sábado, 12 de abril de 2008

MIGRATION: You don't have to be rich

Developing countries attract migrants too

THE complaints sound familiar. Foreigners steal our jobs. Aliens cause a rise in crime. The corrupt interior ministry cannot cope. The border is ineffective and deporting illegal migrants does not work: removed by train, they return on foot. Outsiders put a strain on housing, especially for the poor, and on hospitals and schools. But employers do not care: farmers want cheap labour, and rich families need skilful foreign gardeners and housekeepers.

Reuters Turfed out of Little London

Residents of Soweto, or other urban areas in South Africa, are likely to grumble about foreigners in the same way as in rich countries. The makwerekwere, as African foreigners are insultingly known, are attracted by South Africa's relative wealth. Some Tanzanians talk longingly of Johannesburg as “Little London”. One in four Little Londoners may now be a foreigner. Zimbabwean teachers, forced out by hunger and repression, work as security guards and shop assistants. Congolese lawyers toil as waiters and chefs.

In 2005 two World Bank researchers, Mr Ratha and William Shaw, estimated that two in five migrants—about 78m people—were outside rich countries. But who in the poor world is counting? South Africa's government does not know how many foreigners it has (2m? 5m? more?). Mexico, India or Turkey cannot be sure either. Total numbers are skewed by those displaced by the collapse of the Soviet Union or who became de facto migrants when borders moved.

Ms Newland of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, says the flows between poor and mid-income countries are huge but “desperately understudied”. One reason why outsiders pay little attention is that most poor migrants do not move far. Roughly half of all South-East Asian migrants are thought to have remained in the neighbourhood, and nearly two-thirds of migrants from eastern Europe and Central Asia have stayed in their own region. Nearly 70% of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa remain on their continent. West African countries do not limit immigration from their neighbours, so lots of people cross borders, for example from Ghana to oil-rich Nigeria.

Some middle-income countries, such as Morocco, Mexico, Turkey and Libya, are well-trodden transit routes with migrant populations of their own. A senior civil servant in Morocco laments that his country is “between the hammer and the anvil” of Africa and Europe. Others, like India, Russia, South Africa and Argentina, are destinations in their own right. With all this come the same opportunities and threats as in the rich world. Chile imports doctors and maids from Peru, raising worries about a brain drain. Zambians fret about an invasion by Chinese, whose numbers in Africa are said to be between 80,000 to 400,000, many in oil-rich countries such as Sudan, Nigeria and Angola.

Remittances from one low-income country to another probably help to cut poverty. A 2006 study of 4,700 households by the Southern African Migration Project found that 40% of Zimbabwean households received some money from this source. How much is hard to measure, but a World Bank estimate for 2006 gives a range for remittances among poor countries of $17 billion-55 billion.

Some middle-income countries are extraordinarily welcoming. Venezuela, awash with oil revenues, even allows Colombians to use its social-welfare system. Argentina has lifted most restrictions on immigration from South America, again guaranteeing access to public health and education, even for illegal migrants. But many other countries show signs of xenophobia. On one occasion a newspaper in Morocco gave warning that “black locusts”—African migrants—were invading. Russian authorities, especially in Moscow, regularly throw out traders from Georgia and elsewhere in the Caucasus. Libya occasionally expels African migrants.

Many poor people are drawn to somewhat less poor countries in the hope of finding work, just as they are to rich countries. But with war, repression and economic collapse, push factors are much stronger in the poor world. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, and the violence since, has uprooted more than 4m Iraqis. Some 95% of them have remained in the Middle East, including 2m in hard-pressed Jordan and Syria. Sweden, with an admirable history of taking in refugees, has welcomed 23,600 Iraqis, but few other rich countries have followed suit. Some of the displaced are beginning to return home. Since the Taliban were booted from power in 2001, Afghanistan has seen the voluntary return of at least 3.2m people from Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere.

Climate of fear

Could a changing climate cause similarly big ebbs and flows? Scientists agree that average temperatures are likely to rise significantly by the end of this century. Rainfall patterns are already shifting. Those in marginal areas, for example on the edges of deserts, will suffer most, along with those in countries with the least resources to adapt. The sea is also rising, which might mean floods on vulnerable coasts. Some 12% of Africa's urban population, and 18% of Asia's, live in low-lying coastal zones and may be exposed to extreme weather or floods. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested in 2007 that millions may face water shortages, hunger and flooding as a result of climate shifts. Some would migrate, although probably over a period of time.

Environmental change has already set off some migration. Because the Sahel region gets much less rain than it did a century ago, farmers in Mali are moving to the cities. According to the UN Environment Programme, over the past four decades the desert in Sudan has crept south by about 100km and forests have disappeared. Rainfall in north Darfur, in Sudan, has dropped by a third over the past 80 years.

All this has displaced people and, some believe, encouraged war. Morocco's government is anxious about it. “There is a direct impact on migration. You see people leaving sub-Saharan Africa in search of more habitable land,” says Mr Ameur, the minister for Moroccans abroad. Abdelhay Moudden, a migration expert in Rabat, suggests that the first to leave may be struggling farmers: “If the urban economy cannot absorb them, then it may also push international migration.”

A 2005 report by the Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn suggested that rising seas and extreme weather, among other things, could uproot 150m people by 2050. Ms Newland of the Migration Policy Institute cautions against talking up the figures, but thinks that if drought and rising temperatures cause crop yields to fall in, say, the Sahel, they will probably encourage migration. If climate change were to cause wars or spread disease, that could compound the effects. Another reason, then, to switch to low-energy light bulbs.

MIGRATION: Of bedsheets and bison grass vodka

Rich economies gain from high levels of migration, but the benefits are unevenly spread

FOR the past two decades or so, high rates of immigration into OECD countries have coincided with prolonged economic growth in much of the Western world. Consider Cobh, a bustling tourist town in southern Ireland which used to be famous for exporting people. Some 2.5m Irishmen and women embarked for America from its quayside, and its great and gloomy neo-gothic cathedral was paid for by remittances.

Reuters They need her

Now, like the rest of Ireland, Cobh heaves with foreign workers. There are Poles on building sites, Latvians who own a shop selling dumplings, sauerkraut and other continental delicacies, a South African in the tourist office and another driving a taxi, Chinese in restaurants, a Bangladeshi managing a fishing business, and so on. A hotel owner says that he could not do without the migrants: when he recently advertised for a receptionist, none of the 200 applicants was Irish.

Migration can be both a consequence and a cause of economic well-being, but many people in host countries with lots of migrants have yet to be convinced of the economic benefits. A poll in November 2007, for France 24, found that 55% of Spaniards consider migrants a boon for their economy, and so do 50% of Italians, but only 42% of Britons and Germans and a mere 30% of French respondents.

Some of the hostility towards immigration seems linked to worries about the economy. If recession looms, locals are more afraid that outsiders will take their jobs or scrounge on their welfare systems. The last time that immigration in America was as high as it is now, just under a century ago, xenophobia rose as recession took hold. Today, amid concerns that a housing slide could lead to a general economic slump, American anxiety about migration is rising again. But the poor worry about immigration even when the economy is thriving.

Legal migrants usually have better job prospects than illegal ones, and the more educated outdo the rest. Not all of them stay. Nearly a third of those who crossed the Atlantic to America between 1890 and 1914—and as many as half the Spaniards and Italians—re-emigrated. Similarly, surveys today show that a majority of Poles in Britain plan to go home within a few years.

Some migrants do better not only than those left behind but also than those in their destination countries. The Institute for Public Policy Research, a British think-tank, found in 2007 that the foreign-born of many ethnic groups are both more likely to have a job and to be better paid than the average Briton. In America, over the past century, studies have shown migrants' wages catching up with, and then often surpassing, those of average Americans. Migrants' children do well too. This is not surprising. Migrants need health, skills, determination, a willingness to take risks and some entrepreneurial nous to take the plunge, which marks them out as special people.

Assuming that migrants are in work, they are bound to benefit the economy of the host country as a whole. Most simply, an expanding workforce permits faster growth. More people can do more work, and many migrants are young adults who are particularly productive. Moreover, migrants increasingly alleviate specific labour shortages in rich economies. Some economies could not function without foreign workers. In the United Arab Emirates, for instance, they make up an astonishing 85% of the population.

For the moment few other countries rely so heavily on outsiders (see chart 2), but in a number of rich countries, including Britain and America, foreigners typically make up 10-15% of the labour force and their share is rising. Around half of the new jobs created in Britain today are filled by migrants, often because they have skills that locals lack (from plumbing to banking) or because natives scorn the work (from picking fruit to caring for the elderly).

Low jobless rates in Ireland, Sweden, Britain, America and other countries with high migration suggest that, so far, foreigners are not squeezing out natives. Migrants also help to create jobs, because a good supply of labour encourages those with capital to invest more. For example, the hotel owner in Cobh, knowing he can find affordable staff, has added an extension with extra rooms. In contrast, countries where migrants have been kept at arm's length, such as Germany, complain about a chronic shortage of skilled workers such as engineers, scientists or programmers.

Just say the word

Foreign workers are often more flexible than native ones, too. Having already moved from Mexico to California, say, they are probably willing to take a job in Chicago. Migrant labour helps to keep economies on an even keel. At times of strong growth, an influx of workers reduces the risk of wage pressures and rising inflation. If growth weakens, migrants can go home or move to another country, or choose not to come in the first place. For example, the flow of Mexicans to America is probably slowing as the housing slump worsens and construction jobs disappear.

Migrants can also release skilled natives to do a job (for example by providing child care that allows a parent to go back to work). And they are consumers, too, renting accommodation and buying goods and services. The owner of the off-licence in Cobh is delighted by his Polish customers, who are fond of bison grass vodka and east European lager. Cobh's supermarket, fast-food restaurants and other shops are flourishing too.

Quantifying the impact of all this is tricky. A 2007 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that a surge in migration has helped to lift Britain's growth rate above its long-term trend. Alexandros Zavos, of the Hellenic Migration Policy Institute in Athens, reckons that immigration into Greece has recently added as much as 1.5-2.0% to its GDP every year. For countries that have long had high rates of immigration, such as America, sustained economic growth partly reflects an ever-growing workforce.

Sceptics say that migration may boost the economy as a whole, but on a per-head basis the benefits for the natives are less impressive. Migrationwatch, an anti-migration group in Britain, reckons that for the average Briton the inflow of foreigners provides just a few extra pence a week. Roy Beck, an anti-immigrant activist in America, suggests that countries with ageing workforces should try to make their economies less labour-dependent. His country is “addicted to foreign labour”, he says, and more capital investment and more training for locals would reduce the need for foreign workers. But some jobs (such as cleaning or nursing) cannot be sent abroad or mechanised. And even if more natives can be trained to do highly skilled work, shrinking native workforces in many countries could mean economic contraction.

Some of the sceptics' arguments touch raw political nerves, particularly when it comes to the least well-off natives in the host country. In America the share of national income that is going to the poorest has been shrinking in recent decades. Inequality has increased and the real wages of the least skilled have fallen. Circumstantial evidence suggests that foreigners, who typically work in less skilled jobs, might be partly to blame. According to one estimate, they make up around 28% of legal construction workers in America and over a third of maids and housekeepers. If the illegal workers could be counted, the figures would probably be much higher still.

Cheap and cheerful

Do migrants make life worse for poor natives? Studies comparing wages in American cities with and without lots of foreigners suggest that they make little difference to the income of the poorest. George Borjas of Harvard University, who compared wages for different kinds of jobs where migrants most obviously compete with natives, estimated that immigration in America in the two decades to 2000 may have kept wages 3% lower than they would otherwise have been. For the least skilled the difference may have been as much as 8%. But Mr Borjas also calculated how a rise in the number of migrants might have encouraged the creation of jobs, which reduced the impact on wages.

This tallies with the outcome of natural experiments in recent history, such as the influx of 610,000 Russian Jews into Israel in the early 1990s, the return of 900,000 Frenchmen from Algeria in 1962 or the homecoming of 600,000 Portuguese after the collapse of their empire in Africa in 1974-76. Each time the influx of workers expanded the workforce and wages dropped slightly, but subsequently recovered. Given prolonged immigration, argues Steven Camorata of the Centre for Immigration Studies, the impact is sustained. He thinks that “it's the poorest 10% [of Americans] who seem to lose out, cutting their wages by perhaps 5%.”

Worse, say the sceptics, migration may limit poor natives' chances of moving up to better-paid jobs. With changing economies that reward skills, it is anyway getting harder to move up the ladder from low-wage jobs to better-paid ones. Now migrants, especially those with skills and drive, are making life even harder for the weakest natives.

A second worry is that migrants will put a strain on public services and the tax system. It is in schools, public housing and doctors' surgeries that natives come face to face with migrants and it is often at the local and state level, where responsibility for such services usually lies, that hostility to migrants seems strongest. Local councils in Britain complain that clinics and schools are overloaded and central government is slow to dish out help, and local police in areas with many immigrants blame foreigners for a rise in crime.

In Greece, as new illegal immigrants arrive at remote spots on the border, officials complain that they lack funds for policing and social services. The prefect of Samos laments that “we are given a short bedsheet to cover our body.” In America hostility to migrants is greatest where they have recently been arriving in large numbers, not where their absolute numbers are highest (near the borders or in big cities, such as New York). Several states have passed tough new laws banning illegal migrants from using their public services.

But crowding, although likely to cause resentment, results from the unexpected arrival of those migrants, with bureaucracies taking time to allocate resources to the right places. In itself, it does not prove that migrants are a drag on public services as a whole. Indeed, migrants often make a large contribution to the public purse. When a foreign worker first arrives, usually as a young adult, fully educated and in good health, he makes few demands on schools or clinics. A legal immigrant will pay taxes just like any native; even an illegal one will contribute something (if only through the tax on those bottles of bison grass vodka). If the immigrant stays on (and quite a few do not), the benefits will diminish as he ages, but at least he has given his host country a breathing space.

To complicate matters, highly skilled migrants contribute much more to tax and social-security systems than do less skilled ones. A study in America by the National Research Council suggests that migrants with an education beyond high school contribute an average of $105,000 to the tax coffers over their lifetime. By contrast, the least educated migrants are reckoned to leave the taxman with a $89,000 hole. But migrants as a whole, in the long term and counting the contribution of their children when they grow up and get jobs,are not a drain on public services. For rich countries with ageing workforces in particular, gains from importing the young, the energetic and those willing to take risks comfortably outweigh the costs.


Despite a growing backlash, the boom in migration has been mostly good for both sending and recipient countries, says Adam Roberts (interviewed here)

ENOCH POWELL had a point. The Conservative British politician gave warning, nearly four decades ago, that immigrants were causing such strife that “like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.” That proved to be nonsense, as did his advice that migrants should be encouraged to leave. Had they done so, Britain and other rich countries that depend heavily on foreign labour would be in a dreadful state. But one prediction he made was spot on: that by about now, one in ten people in Britain would be migrants. And indeed, at the last count in 2005, the foreign-born made up 9.7% of the British population.

By historical standards, that is high. It is a lot more than a decade ago, and the trend is resolutely upwards. Yet it is not dissimilar to that in many other rich countries, which have mostly seen equally rapid increases. And it is still lower than in America, where the proportion is now about 13%, not far off the 15% peak reached just before the first world war, in the previous great era of migration. What is particularly striking in Europe is that many countries which until recently had known only emigration, such as Ireland or Greece, are now seeing the sort of influx more typical of countries such as Australia and America.

This special report will argue that both emigration and immigration countries, as well as the migrants themselves, have been coping remarkably well with this new force that is reshaping our world. Yet there are now signs of a serious backlash against immigration on both sides of the Atlantic. In 2007 activists in America smashed a bill to make immigration easier that had the backing of the president and the leaders of both big parties in Congress. In France, Nicolas Sarkozy won the presidential elections partly thanks to his anti-migrant rhetoric. But this is still a far cry from Mr Powell's doom-mongering.

Politicians in rich countries may tinker with migration policies. They will certainly, under public pressure, put extra resources and energy into building more fences and walls to keep people out. And by making a connection between immigration and terrorism, they may cause their societies to become more heavily policed. But the basic forces driving migration are unlikely to ebb.

Counting the ways

People who cross international borders are often categorised by their motives, and some of these categories are seen as less desirable than others. Most migrants move for economic reasons, many in search of jobs, some to be united with relatives. Most appear to be doing so legally. America in 2002-06 allowed in an average of just over 1m legal immigrants a year who planned to settle permanently, more than half of them sponsored by relatives. Another 320,000 a year entered temporarily.

The number of illegal migrants is by definition hard to ascertain, but likely to be smaller than the legal sort. The illegals also go for economic reasons, and they probably make up the bulk of people seen floating on rafts in the Mediterranean or scrabbling over the fence from Mexico to America. Many illegal migrants do not risk the high seas or physical borders but instead enter under some other guise, perhaps as tourists, and then stay on. In that same period of 2002-06, America's population is thought to have seen a net gain of 500,000 illegal migrants every year. Within the European Union it has become impossible to keep a tally because people can move legally among most of the member countries without asking anyone. Britain, as an island, should find it easier than most to know how many foreigners it has allowed in, but its statistics on migrants have recently turned out to be way off the mark.

Lastly, there are refugees and asylum-seekers, strictly defined as those escaping persecution but often including anybody forced to flee, for example from a war. According to the UN's refugee agency, at the close of 2006 some 10m people fell into this category. Many go through legal channels, applying for refugee status and then asylum. But others join illegal migrants in trying to reach host countries by raft or by jumping over a fence. Genuine refugees may have no alternative.

The 200m question

The number of migrants in the world today, both legal and illegal, is thought to total perhaps 200m (though many of the figures, even those used by governments, are at best educated guesses). That sounds a lot, but it adds up to only 3% of the world's population, so there is great potential for growth. Migration has turned out to be a successful strategy for the world's poor to make their lives a little better. Nor is it the very poorest who travel. You need money to move to another part of the world. Thus as Africa, China and other emerging countries become less poor, many more people can aspire to travel in search of a better life.

In the 100 years to 1920, such prospects encouraged some 60m Europeans to uproot themselves and move to the New World. A European who crossed the Atlantic could expect to double his income. Today the incentives are even more enticing. Those who move from a poor country to a rich one can expect to see their income rise fivefold or more. As long as such differentials persist, the draw will continue.

These days, too, demography is playing a big part in migration. Not every migrant is aiming for America or Europe: perhaps two in every five move to another poor or middle-income country. But those who go to the richest parts of the world do their inhabitants a favour. Without migrants, the greying and increasingly choosy populations in much of the rich world would already be on the decline today. That matters for their fast-changing economies, which increasingly demand either highly skilled workers or people willing to do unpleasant and tiring jobs.

One reason why much of the world has enjoyed a sustained economic boom with low inflation in the past decade is that the effective global workforce is expanding so fast. The IMF says it has quadrupled since 1980 as China and India have plugged their huge young populations into the world economy. It is likely to keep on growing, though at a slower pace, with a 40% increase in the world's working-age population forecast by 2050. According to the UN,the global stock of migrants has more than doubled in the past four decades. Not enough young natives have the right skills or motivation, so the rich must hope that outsiders will keep coming.

And they will. Luckily for Europe and America, there are huge pools of eager workers ready to jump on the next plane, train or leaking raft to work abroad. This can be beneficial for their home countries as well, at least as long as the population is growing fast. The IMF says that emigration from Belize, El Salvador, Guyana and Jamaica, for example, may have led to higher wages and less poverty. Some Chinese from the heavily populated east coast are moving out, despite a fast-growing economy. Researchers in Africa report a recent rapid inflow of Chinese workers.

If exporting brawn generally makes sense for a poor country, sending its better brains away may not. Most, perhaps all, poor and middle-income countries face chronic shortages of skilled workers. In South Africa, although universities churn out graduates at a fast clip, many well-qualified people promptly depart for Britain or Australia, leaving tens of thousands of jobs unfilled at home. In Morocco those with science and engineering degrees, computer skills and languages go to France, the Netherlands and Canada, whereas the students of literature and public administration stay at home. Professor Mohamed Khachami, of AMERM, a migration think-tank in Rabat, laments that his country lacks people to build better internet connections, yet Paris now has an association for Moroccan IT engineers. Hospitals and clinics in southern Africa struggle to cope with huge public-health problems as doctors and nurses pack their bags for jobs in the Gulf, Europe and elsewhere. It is a similar story for schools.

Those in demand abroad are the hardest people to keep at home. Some European countries tried, and failed, to stop artisans emigrating to America in the early 19th century. In fact it is almost impossible to block the exit for the highly skilled if the lure is strong enough. Small countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad and Senegal have seen half to three-quarters of all their graduates move abroad.

Rich countries have taken in more highly skilled migrants than ever before. The World Bank looked at a sample drawn from 52m migrants in 20 rich countries in 2000 and found that 36% of them had a college education, a sharp rise on a decade earlier. Yet emigration of skilled workers may be a consequence rather than a cause of problems in the sending country. For example, nurses may be quitting Malawi because their salaries are not being paid or because hospitals are crumbling; entrepreneurs may be moving abroad because the business climate back home is wretched. Stopping emigration, even if you could, would not solve the problems. The nurses might still leave their jobs, the would-be entrepreneur might sit on his hands.

Indeed, some argue that emigration can help to add to the stock of brainpower. Migrants who go abroad may spend more time studying, pick up more skills and experience and then bring them all home again. Remittances are often used to fund schooling. And the prospect of emigration and prosperity abroad may be an inducement for many more to get an education. All this suggests that the consequences of skilled emigration are difficult to calculate, even if they are not negligible.

Governments of sending countries would do well to tackle whatever factors are pushing their skilled people out in the first place. Malawi, which exports a lot of nurses, should of course worry that it lacks medical staff. It is said that there are more Malawian nurses in Manchester than back home. But, perhaps with donors' help, more investment in public health could be combined with a strategy of training many more nurses than are needed, allowing for future emigration and the other benefits that brings. If migrants can be tempted back home, even for short spells, all the better. Ghana, for example, has raised wages for some medical staff and offered incentives to the highest-skilled to come back. Money is not the only concern: staff are also allowed parts of the year to work abroad, giving a boost to their careers.

There is no guarantee that migration will carry on at record rates. It is possible to seal borders tightly enough to keep more people out if those inside are ready to pay the price. An earlier period of great migration came to an end, for example, when America some 90 years ago shut its doors to immigrants for a while.

But easier movement of capital and goods has helped to make the world a much richer place in the past decade or two, and more human mobility has both created wealth and helped to share it out more equally. The billions sent around the world in remittances each year is testimony to that. The price of keeping people out would be high.

And unexpected things keep happening. Wars can suddenly displace millions of people who may start off as refugees but end up as migrants. Some people think that climate change might force tens of millions of people to get moving within just a few decades. Misguided policies, a backlash over terrorism or a failure to integrate migrants could all cause serious problems. All the same, it seems clear, 40 years on, that Mr Powell got everything but his sums completely wrong.