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Migrants: some might remember them as “those saviors who keep my business running” while some might remember them as “those wretched lads who stole my job”.  The political anxiety around this topic is inordinate and new laws addressing this issue are often always met with criticism. Both shutting and opening doors on migration carry with them costs. But which option would leave us better off? Let us find out.

The World Bank estimates that there are around 200 million migrants presently living on our planet.  But such stats, even from creditable organisations, are often misleading. Illegal migration, which constitutes a significant portion of international migration, is not accounted for in this data. Hence, I will not be using statistics as a basis for determining which side has the upper hand.

From an economic perspective, no one can disagree upon the vast benefits that migrants bring to both their host and native countries. Historically, nations like the United States, Australia and U.A.E were created out of mass movements of people. Openness to immigration brings in its wake new ideas, technologies and cultures that contribute immensely to innovation. Migrants expand the labor force to include cheap specialized labor that are a boon to businesses. Migrants also transfer funds in the form of remittances to their families back home and these funds enable families to spend money on healthcare, education, food etc.

On the other hand, a profusion of immigrants makes it harder for high wage domestic workers to fit into a competitive business framework. This invariably increases the unemployment rate of native workers. Countries such as France, Sweden and Germany are not alienated from this phenomenon. Furthermore, host nations face what is commonly referred to as ‘brain drain’,  where the exit of competent laborers hinders development and progress back home. What’s worse, countries that find themselves stuck in between as sources of both emigration and immigration, such as South Africa, have to address the problem of entering immigrants and brain drain. The issue is two fold for them.

There is also a sensitive side to this debate. As we all know, uprisings in crisis struck nations such as Syria and Iraq have left hundreds of thousands of refugees seeking refuge in other countries. Europe is a hotspot for this sort of influx. Of course, quite intuitively, you might think shutting the door on poverty stricken refugees would be considered immoral. But housing these refugees is not easy. Tax payers money that is supposed to be spent on social services for citizens is now being increasingly spent on the needs of the displaced. That is why many governments are becoming more and more adamant when it comes to catering to the needs of escapees.

Migration is inevitable, so the question really isn’t about whether migration is good or bad. What’s more important, is finding out how much of it we require so that the benefits transcend the costs. As of now, international migration is bringing in net benefit. Even its future prospects look healthy as ageing nations such as Japan will ultimately open it’s doors to introduce a younger and healthier workforce. What we must focus on now, is the fundamental problem of illegal migration. unorganized, illicit migration brings with it human trafficking, border issues and trade conducive to the black market. This migration does more harm than good.


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