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Debate: Mass migration

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Is mass migration, especially from developing to developed countries, a good force?

Background and context

International migration can take place for economic as well as non-economic (e.g. political, religious) reasons. Since the end of World War II most international migration has been motivated by economic reasons - by the prospect of earning higher real wages and income abroad. The costs and benefits of foreign labor is one of the most controversial issues in international economics. Floods of asylum seekers created by wars are also a very pressing issue, particularly for the United States, Australia and the European Union. These governments have committed to ensuring the human rights of refugees through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and through other international agreements. However, today it appears that although bound by international conventions, governments find themselves unable to cope with more and more immigrants for economic and social reasons. Governments generally seek to make a distinction between welcoming asylum seekers fleeing war or persecution, and turning away economic migrants seeking better opportunities abroad, unless they are especially skilled or wealthy already. The attitude of the countries of origin for migrants varies. Some see it as an issue of political and social control and seek to prevent, or at least severely restrict, any emigration. Others allow it but have policies which, intentionally or otherwise, create disincentives for potential migrants, for example by making it illegal for non-residents to own property, making it hard for migrants to later return. Still others rely heavily upon the income generated by emigrants sending remittances back home.[1]

Contents

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Economics overall: Are there overall global economic benefits from migration?

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Yes

Free, market-driven migration leads toward a higher net productivity of labour in the world: Labour is a factor of production that is becoming more and more mobile in the age of globalization, especially with modern advances in transport facilities. It is only natural that labour is moving from areas where it cannot be used to the places where there is a big labour market. As for any factor of production, the effects on countries of immigration and emigration can be analysed mathematically. Such analyses prove that although output in the country of emigration decreases, it increases in the host country in a larger scale, thus counting for a net increase in the world output.[2]

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No

Contention that wealthy countries benefit most from migration (and need such benefits least), whereas poorer countries lose out: Economic migrants leave their countries not because they cannot find jobs but mainly because they are seeking higher income. Thus, they are only widening the gaps in their home countries’ labour markets, condemning them to further economic decline.Both economically and socially it is not sound to seek for an increase of some countries’ welfare, mostly the countries where the standard of living is already high, at the expense of underdeveloped countries. Thus, international labour migration further skews distribution of income in the world.[3]

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Home economies: Do the economies of home countries benefit from the migration of their natives abroad?

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Yes

Remittances benefit home economies: The higher real wages that migrant workers earn abroad and transfer to their families at home can be compared to dividends from successful capital investments. Migrants’ remittances to their families abroad and investments in their home country’s economy are all gains for a migrant’s native land. In some cases private investments from emigrants is worth 50% of these countries’ commodity export income.[4]

Home country save on health care and other social benefits because they are spent on a migrant by his host country.[5]

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No

Often migrants move with their families, so there cannot be any income for a home country. While the head of the family benefits a host country, his children and elderly parents become a burden on this country’s taxpayers. An unqualified illegal labour force lowers the real wages of local workers and makes the unemployment problem in their host country worse.We should instead attempt to improve the situation in poor countries rather than just allowing anyone with the drive to leave. This proposal will cause a brain drain of talent from the countries that most need it in order to build up their own economies condemning them to permanent underdevelopment. It will take away working age people from countries who already lack them because of AIDS and high birth rates. Further, it will distract from our real aim, which must be to build up the economies of poor countries through training and investment.[6]

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Destination economies: Do destination economies benefit from influxes of immigrants?

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Yes

International migration can bring new knowledge and technologies to some countries. For instance, the huge migration from Europe to America in the late 19th century did boost the growth rate in the US, and contributed to its economic take-off. Not only America, but also Australia and New Zealand emerged out of immigration flow. The reverse is also true, migrants returning from years or decades abroad often bring back with them money, along with new skills, knowledge and attitudes which can invigorate the economy of their country of origin.[7]

Inflows of low-paid migrants lowers the need for outsourcing: Outsourcing is largely driven by a demand to cut costs by paying workers less. This presumes that domestic sources of labor are too costly (wages are too high). Yet, because migrants are often willing to work for less, their influx can allow companies to hire them and avoid outsourcing. For those that see outsourcing as undesireable or harmful, migrants provide something of a solution.[8]

Immigrants are mainly of working age, which means they consume less of the services provided by the state, such as health care and education, and pay more in taxes: In the UK, Home Office research suggests that immigrants pay 2.5bn more in taxes than they take in benefits.[9]

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No

The success of immigrants in boosting the American economy was only possible thanks to a huge internal free, liberal market there at the time, and the plentiful availability of cheap land. However, since the 19th century economic realities in the world have changed a lot. A huge pool of unskilled labour is no longer crucial to economic success, and the domestic markets in developed countries are carefully divided among thousands of domestic and foreign producers. Furthermore, the immigrants that come to the US and western European countries now are mostly uneducated people who cannot contribute new technologies or special knowledge, and who do not try to integrate into their host culture.[10]

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Migrants: Do migrants benefit from open borders?

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Yes

International migration is beneficial because it brings workers to where infrastructure and knowledge are:

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No

What is good for poor countries and the global economy is sound trading practice and investment in Less Developed Countries. This is explicitly to be reduced if poor workers are to come to the Western world. The reason that multinational companies are engaged in a lobby for a free market in labour is because they are engaged in a ‘race to the bottom’ in search of the cheapest labour.[11]

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Crime: Is cross-border crime increased as a side-effect of increased border barriers?

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Yes

People smuggling is now a massive illegal operation, second only to the drug trade, and its gangs also operate prostitution rings, protection rackets, and forced labour, and are linked to drug smuggling and terrorism.[12]

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No

Unless borders are thrown open completely and total freedom of movement is allowed, there will always be attempts to enter countries illegally, with unpleasant consequences. Better enforcement and stronger international cooperation could greatly reduce the extent of these problems, without giving up a reasonable policy which enjoys widespread public backing. In particular, more support from the developed world for developing countries could do much to reduce the civil wars, oppressive regimes and poverty that do much to drive immigrants abroad. The argument that many immigrants would stay only temporarily in their host countries if they had a more secure status relates only to a few migrants; most are likely to stay permanently and to seek instead to bring their relatives over to join them in the longer term.[13]


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Migrant risks: Do more migrants die per year due to increased border barrier measures?

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Yes

Many would-be migrants die taking desperate risks in an effort to reach their goal

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No

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Trade: Do heavy migratory restrictions damage trade and trade relations between countries?

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Yes

Many countries are taking increasingly expensive and illiberal measures to enhance their border security, with a negative impact upon trade and legitimate travel.[14]

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No

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Returning home: Do barriers prevent "successful" illegal immigrants from returning home? Should this be a consideration?

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Yes

Many studies show that most migrants would prefer their stay in the developed world to be temporary, but their illegal status deters them from visiting and maintaining contacts at home, so their stay becomes permanent.[15]

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No

Click on the pencil icon and research and write arguments here

References:

Motions:

  • This House calls for more immigration
  • This House would welcome migrants
  • This House believes that rich countries should live up to their international responsibilities towards asylum seekers
  • This House calls for open borders

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also on Debatepedia:

External links and resources:

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