CAIRO: The World Bank’s (WB) latest report, “International Migration, Economic Development and Policy, presented Wednesday highlights the impact of immigration on both host and origin countries.
The report shows uneducated return migrants in developing countries receive an average of 48 percent higher wages than non-migrants with similar profiles.
Highly educated migrants see an 18 percent higher average wage than those without international experience.
With just over 200 million migrants, totaling 3 percent of the world’s population, the effects on economic development are notable.
The report deals with migration, how it impacts development in origin countries, host country policy effects and return migration.
Held at the World Bank Public Information Center at the Institute of National Planning, the event was led by Maurice Schiff of the Development Research Group, who co-edited the report, and fellow group member Caglar Ozden.
A new World Bank migration database covering 226 countries shows that migration from developing countries (the South) to developed countries (the North) is 37 percent. Coming in second, South to South migration comprises 24 percent of total world migration. North to North migration is at 16 percent and Former Soviet Union (FSU) countries to FSUs is 15 percent.
These values provide insight into what is referred to as the brain drain. This is especially apparent in Jamaica where 80 percent of college graduates live abroad. Schiff notes that the importance of educated professionals is not limited to their own work, but also the positive influence they have on their place of work and colleagues. Migration also has social implications. In Pakistan, for example, there is a relationship between the increase in girl’s education and migration: School enrollment for girls whose parents are employed abroad is 50 percent more than those whose parents work locally. The difference for boys is only 7 percent.
Surprisingly, migration seems to impact physical health as well. In Pakistan, child growth measures and weight- and height-for-age indexes are higher in migrant households, with similar effects seen in Guatemala and Nicaragua. This can probably be attributed to better nutrition associated with an increase in remittances.
Annual global remittances amount to $200 billion, which exceeds the GDP of many developing countries. A number of banking institutions have changed the rules so that it costs up to 60 percent less for migrants to send money back to their native land.
Some governments have introduced legislation to help their migrant workers. The Philippine government, for example, trains nurses to enable them to find work abroad and provides start-up loans. Up to 70 percent of Filipino migrant income is sent back home to their families.
On the other hand some host countries, such as Switzerland and New Zealand, have created policies aimed at discouraging immigration. New Zealand allows immigrants only if they have a job offer waiting, a policy that has proved unsuccessful as the existing migrant population is crafty in finding ways to bring friends and relatives into the country.
Such policies can be detrimental for global development.
Ahmed Galal, managing director of the Economic Research Forum for Arab Countries, Turkey and Iran, commented on the failure of host countries to take advantage of the potential offered by migrant labor. “Proper mediators between employers and job-seekers in different countries are needed. The World Trade Organization has concentrated on trade of goods and capital mobility, but not labor. Maximum benefits are not being achieved, depriving the world of significant improvement in welfare.
Following Schiff’s presentation, there was a debate over what the right course of action is for governments.