Immigration: open or close borders?

Escrito el 6 enero 2008 por Antonio Zamora en Economía Global

In the last edition of The Economist a special report on migration (see report) stresses the global economic benefits of migration and even defends the desirability of rather free international labor movements. In some sense, the bottom line of the report is that free legal migration could be viewed in a similar way as free global trade. In both cases, a more efficient allocation of global resources is allowed for, so that a global gain seems to be guaranteed. The gain is clear for emigrants from poor to rich countries, whose incomes are expected to increase more than five times. The benefits are also quite convincing for sending countries: reduced unemployment, higher wages and, above all, large migrants’ remittances. The main doubts are to be found at host countries, where reluctance towards immigration is increasing. Is this reluctance sensible?

One key question is whether “free” low-skilled immigration is or not in the interest of rich economies, since it seems to be clear that high-skilled immigration is almost always desirable and illegal and crime-related immigration is of course undesirable. The case of countries like Spain show that higher degrees of low-skilled immigration usually come together with higher GDP growth rates and lower unemployment rates. Why then is the anti-immigration camp getting stronger almost everywhere in developed countries? Are their arguments rational? Shouldn’t a country like Spain open its borders to legal immigration rather than raising new obstacles to it?


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