is that immigrants take jobs away.
Secondary reasons include anything from concern for how immigrants
- could overwhelm schools and other public services
- to the nativist - if not racist - view that immigrants of a different ethnic background will threaten social cohesion and security.
It is often the case that the work immigrants perform - at least in the beginning of their careers in their new host countries - are jobs that locals simply prefer not to do.
Work, is not a zero-sum game. When one job is taken, it doesn't mean that more jobs won't be created. The arrival of new workers tends to expand an economy by creating a need for more housing, food preparation, haircuts and countless other goods and services.
Immigrants tend to stimulate the economy as a whole.
By expanding output, immigrants tend to stimulate the economy as a whole.
- Most of the money that immigrants earn is recycled into the local economy, even if a portion is sent back to their families in their home country.
- And through the payment of payroll taxes and sales taxes, immigrants end up supporting the activities of local governments - which could, for example, use some of that money to provide skills training and other forms of additional education to enable locally born workers to move up the economic ladder.
- Immigrants also tend to save at a much higher rate than local workers do, and their money gets deposited in local banks, which can then use that money to extend loans to homeowners and businesses in the local economy.
Immigrants with university degrees and special skills - especially tech skills - have been shown to provide a particularly powerful stimulus to local economies.
- By investing in local start-ups or even setting up start-ups of their own, highly skilled immigrants have created hundreds of thousands of jobs in North America and Europe.
- While immigrants represent about 15% of the American workforce, they account for approximately 25% of the entrepreneurial investment in the U.S. economy.
Even local workers without college degrees can benefit because, like most everything in our interconnected world, what happens in one area of the economy ends up having an effect on another. A new business or factory often means an increase in a wide array of jobs at all skill levels.
Japan chooses to severely restrict immigrants
Many economists point to Japan, which has chosen to severely restrict immigrants for social as well as economic reasons, as an example of how the fear of immigration can cause a wide array of economic problems.
- Japan's extremely low birthrate in recent decades has led to a shrinking population with virtually no low-skilled immigrants - only 1.5% of the current population was born abroad - resulting in a severe labour shortage.
- This along with such other factors as deflationary monetary policy, caused the Japanese economy to seriously underperform when compared to countries with more lenient immigration policies.
Competitive edge of a culturally diverse workforce
A culturally diverse workforce often translates into a competitive edge for companies and businesses on an international level.
A study in the Harvard Business Review found that businesses with a high level of diversity - including, among other things, national origin - had a higher level of innovation and consequently higher levels of profitability.
Although immigration isn't always problem-free, it is clear that in most cases, it ends up stimulating the economy and expands a country's opportunities by providing the manpower, skills and diversity required for companies to compete in the new global economy.
The seemingly unrestricted flow of immigrants into Europe during the Syrian civil war and families crossing the Mexican-U.S. border over the past decades have made immigration the number one issue for many voters and governments around the world. Many observers have seen the Brexit vote and 2016 U.S. election as primarily influenced by voters' fear of immigration.
2020 70th year of UNHCR
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