28 October 2005

The future of (international) migration

"The primary reason there is not more migration is that the citizens of the industrialized world don’t want it."
[Lant Pritchett, economist]

Let’s face it, international migration takes place because people from poor nations move to the rich industrialised nations. Considering the number of poor nations in the world – and the billions of people who suffer there – by now, we ought to have seen international migration in larger numbers. Then, why don’t we?

According to one school of thought, that’s because forces of mass migration face opposition – in, at least, three different ways. Some people in industrialised nations believe that their own poor will suffer if they allowed in immigrants as cheap labour. Some others believe that trade in goods is sufficient to create a convergence of incomes worldwide. Even others believe that sending enough aid to poor countries will forestall increasing migration.

Is there any evidence to support this? Economist Lant Pritchett is not so sure. He believes, sooner or later, politicians and heads of states will take steps to develop a domestic and international migration regime. The idea behind it being prevention – or, at least, stemming – of population migration. How will this work? I don’t know yet, but it is likely that the anti-migration sentiments of the rich ‘receiving’ countries will play an important part in stemming the population influx.

In a November 2003 article titled, The Future of Migration, a 2-part series from YaleGlobal, Pritchett writes, "Technically, migration is prevented by people with guns. It is the threat of violence that prevents people from crossing borders to take advantage of the economic opportunities. In nearly all industrialized countries (the preferred destinations of migrants) the people with guns are employed by a democratic government, a government which usually represents the preferences of its citizens. Thus, the primary reason there is not more migration is that the citizens of the industrialized world don’t want it."

Pritchett goes on to dispel several myths about migration increase and control, including those beliefs cited earlier in this post, holding his fort with fairly sound reasoning. Of course, he states, the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) have their tasks cut out as well: to halve poverty, ensure universal completion of primary schooling, and reduce infant mortality by two-thirds before 2015. The question is, will the MDGs be achieved in every country? And, what if they aren’t?

Once again, Lant Pritchett comes up with a proposition. But don’t take my word for it; read his article on The Future of Migration and find out.

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