How Good Migration Policies Can Benefit Everyone


SEATTLE — When it comes to ubiquitous issues, few are of greater consequence than migration. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 65.3 million people fled their home countries in 2015. Because the number of refugees and migrants surpassed 60 million for the first time in history, the adoption of good migration policies is of critical importance.

While politicians around the world use this crisis to leverage their campaigns, millions of people are trapped in war-torn nations or must leave their countries to find reliable work. Of the 65.3 million people displaced last year, 12.4 million left due to conflict and threat of persecution.

What receives little attention, however, are the benefits of migration for recipient nations. Protection from conflict is the most immediate priority when it comes to dealing with a diaspora. Beyond that, human rights issues and global poverty can be addressed in a more nuanced way when more countries adopt solid migration policies.

According to the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), there are economic, educational and demographical benefits to adopting better immigration policies.

Border fluidity in recipient nations often leaves a positive ripple effect in its wake. First, there is the most obvious benefit of providing at-risk populations with refuge from corrupt or violent regimes.

Economic benefits include filling skills gaps across employment levels and alleviating the pension gap through the introduction of more tax payers and laborers.

Laura Thompson, Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), stated in a 2014 speech that, “Highly skilled migrants and diversity in the workplace positively affect work productivity in recipient countries. Diversity…makes countries more productive and richer in the long run.”

Canada is a great example of how recipient nations can benefit from increased immigration in that regard. The nation does a great job of integrating new citizens, so foreign laborers of all skill levels flock to Canada because it has a highly efficient labor market.

This influx over the last six years had major demographic benefits. In 2012, Canada experienced a 1.2 percent increase in population, with immigrants responsible for two-thirds of that growth.

Their role in the country’s expansion is important because they effectively remedied the decline of Canada’s working population, which consists of people between ages 20 and 44. This demographic shift bolstered the economy.

Rutgers University Economics professor Jennifer Hunt argues that because the presence of immigrants typically contributes to larger wage gaps, education reaps indirect benefits.

“Compared to natives, immigrants to the U.S. are either disproportionately poorly educated or, to some extent, disproportionately highly educated. The effect of immigrants entering the labor market should, therefore, be to increase wage inequality,” she said.

When there are shifts in that spectrum, particularly on the lower end, more students are incentivized to finish high school and attend college. A pursuit of higher education leads to the creation of a skilled workforce.

In her words, “The net effect of the changes in the wage structure are likely to increase the wage benefit associated with completing high school, and hence native completion rates.”

In an almost cyclical way, immigrants then fill skills gaps for necessary, lower-level jobs when more people pursue post-collegiate careers.

The CGD recently released a report about which countries have the most effective migration policies. The top five in descending order are New Zealand, Norway, Australia, Canada and Sweden.

To reach these conclusions, CGD scholars looked at each country’s willingness to take in migrants from the developing world, how they integrated those people upon entry and how inclined the nation is to participate in conventions about the migration crisis.

From there, the researchers also measured intake of asylum seekers, migrants from the developing world and refugees against each nation’s population. Australia and New Zealand boast the highest ratios of at-risk migrants to nationals.

Using data collected from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), researchers found that Sweden and Canada do the most work to prioritize strong integration policies. MIPEX works from a basis of 167 indicators including education, health and political participation.

The tool then calculates how effectively countries enact policy to benefit immigrants based on those indicators.

Tracking this type of progress does not stop at national rankings. When experts parse out the methodology used to create successful programs and policies for migrants, those methods can then be modified and implemented elsewhere.

While the adoption of strong migration policies might seem like it offers one-sided aid to those leaving their origin countries, recipient nations often reap educational and economic benefits.

However, it is important to note that not every country has the resources to offer comprehensive accommodation like the CGD’s top five. Still, experts argue that studying these successes will ultimately help nations that are falling short.

According to CGD analysts Owen Barder and Petra Krylova, “Looking at the fine detail of countries’ policies can help us understand where there might be room for improvement, and help us to identify inspiring examples of countries that do this well.” When leaders work hard to improve the lives of immigrants, they help their own nations in return.

Madeline Distasio

Photo: Flickr


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