FROKOSTMØTE 25/10: Hva er liberal innvandringspolitikk?

 

Økonomen og journalisten Philippe Legrain, med fortid fra The Economist og som rådgiver for tidlligere WTO-sjef Mike Moore, har skrevet en provoserende bok om rike lands politikk for å hindre innvandring: ”Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them. Boken er provoserende fordi det liberale forsvaret for fri innvandring er svært lite synlig i en tid hvor spørsmålet om innvandring i hovedsak er koblet til kulturkonflikter. Legrain talte til en fullsatt Café Christiania om behovet for åpnere grenser (se Legrains foredrag under)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Per-Willy Amundsen, Fremskrittspartiets innvandringspolitiske talsmann og Olaf Thommessen, nestleder i Venstre, kommenterte Legrains innlegg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les mer om boken her: https://www.civita.no/tema/anmeldelser/boktips-immigrants-your-country-needs-them

Legrains hjemmeside: http://www.philippelegrain.com/

 

Philippe Legrains foredrag på Civitas frokostmøte:

When people talk about immigration nowadays, their starting point is usually how high it is. But in a globalising world, the striking thing is actually how low it is.

International trade now accounts for over 25% of world output, and trillions of dollars zip around the world each day, yet international migrants are a mere 3% of the world population.

In part, this is because people are less footloose than products and money. But mostly, it is because goods, services and capital are allowed to cross borders freely, but workers are not.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of migration happens not between countries, but within them.

While many people in Europe and North America feel threatened because a few million people from poor countries arrive each year, 10 million people a year move from the countryside to the cities in China alone.

This mass migration within China has hardly brought the country to its knees. And the United States didn’t do too badly when millions of poor migrants from Norway and other European countries arrived in the late 19th and early 20th century. So perhaps migration isn’t such a terrible thing after all.

When it comes to the domestic economy, politicians and policymakers are forever urging people to move to where the jobs are. But if it is a good thing for people to move from Stavanger to Oslo if their labour is in demand there, surely the same applies to people moving from Warsaw or Manila?


In our globalising world, where travel is ever cheaper, tastes and technology are in perpetual flux, and economic opportunities no longer stop at national borders, it is normal and desirable that people are increasingly mobile, not just within countries but also internationally.

Where governments permit it, a global labour market is emerging, with international bankers clustering in London, IT specialists in Silicon Valley, and actors in Hollywood, while multinational companies scatter their executives around the world.

Yet governments try to keep out Polish construction-workers, Filipino care-workers and Congolese cleaners, even though they are simply service providers who ply their trade abroad, just as American bankers and Norwegian oil executives are.

And just as it is often cheaper and mutually beneficial to import computers from China and IT services from India, it often makes sense to import menial services that have to be delivered on the spot, such as cleaning.

No government, except perhaps North Korea’s, would dream of trying to ban the movement of goods and services across borders, yet it is seen as perfectly reasonable to outlaw the movement across borders of most people who produce goods and services.

It’s perverse. Immigrants are not an invading army, they are mostly people seeking a better life who are drawn to Europe and America by the huge demand for workers to fill the low-end jobs that our ageing and increasingly wealthy societies rely on but which our increasingly well-educated and comfortable citizens are unwilling to take.


The case for opening our borders is above all a moral one. Freedom of movement is one of the most basic human rights, as anyone who is denied it can confirm.

Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” But what is the right to leave a country if one cannot enter another?

We in rich countries take it for granted that we are free to move around the world more or less as we please. We go on holiday in Thailand and safari in Africa; many of us study and work abroad for periods of time; some of us end up settling elsewhere. Why, then, do we seek to deny this right to others?


Freeing up migration is not just morally right, it is economically beneficial. When workers from poor countries move to rich ones, they too can make use of advanced economies’ superior capital, technology and institutions, making them much more productive, and the world much better off.

According to calculations by Jonathon Moses and Bjørn Letnes of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, removing immigration controls could more than double the size of the world economy, while even a small relaxation of immigration controls would yield disproportionately big gains.


Just look at the benefits of existing immigration. Migrants from poor countries can earn wages many times higher in rich countries, and the money they send home – some $200 billion a year officially, perhaps another $400 billion informally – dwarfs the $100 billion that Western governments give in aid.

These remittances are not wasted on weapons or siphoned off into Swiss bank accounts; they go straight into the pockets of local people. They pay for food, clean water and medicines. They enable children to stay in school, they fund small businesses, and they benefit the local economy more broadly.

And when migrants return home, they bring with them new skills, new ideas and the money to start new businesses that can provide a huge boost to the local economy. Africa’s first internet cafés were started by migrants returning from Europe.


Rich countries such as Norway also benefit from receiving immigrants, both high-skilled and low-skilled.

To compete in a global marketplace, Norwegian companies need to attract the best talent from around the world.

China already produces more university graduates than all of Europe, India is not far behind, and as the number of graduates from emerging economies soars over the next 20 years, it will become increasingly important for Norwegian companies to be able to draw on the widest possible pool of talent.

Just look at football. The team I support, Arsenal, was once uniformly English. Now, it is a multinational team of all the talents. 

Now people might think that such a diverse team made up of players from so many different countries, speaking so many different languages, and each with their own individual style of play, could not gel together as a team. But actually it works.

As Arsenal’s French manager Arsène Wenger explains: “Each person brings from his own culture the positive side, which all comes together in the service of efficiency. That is the beauty. It is almost magical.”

In less than a decade Arsenal has won three Premiership titles, four FA cups, and came within minutes of winning the Champions League. On Tuesday we equalled the best-ever Champions League score, winning 7-0.


Diversity is not only good in itself. It also acts as a magnet for talent. Talented people are drawn to cities like New York and London because they are exciting, cosmopolitan places, and that in turn boosts economic growth.  But the biggest economic benefit of immigration is that it stimulates innovation.

The exceptional individuals who come up with brilliant new ideas often happen to be immigrants. Instead of following the conventional wisdom, immigrants tend to see things differently, and as outsiders they are more determined to succeed.
21 of Britain’s Nobel-prize winners arrived in the country as refugees.

Most innovation nowadays comes from groups of talented people sparking off each other – and foreigners with different ideas, perspectives and experiences add something extra to the mix.

If there are ten people sitting around a table trying to come up with a solution to a problem and they all think alike, then they are no better than one. But if they all think differently, then by bouncing ideas off each other they can solve problems better and faster, as a growing volume of research shows.

Just look at Silicon Valley. Google, Yahoo! and eBay were all co-founded by immigrants who arrived not as university graduates, but as children. In fact, nearly half of America’s venture-capital-backed start-ups have immigrant co-founders.

Diversity is not only vital in high-tech; it’s crucial to the economy as a whole, because an ever-increasing share of our prosperity comes from companies that solve problems, be they developing new medicines, computer games or environmentally friendly technologies, designing innovative products and policies, or providing original management advice.

The bottom line is this: since diversity boosts innovation, and innovation is the source of most economic growth, critics who claim that immigration has few or no economic benefits are profoundly mistaken.


Now some people will say that Norway is an exception, because it has oil. And it’s true that, for now, Norway’s oil provides a safety blanket and a cushion against the need to change.

But oil does not account for all the Norwegian economy, and one day it will run out, or the price may collapse, as it has before.

If efforts to combat climate change succeed and new carbon-free technologies are developed, demand for oil will plummet.

So Norway certainly needs to plan for the future, and to nurture the creatively diverse companies that will ensure the future prosperity of its citizens.


At the same time, Norway’s current prosperity underscores the need for low-skilled migration to do the essential jobs that comfortable and educated young Norwegians no longer want to do.

While many people think that advanced economies don’t need low-skilled workers, that is untrue.

Many low-skilled services cannot readily be mechanised or imported: the elderly cannot be cared for by a robot or from abroad; cabdrivers have to operate locally; hotels, hospitals and streets have to be cleaned on the spot.

And as people get richer, they increasingly pay others to do arduous tasks, such as home improvements, that they once did themselves, freeing up time for more productive work or more enjoyable leisure.

Thus as advanced economies create high-skilled jobs, they inevitably create low-skilled ones too.

But while low-skilled jobs still account for over a quarter of the labour force in advanced economies, the supply of low-skilled workers is shrinking fast, as less-skilled older workers retire and better educated younger workers replace them.

Whereas 78% of Norwegians aged 55-64 have finished secondary education, 96% of those aged 25-34 have, and high-school graduates understandably aspire to better things, while even those with no qualifications don’t want to do certain dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs.

Over the next 40 years, the number of old people in Norway is going to soar. Many of them will need looking after, but young Norwegians don’t want to work in retirement homes. To persuade them otherwise would require a huge wage hike – and that implies either pensioners making do with less care, budget cuts elsewhere, or tax rises.

But immigrants face a different set of alternatives: since wages in Oslo are several times higher than in Manila, Filipinos are happy doing such work. This is not exploitation: it makes everyone – migrants, taxpayers, Norwegians young and old – better off. It does not undercut wages, since Norwegians do not want to do these jobs in any case. And it does not undermine social standards: if there is abuse, legal migrants have recourse to unions and the law.

Nor does it entail creating a permanent underclass.

If migrants are temporary, as most aspire to be, then their point of reference is their home country – and thanks to their work in Norway, they return home relatively well off.

If they end up settling, their wages tend to rise over time as they gain skills, contacts and experience, while their Norwegian-born children ought to have the same opportunities as other Norwegian kids.

If it turns out that some children are left behind, whoever their parents may be, it is a reason to redouble efforts to ensure equality of opportunity, not to keep out immigrants.


Now if immigration is such a good thing, why do so many people oppose it? One reason is that people fear immigrants take local workers’ jobs, as if there were only a fixed number of jobs to go round. But this is nonsense. We heard similar scare stories when women began to enter the labour force in large numbers: many men thought that if women started working, there would be fewer jobs for them. In fact, of course, most women now work, as do most men. Why? Because people don’t just take jobs, they also create them. They create jobs as they spend their wages because they create extra demand for people to produce the goods and services they consume, and they create jobs as they work, because they stimulate demand for complementary workers: an influx of builders, for instance, boosts demand for those selling building supplies, as well as for interior designers.

While the number of immigrants in Norway has risen sharply over the past twenty years, unemployment has fallen.

In fact, far from competing with native workers, immigrants often complement their efforts. A foreign child-minder may allow a local doctor to return to work, where her productivity is enhanced by hard-working foreign nurses and cleaners.

And because immigrants are often more willing to move to where the jobs are, and to shift jobs as economic conditions change, they make the economy more adaptable, reducing unemployment and allowing the economy to grow faster for longer without sparking inflation.


Another worry is that immigrants all want to come scrounge off Norway’s generous welfare state. And it is certainly true that if people from poor countries are better off on welfare in Norway than working at home, this could conceivably motivate them to migrate, and if enough poor people did this, welfare provision could become economically and politically unsustainable.

But even then, immigrants would still be even better off working than on welfare. So immigrants would have to be enterprising enough to uproot themselves to Norway, but then suddenly sapped of enterprise once they arrive. This is highly improbable – and there is no empirical evidence that Europe does actually act as a “welfare magnet” for people in poor countries.

In countries where we observe high unemployment among immigrants, the reason is not that foreigners are lazy and don’t want to work. The blame lies with labour-market restrictions that privilege insiders at the expense of outsiders. Throwing immigrants out wouldn’t reduce unemployment, it would raise unemployment among native-born people.

In any case, if rich countries allowed in more migrants from poor countries, they could at the same time restrict the availability of welfare so that only citizens or long-term residents could claim. The British government has allowed workers from Poland and the other ex-communist countries that joined the European Union in 2004 to come and work freely in the UK, but barred them from claiming social benefits for two years.

Some people would say that this is un-Norwegian: that everyone in Norway must be treated equally. That is generally a fine principle, but not if it is used as a reason to deny people the opportunity to come work in Norway. It is a peculiar notion of fairness that offers a few lucky foreigners full access to the Norwegian welfare state at the expense of keeping most of them out. If the price of gaining the right to work in Norway was not being able to claim welfare benefits when they arrive, most immigrants would take it. But unfortunately, they are not offered that option.


Underlying the fears about jobs and welfare are more basic fears: fear of change and fear of foreigners.

Psychological studies confirm that opposition to immigration tends to stem from an emotional dislike of foreigners. Intelligent critics then construct an elaborate set of seemingly rational arguments to justify their prejudice.

So when immigrants are out of work, they are scrounging on the welfare state and when they are working, they are stealing our jobs. When they are poor, they are driving standards down, whey they are rich, they are driving prices up. Sometimes these arguments are combined: one British politician I was debating with claimed that Poles were earning misery wages and living in squalid conditions twelve to a room, and then in the next breath blamed them for rising house prices. In his book “Who Are We? Harvard academic Samuel Huntington starts off by worrying that Latinos tend to cluster in only a handful of cities and states, and later that they are starting to spread out.

Immigrants can’t win: they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

So while it’s important to address people’s fears and consider people’s arguments, it is also important to see them for what they often are: a rationalisation of xenophobia.


Some of the biggest benefits of immigration are cultural. Immigrants broaden the diversity of cultural experiences available in Norway: whether it is eating Vietnamese food, listening to samba music, or practising Buddhist meditation. This mingling of cultures leads to distinctive innovations: fusion food; R&B music; and new holistic therapies that blend Eastern and Western influences. Above all, it provides the opportunity to lead a richer life by meeting people from different backgrounds: friends, colleagues and even a life partner.

As John Stuart Mill rightly said: “It is hardly possible to overrate the value, for the improvement of human beings, of things which bring them into contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar…

it is indispensable to be perpetually comparing [one’s] own notions and customs with the experience and example of persons in different circumstances…

there is no nation which does not need to borrow from others.”


But while cultural diversity is generally a good thing, it can also cause problems. Learning to live together can be tough. This issue is not new: it has applied throughout history to each individual and group that must find a place for themselves in society.

But if Norwegian society is now broad enough to include nuns and transsexuals, Marxists and libertarians, radical environmentalists and oil executives, surely it can embrace immigrants too?

We don’t all need to be alike to live together. We just need to respect the basic principles on which our societies are based:

• laws are made by people, not God;

• the people who make those laws are elected;

• and their ability to make laws is constrained by certain fundamental principles such as freedom within the law, equality before the law and tolerance of differences.

These are not “Norwegian values” or “European values”, they are liberal ones, shared by many non-Europeans, and rejected by some Europeans, white bigots as well as Muslim ones. And while people cannot be forced to believe in liberal values, they can be required to respect the law: even those who believe that women are not equal to men must treat them as such.

Of course, all societies fall short of the lofty ideals of liberal democracy – discrimination is rife, tolerance limited – but they are still the standards we aspire to and the basis of our peaceful coexistence.

But if immigrants must abide by the rules, they must also be made to feel welcome. Xenophobic rhetoric certainly doesn’t help.


I believe our borders should be open. Our efforts to keep poor people out while the rich and the educated circulate freely are a form of global apartheid, and like apartheid, they are economically stupid, politically unsustainable and morally wrong.

Yet many people fear that if we opened our borders, everyone in poor countries would move and our societies would collapse. It is a deep-rooted fear, as if immigrants were the barbarians at the gates, yet it is misplaced.

When Britain opened its borders to the Poles and other new EU members in 2004, all 75 million people in those much poorer countries could conceivably have moved, but in fact only a small fraction have, and most have already left again. Many are, in effect, international commuters, splitting their time between Britain and Poland. Of course, some will end up settling, but most won’t. Most people don’t want to leave home at all, let alone forever: they want to go work abroad for a while to earn enough to buy a house or set up a business back home.


Instead of seeing migration as a threat, we should see it as an opportunity. We should be trying to make the most of it, not trying to wish it away. If open borders are not politically acceptable for now, we should at least open up a legal route for people from developing countries to come work here. Over time, hopefully, we can move to a position where everyone can move freely.

That may seem unrealistic, but so too, once, did abolishing slavery or giving women the vote. Campaigning for open borders is a noble cause for our time.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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