Immigration

Your Country Needs Them

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A joint study (pdf) from Britain's Treasury Department and Home Office comes to the unsurprising conclusion that migrants to the UK are "a boon" to the economy and are fueling that country's economic expansion. The Guardian reports:

Migrants are more skilled and often more reliable and hardworking than British workers, and are fuelling the country's economic growth to the tune of £6bn a year, according to the first official study of their impact published yesterday.

The joint Treasury, Home Office and Work and Pensions study says that the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Polish and other east European workers has had "no discernible" impact on unemployment and has led to only a "modest dampening of wage growth" for British workers at the bottom end of the earnings league.

For those of who have read British journalist Philip Legrain's book Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them, this is old news. As my friend Johan Norberg, author of the indispensable In Defense of Global Capitalism, said, Legrain "shows that migration can benefit the migrants, the country they leave and the country they move to."

In 2003, Nick Gillespie spoke with Norberg about In Defense.

Update: The NYT's Freakanomics blog interviews Legrain today. 

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  1. Correction: “For those of [us/you] who have…”

  2. A Q&A with Legrain was posted on the freakonomics blog today. linky link

  3. “shows that migration can benefit the migrants, the country they leave and the country they move to.”

    I am highly skeptical that migration helps the countries people migrate from — at least in the short. Eventually, a truly free market balances things out and all benefit, but not before a period of further degradation of the source countries’ economy.

  4. I am highly skeptical that migration helps the countries people migrate from — at least in the short. Eventually, a truly free market balances things out and all benefit, but not before a period of further degradation of the source countries’ economy.

    I would suspect that emigration is most helpful to the home country’s unemployment problems and overpopulation; problems which tend to be endemic of poorer countries…

  5. unemployment problems and overpopulation

    This is just anecdotal but… from what I see (not statistics available at hand), most of the migrants tend to be the more educated, who tend to contribute less to over-population (they tend to have smaller family sizes). What you are left with are the less competent portion of the population, a la brain drain.

  6. Most migrant workers (Mexicans to US, southeast Asians to middle east and europe, at the least) commonly send cash back home to family. That helps the country they leave.

  7. send cash back home to family

    Sure, but where does this cash end up? Savings and investments? They probably end up being consumed for everyday living matters. Plus, even if the money is put into the economy in more productive forms (e.g., towards manufacturing), the percentage of that money in the bigger national economies of these countries is probably small. But, yet again, I am just speculating from personal experience and general knowledge –no hard data.

  8. What you are left with are the less competent portion of the population, a la brain drain.

    Yeah, but for every competent person who leaves the old sod, all the lazy slobs who stayed behind move up a slot on the competency and employability ladder.

    It’s a win-win!

  9. send cash back home to family

    Sure, but where does this cash end up? Savings and investments? They probably end up being consumed for everyday living matters. Plus, even if the money is put into the economy in more productive forms (e.g., towards manufacturing), the percentage of that money in the bigger national economies of these countries is probably small. But, yet again, I am just speculating from personal experience and general knowledge –no hard data.

  10. Damn it H&R!

  11. Here we go again:

    he lazy slobs who stayed behind move up a slot on the competency and employability ladder

    Not really. Because of cronyism and corruption, those left behind (including the competent who decide to stay put or who return from the more advanced countries) do not end up “moving up a slot”. That is one of the main reasons migrants decide to migrate and rarely do they decide to return. The beneficiaries of migrations are the migrants themselves (though it still comes at the cost of cultural and sense-of-security concerns), and the host countries, but really migration rarely helps countries of origin.

  12. J sub D: “duh” indeed!

  13. 1. Legrain got his hat and other things handed to him in comments here. If I debated him, he’d last 10 minutes before being completely discredited.

    2. This study is simply prop, and fails to note non-fiscal costs. They might as well say that selling one of your kidneys is a financial boon.

  14. iih, I recommend you read that interview at freakonomics, Legrain addresses a number of your points.

    That is one of the main reasons migrants decide to migrate and rarely do they decide to return.

    Legrain actually argues that the opposite is true. In most cases, the immigrant returns to his home country. One of the ironies of American immigration policy is that it makes it risky for a would be migrant workers to return home due to the trouble they’d have re-entering the country come the next harvest. So, they stay put.

  15. iih, The Duh! was for the article. Your incompetent immigrant posting, 😉 was just a coincidence.

  16. Dammit, this flood if immigrants needs to stop! Waves upon waves of Oregonians are sweeping across California, doing the jobs that Californian’s won’t do, and driving down the wages of everyone. They send their children to our public schools and use our emergency rooms. This must stop! We need to build a wall between California and Oregon, and patrol it with soldiers and Rottweilers. Sure, immigration in moderation is normally acceptable, but we can’t let anymore in until we fix our welfare mess!

    p.s. And while we’re at it, let’s stop that stupid free trade with Oregon as well.

  17. Your data conflicts with my xenophobia. (puts fingers in ears) I am not a racist!

  18. A joint study…

    I’m all for that. Where do I sign up?

  19. This study is notable for what it doesn’t say. Note the excerpt refers to “eastern European” migrants. It ignores the real problem migrants: Muslims, who have high rates of unemployment, are extremely abusive of public benefits, and are extremely violent compared to other immigrant groups. Of course it wouldn’t be PC to note this fact, just as the UK government has prohibited its officials from using the words “Islam” and “terrorist” in the same sentence.

  20. Immigration thread, eh?

    I agree with me.

  21. Muslims, who have high rates of unemployment, are extremely abusive of public benefits, and are extremely violent compared to other immigrant groups.

    Yeah… you must be enjoying that Steyn guy’s book. Well, here is a solution to the problem: Prohibit Muslims from migrating to Europe. Accept all others.

  22. iih, The Duh! was for the article. Your incompetent immigrant posting, 😉 was just a coincidence.

    But it was well-timed nonetheless 🙂

  23. Bob Smith:

    What is the history of Muslim immigration to two very important cases: France and Germany, if I may ask? How much do you know about it? Now I am talking about post-WWII couple of decades. How come these two countries have such a large number of Muslim migrants (mostly are now citizens)? And if they are abusing social welfare programs, are they any different from their native counterparts or other migrants from other groups? One last thing, if these Muslim immigrants migrated legally, do you blame them for their higher birth rates? Shouldn’t we blame the “natives'” lack of interest in, well, having sex?

  24. Ryo: Just noted the addition to Michael’s original thread. Will read, sounds interesting. Thanks.

  25. Waves upon waves of Oregonians are sweeping across California, doing the jobs that Californian’s won’t do, and driving down the wages of everyone.

    Brandybuck,

    I think the flow is actually going the other way. But I agree with you on the wall. 😉

  26. Iih, here is the relevant passage from the interview.
    Already, migrants born in poor countries and working in rich ones send home much more – some $200 billion a year officially, perhaps another $400 billion informally – than the miserly $100 billion that Western governments give in aid. These remittances are not wasted on weapons or siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts; they go straight into the pockets of local people. They pay for food, clean water, and medicines. They enable children to stay in school, fund small businesses, and benefit the local economy. What’s more, when migrants return home, they bring with them new skills, new ideas, and the money to start new businesses that can provide a huge boost to the local economy. For example, Africa’s first Internet caf?s were started by migrants returning from Europe.

    How does your personal experience deny the above? For what it’s worth my personal experience is that my Filipina maid is putting her two daughters through university in Manila. Surely this counts as investment in improving productivity.

  27. Simon:

    they go straight into the pockets of local people. They pay for food, clean water, and medicines. They enable children to stay in school, fund small businesses, and benefit the local economy.

    The question is,how much of it goes to “food, clean water, and medicines” and how much to “enable children to stay in school, fund small businesses”? The first category (food, etc) does some benefit on a very very small scale, but ends up simply being consumed and does not end up in a viable economy. Regarding the second category, what is the % of that as part of the global economy og the country? But I agree, this $200-400B is more effective then the lousy $100B that gets wasted otherwise.

  28. I live in the UK, so have first-hand experience of this report.
    It’s clear to anyone who thinks that immigration is “good” for the economy in a financial sense. After all, people who are willing to live nine-to-a-small-house (as many of my Polish colleagues are) are far more *financially* efficient than I am. After all, I demand a home to live in, and they are putting up with much much less. Consuming less while contributing more tax is a good thing for the government.

    However, after the standard platitudes about “they’ll leave when they’ve earned some money” from the politicians, these people now want to stay. Of course, that means they want a house as well as I – and there are only 40,000 being built each year.

    Next year we’ll allow another 200,000 immigrants into the country to keep the prices of labour intensive products low. And they’ll want to stay, and they’ll want a higher standard of living too.
    It’s sad to see the ignorance of those with insulated lives assuming that it’s good to have immigration. After all, the elimination of everything that makes a country better than the source of these immigrants must be a good thing? Right?

    People are already voting for the ultra-extreme parties in protest, but nothing changes. Politicians are convinced that an ever-expanding population is just the cure for a taxpayer defecit when they retire. Got to keep the social security system paying out. The only problem is the very people they expect to pay out for them are finding the ladder being pulled up in front of them. Whether it’s paying more an more for education, or simply being unable to afford a home as prices escalate out of their reach, these changes are increasingly alienating the younger generations from paying for their feckless baby-boomer parents.

    As always, I’m sure there’ll be a compromise, but if not, there will be hell to pay when the younger generations realise they are paying for things they will not get because the baby-boomers have simply taken those rights away.

  29. Iih, I don’t really understand your answer. Do you still refute that having people from poor countries working in rich countries benefit that poor country? I don’t follow your argument. (food, etc) does some benefit on a very very small scale. Apart from the fact that providing poor people with food seems like quite a big deal I don’t see how this is simply consumed. Greater demand for food will encourage investment in production of food.

    Hugh, I also don’t follow your argument. Why is everything that makes a country better being eliminated? If their arrival is putting pressure on you then I’m sorry to hear that but there must be benefits. The fact that these people are working for low wages is good news for the business employing them, the customers of that business and the places where they spend their money but you don’t mention this. Demand for housing may increase? Why is this bad? We can surely build more, no?

    May I ask a question generally? I found the arguments of the book very persuasive and don’t see how anyone can deny that globally easier provision of working visas would not benefit the world as a whole. Does anyone disagree? I’m sure there are groups who feel worse off and perhaps some are, though I suspect a very small minority. But is there anyone there who thinks we would really be globally worse off by having greater availability of work visas?

  30. If I debated him, he’d last 10 minutes before being completely discredited.

    I love how you continue to repeat this as if you are William F. Buckley, yet have yet to demonstrate that you can win an arguement about IllegalImmigration with some people on a blog.

  31. Simon:

    (delayed because of travel)

    Food for local consumption only can not be the basis of any viable economy. Same for any other consumptive product (e.g., drugs) that gets consumed by the locals.

    provision of working visas

    I guess I see why we have a misunderstanding. I was talking about permanent immigration and highly skilled migrants, who usually end up settling in the West. Seasonal and low paid migrants on temporary work visas (1) get low incomes that can not help in creating viable, non-consumption based economies in their home countries, and (2) when they return, it is hard to say that working in a field or at McDonalds has helped these people gain new expertise in an area that could benefit their home countries.

    With that said, on the long run, I think immigration/migration are good for all, not in the short run — that was the point of my original post (at 2:32 pm).

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