Time for a Business Push on Migrants

My Comments: First, my apologies for missing posts last Friday and yesterday. We decided at the last minute to spend a few days with friends in the Smoky Mountain foothills. Of course, it may be that none of you noticed.

Here’s my intro re migrants. As an immigrant myself, I’m interested in this issue. As I age, and look forward to being an elderly citizen with more time on my hands than I want, I’m aware that it’s going to cost serious money if there are not enough folks willing to look after me and the millions of others who find themselves in the same boat with me.

Match all this with the fact that young married couples today are far more likely to stop at one child than was the case a generation ago. You have the makings of a society that is not replacing itself. China realized the One Child program was self destructive, and changed the rules. They had to, since virtually no one wants to immigrate to China.

All this leads me to the conclusion that immigration reform has to happen. And it has to be done in such a way that it benefits all of us, especially those of us who fortunately, or otherwise, live to a ripe old age.

By Michael Skapinker for the Financial Times

Is it possible to have a rational discussion on immigration?

We need one. Hostility to immigrants is sweeping through the wealthier countries, fuelling support for political forces from the UK Independence party to the far nastier French National Front to the even nastier Greek Golden Dawn.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development tried last week to inject some facts into the debate with the publication of a 419-page examination of what benefits immigrants bring to OECD countries and what they cost.

The trouble with facts is that, when it comes to immigration, most people aren’t interested.

As George Orwell said in his 1945 essay “Antisemitism in Britain”, which examined antagonism towards what was then the UK’s most visible ethnic minority: “To attempt to counter [prejudices] with facts and statistics is useless, and may sometimes be worse than useless . . .  If you dislike somebody, you dislike him and there is an end of it.”

The OECD’s facts and statistics about today’s far more heterogeneous groups of immigrants are even less likely to change people’s minds because you can make of them what you wish.

About 50 per cent of Europeans and Canadians believe immigrants are a burden on the public purse and a drain on the natives. The number of Americans who believe that is even higher. And the OECD says we can’t be sure whether the immigrant haters are right or not.

The problem is that the many studies on the subject use different methodologies. Some look at the contribution and costs of the foreign-born, whether they have acquired local citizenship or not; some look only at migrants who have yet to acquire citizenship. Some studies include immigrants’ native-born children; others don’t.

“There are many different ways to measure the fiscal impact of immigration and all methods and approaches rely heavily on debatable assumptions and modelling choices that significantly change the results,” the OECD says. All the OECD can say about immigrants’ net impact on the public purse is that it is small, either way.

So, as the immigration debate largely relies on prejudices, let me state mine. I am generally in favour of immigration. It may be because I am an immigrant, and of refugee stock before that, but I doubt that is decisive. Many immigrants want to close the door behind them.

My stance probably owes more to being a member of the professional class that has the most to gain from immigration because of the talented workers it brings. As the politicians are too frightened to take on the public, it is up to us to make the argument. I suggest we concentrate on three points.

● It is not true that only the poor face competition from immigrants. Neither is it true that professionals luxuriate in employment security while, at the same time, employing Polish builders and Bulgarian nannies who take jobs from the indigenous working class.

Immigrants are of all sorts, from internet entrepreneurs to investment bankers to bricklayers. They don’t just take jobs; they create them. Immigrants are, says the OECD, “slightly over-represented among entrepreneurs”, although their businesses do tend to be small and occasionally less productive.

● Migration goes both ways. The international arrangements that let people in also allow the native population to live elsewhere. When UK politicians propose withdrawing from the EU so eastern Europeans can be barred from the UK, we need to point out that this will also mean Britons will no longer be able work in France or retire to Spain.
This argument should also be deployed in Greece, whose citizens have settled, successfully, all over the world.
● By 2020, without immigration, the number of people entering the workforce will be 30 per cent lower than those leaving it, the OECD study says. Many wealthy countries are going to be short of workers and of people to support their pension schemes.

That sounds like something for employers and government to worry about, so those of use who care need to bring it closer to home. We need to point out that, without immigrants, there are not going to be enough people to look after us when we are too old to look after ourselves – and that applies to all of us, rich or poor.

Reason, as Orwell said, doesn’t often count for much in this debate. That last argument, especially, just might.

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