It goes without saying that immigration is the current hot topic in international discourse. An increasing political focus on immigration has allowed politicians like Donald Trump and Viktor Orban to use immigrants as scapegoats, painting them as criminals, to further their political campaigns. However, a new strand of research from the likes of the International Monetary Fund, has suggested that migration, no matter how politically controversial, is economically beneficial. This invites the question, if there are so many positive impacts, why are so many people opposed to immigration? The answer to this question is simple; people only perceive immigration in bigotry terms and identity politics, ignoring the growth that immigration brings.
The common suggestion that, ‘migrants are stealing our jobs’, unsurprisingly lacks real substance. Ironically, eighty-three percent of native-born workers benefit from immigration, and the impacts of declining wages are almost inexistent. Studies from the ‘Economist’ show that immigrants tend to be harder working than native-born workers: migrant communities have lower rates of unemployment and migrants in the UK are twice as likely as native individuals to set up businesses. Similarly, in the US, migrants make up only fourteen percent of the population, but have set up thirty percent of the businesses, highlighting the vitality of immigrants to dynamic economies. However, it is not only high-skilled entrepreneurs that improve the economy; low-skilled migrants fill essential occupations for which the native-population is in short supply, thus contributing to a more efficient, dynamic economy.
The benefits of migration are shared by all; the migrants themselves and their home countries prosper. When migrants move from a poor country to a wealthier country, they typically make three to six times as much money as before. If and when migrants return to their homes, the money and skills they have earnt are re-invested into the economy, thus counteracting the apparent brain drain.
Immigration is not only beneficial for host countries, but limiting it actually hobbles economic growth. If the number of migrants in the UK remained constant since 1990, and immigration stagnated, the economy today would be nine percent smaller, amount to a decrease in GDP by £175 billion. Moreover, if Germany, one of the top five countries for immigration, froze the number of migrants, the net economic loss would be six percent. Immigrants are typically educated in their home countries, and leave the host country before retirement, thereby meaning they pay significantly more in taxes than they receive benefits.
No matter your views, the facts cannot be ignored. It is tragic in many ways that as the benefits of immigration are emerging, a ‘no-deal’ Brexit is on the horizon for Britain, and the prospects of free movement are looking slim. What is the future for Britain and EU citizens? Will our leaders acknowledge the economic benefits of immigration and allow the country to prosper from them?
Image Credit: New Statesman