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Bibliothèque Copenhagen Consensus: challenge paper on population and migration

Copenhagen Consensus: challenge paper on population and migration

Copenhagen Consensus: challenge paper on population and migration

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Date of publication
Décembre 2003
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Many countries receiving migrants are attempting to manage immigration by discouraging potential migrants through tighter controls and restrictions of benefits. This paper argues that this is not an optimal solution. Rather, the overall goal is to create a world in which migration is unnecessary because sufficient opportunity exists at home. The majority of people do not migrate, and they will only enjoy higher incomes if their countries prosper. The challenge is to ensure that the migration of the exceptional few also improves conditions for those who stay behind.The paper finds that global GDP is increased by the higher incomes received by most migrant workers. Receiving countries also receive a small net benefit to their economies. Countries of origin benefit significantly from remittances and, in some cases, the return of migrants to their native land.Three opportunities to ensure that migration aids more people are assessed in the paper, all of which could be implemented in the next 5 to 15 years. The paper argues that these would each raise the benefits and reduce the costs of migration, most of which would probably occur anyway. They include:active selection systems to allow in those foreigners who are most likely to succeed. This would reduce fears of immigration and allow wider entry channels to be opened for skilled workers and professionals. To ensure that the local labour pool is properly searched in this demand-based system, employers could be required to pay a fee to employ migrants. The mechanism for the liberalisation of the temporary movement of workers (initially professionals, later unskilled) on a global basis, would be a visa issued under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Two potential downsides to these procedures would be that the already high costs of curbing unwanted and unlawful immigration may rise and selecting the brightest and best from developing countries could increase inequality and migration pressures. Some compensatory mechanism, such as exit taxes or continued taxation of migrants by their countries of origin, might alleviate thiswidening legal entry channels for unskilled guest workers, together with encouragement to return to their countries of origin. This would provide temporary labour without permanent settlement. Potential mechanisms include encouraging short-term legal employment through appropriate tax and subsidy regimes, repaying migrant workers' social security payments when they return to their countries of origin, and having irregular workers earn legal status by registering and completing employment and tax requirementsusing the 3 R's of migration (recruitment, remittances and returns) to accelerate growth over time. Benefits from the 3 R's would be maximised if countries adopted economic policies likely to foster growth. These would include developing countries setting realistic exchange rates and trade liberalisation, where host countries ceased protecting their uncompetitive agricultural industries.The paper concludes that the benefits of migration (higher incomes) are immediate and easy to see; the costs are delayed and very difficult to estimate. The opportunities listed above, however, would allow the realisation of more benefits from migration, reducing inequalities between countries in the longer term. Lowering barriers to migration should rank very high on the global list of challenges. [adapted from author]

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P. Martin

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