More on Migrant Workers and Future Migrations
I was thrilled to have Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism use my post, “Migrant Farm Workers in the PIGS, America, and Elsewhere: Noting a Balance Sheet Correlation” as her lede news link on Thursday. Unfortunately, I thought the post might have the potential to generate many comments for a variety of reasons but so far has generated none. Imagine well over 1,000 page views by a quality reader base and not a single comment!???! I find that amazing. Perhaps the subject is too complex, involved, and overwhelming, one that has no answers, that it defies commenting. Or perhaps people are too afraid of being politically incorrect.
I had difficulty forming a conclusion to the article in regards to my observation about the strong correlation between debt levels of nations and states who utilized immigrant workers, myself. Since it was a gross simplification in observation was it only a mere coincidence? Or is it purely the inadequate politics of the “have/have not” societies of the Mediterranean climate regions in this world which somehow have a way of ending up this way? I was hoping someone would enlighten us with some insightful explanations. My own best conclusion is that this is no different from other problems we face, that it is primarily political.
So I’ll continue with this one-sided conversation.
I noticed three related articles over at Project Syndicate after I wrote the piece and want to point interested readers to them. Again, you’ll see that all of the writers of these articles are encouraging the migrant/immigrant worker advancement to be a positive happening. If, indeed, my insolvency observation has any merit, then they are all underestimating their statements about the short term costs to these nations and overestimating their long term gains. I don’t wish to reduce this subject to economics only, but, if one did do that, one might assume this is just another example of privatizing gains and publicizing losses? The future will be filled with millions of underprivileged desiring to migrate to other areas of the world as climate change progresses, so this subject requires some thinking and planning, not just the sweeping of it under the rug.
Of course, there are short-run, local costs to higher rates of migration that must be addressed if societies are to enjoy the much larger long-term benefits. And yet, despite domestic opposition in recipient countries, the number of international migrants has doubled over the past 25 years, and will double again by 2030. Rapid economic and political change – and, increasingly, environmental change – dislodges people and encourages them to seek opportunity and security in new homes.
Against the backdrop of rapid globalization, the individual risks and costs of moving internationally will continue to fall. The combination of the estimated increase in the world’s population by two billion people, lower transport costs, better connectivity, and growing transnational social and economic networks could and should lead to increased movement of people. If this process is allowed to take its course, it will stimulate global growth and serve to reduce poverty.
Europe, while afraid of illegal migration, needs foreign labor for its own demographic reasons – not least young engineers, technical staff, doctors, and health-care workers. Tunisia, Egypt, and the other Southern Mediterranean countries have an abundance of young people with degrees and no jobs, who often also need to acquire practical skills. This is most urgent for the Arab world’s baby boomers – those between 20 and 35. The next generation is already smaller.
Apart from EU citizens, who in theory are allowed to seek work anywhere in the Union (Romanian gypsies in France might argue otherwise), three other categories of people have been allowed to settle in Europe: former colonial subjects, such as Algerians in France, Indians and Pakistanis in Britain, or Surinamese in The Netherlands; “guest laborers” who arrived in the 1960’s and 1970’s; and political refugees, the so-called asylum-seekers. Unlike in Canada or the United States, economic immigrants are not allowed to become citizens in exchange for their necessary labor.
Immigrants – not “guest workers” – who come for work are more likely to want to integrate to some degree, and to be treated as fellow citizens, than people who come with the baggage of empire, or simply as refugees, or, worse, people pretending to be refugees because they have no other way to gain access to wealthy countries’ job markets. But European welfare states are better equipped to deal with asylum-seekers and other newcomers as needy dependents than as people in need of a job.