Of the world’s 7.7 billion people, half a billion, or more than 500 million people are either global migrants or are supported financially by them through remittances. Labor has shifted dramatically since year 2000 — the numbers moving from one country to another have doubled.
“Were these half billion or so people to form their own country, it would rank as the world’s third largest,” writes Jason DeParle in A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century.
He calls this the Age of Global Migration, “the defining story of the twenty-first century.” And he predicts that no single nation nor single political leader can stop it. “Migration disquiets the West, but demographic logic suggests it will grow. Aging societies need workers. Workers in poor countries need jobs. Rising incomes in the developing world give more people the means to move and instant communication spreads word of opportunity. Refugee populations have soared. Economically, incentives to move are profound. An unskilled migrant in the nineteenth century might triple his wage by moving to the States; his counterpart today can multiply his earnings six or seven times (even accounting for the cost of living), a pay raise twice as high.”
In the U.S., “shockingly, the demographic upheaval brought Barack Obama. More shockingly, it brought Donald Trump. “The affluent are most likely to benefit from immigration. The less privileged more likely to bear its costs.”
Policymakers might be able to curb some migration, but they should not pretend that they can stop it as if they can push back the sea. They must grapple with the reality of this migration, and ameliorate some of its negative effects.
“It makes America more vibrant, less united, wealthier, less equal, more creative, more volatile,” DeParle writes.
How to make America more united, more equal, less volatile?
At the same time, global migration, with expats and laborers sending billions back home, through electronic transfers and remittances, have stabilized economies and prevented revolutions in poorer countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, even Mexico. “About $477 billion a year now flows home to the developing world, an increase of more than sixfold in the twenty-first century,” DeParle estimates.
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- How Migration Has Transformed the United States. America’s Demographic Profile Has Changed Dramatically Since 1965