“We have our mobile phones, but we have no children.”
This is a quote by Italy’s finance minister, Giulio Tremonti, in a book called “Fear and Hope”(cf. The Economist here).
Political unrest in Tunisia and Libya have in the current year brought a particularly high number of African migrants to the Italian shores which has resulted in repeated debates related to migration policies within the European Union.
As I am interested in globalization and in migratory issues, I decided to dedicate today’s blog post to “the people from abroad”. In order to narrow this wide topic, I first of all asked myself a couple of preliminary questions: Why does migration take place in the first place? Who can benefit from migration? The home countries or the host countries? Which impact does migration have from the business perspective? How is migration perceived? I typed in my first question into Google and was immediately directed to a page called Yahoo! UK & Ireland Answers.
I found all kinds of answers to the question: When did immigration start?
Among my favorites are the following ones:
“When Adam and Eve left the Garden…” (by a user called DAR)
“Human migration has been going on for about as long as there have been humans. Immigration and emigration have presumably been going on for as long as the world has been divided into nation states.” (by a user called lauriekins)
According to my personal belief, the reasons for migratory movements can vary greatly. On the one hand, they might be caused by wars, political unrest, harsh and poor living conditions or natural catastrophes. On the other hand, there might be inter-cultural marriage, work or study experiences involved. Regardless of the reason, humans mostly strive to improve or change their living conditions by switching countries.
When further searching the web, I came across a couple of interesting articles published in The Economist, dealing with my second question. Who can benefit from migration? After having read the articles “The future of mobility” and “Drain or gain?”, I came to the conclusion that both the home country AND the host country can benefit from migratory processes. The author of the first just mentioned article states that migration can be regarded as being “the most effective tool […] for reducing global poverty”.
Even though many developing countries fear losing their best brains to migration, the remittances the immigrants send home flow straight into their home country’s economy. Furthermore, the departure of skilled workforce may help other workers in the country of origin who otherwise would have been unemployed. Immigration is also considered to contribute to the home economy since many people might return home after some time, having acquired remarkable skills abroad, having built up networks and saved up money to invest in their countries of origin. It can equally serve as a motivating factor due to the fact that the possibility of emigrating may be an incentive to people in poor countries to invest in education.
At this point, I would like to mention COLFUTURO, a Colombian scholarship-program financing the cost of study abroad programs and in turn expecting Colombian students to return home after their stay abroad and contribute to the economic and social development of Colombia.
Education can thus clearly be considered as a key element linked to migration.
Furthermore, the author of “The future of mobility” mentions that “immigration is unpopular in rich countries because people overestimate its costs and underestimate its benefits”. Opposed to the common belief of immigrants “taking away” the locals’ jobs, he goes on stating that migrants often create employment possibilities for the native population, e. g. by opening up new firms.
This aspect is closely linked to my next question concerning the impact of migration from the business perspective. Aren’t most rich countries experiencing a significant decline in birth rates and thus labor force which would favor immigrant workforce and fertility to help compensating the effect of such an aging population?
The article with the title “Benvenuto, up to a point“ (cf. The Economist) points out that “without immigration, [Italy’s] population would have declined by 75,000 in 2009, […]. With it, the population grew by a modest 295,000.”
It is also mentioned that there is a special need for labor force since, compared to other European countries, only a small number of Italian women return to work after having had children. Immigrant women, on the other hand, often work as nannies and thus enable young mothers to return to the labor market.
When it comes to how immigrants are perceived in society, Thomas Liebig, who works for the OECD’s International Migration Division in Paris, states that “public opinion in virtually all European OECD countries sees [the immigrants’ willingness to integrate into the host society] as a more important criterion for selection than immigrants’ skills”. He goes on saying that “the challenge with respect to public opinion is not to obtain a consensus on immigration issues, but rather to limit false preconceptions.”
Since the topic of migration is a vast and complex one, the aim of my article was to provide an insight into some possible migration related questions and positions rather that an exhaustive overview.
My parents, who are originally from Colombia, emigrated to Germany searching for job opportunities and most of the students in my class share this kind of multicultural background. My point here is that almost everyone of us is, was or will be an immigrant at some point in his life. In my opinion, the future will not only be about mobile phones but also about mobile talents. So, the question should rather be: “Should we stay or should we go?”
I would like to conclude by showing you the trailer of the movie Almanya, which tells the story of a Turkish guest worker coming to Germany during the flourishing 1960s.
By the way, the French word for guest worker is “travailleur invité”, meaning invited worker. This term actually evokes the idea of the migrant worker having been invited, thus being welcome.