International migration is an essential component of the global development agenda. Addis Ababa Action Agenda, parallel to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, addresses inclusive economic growth, environmental protection, and promotion of social inclusion as its ultimate goal, acknowledging the positive contributions of immigrants to these qualities in their countries of origin, transit, and destination. Despite commitments toward a coordinated international migration agenda, however, immigration remains a controversial issue in countries with considerable immigrant populations. Local populations often hesitate to embrace immigrants on the beliefs that immigrants take advantage of public services, do not pay enough taxes, take jobs from native workers, contribute to lowering wages, and weaken social cohesion and security. For instance, Brexit supporters argue with apprehension that non-U.K. citizens in the United Kingdom take advantage of public resources, such as the National Health Service, without paying for them.
Such perceptions of immigrants are widespread but largely groundless, because they seldom rely on empirical evidence. In fact, studies show immigration as having positive economic effects on the host countries.
|[Undocumented workers from Malaysia meet with journalists from The Korea Herald. http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20180128000231]|
According to Eiber Gonzalez, a Mexican who emigrated to Korea to teach Spanish at St. Paul Preparatory Seoul, immigrants play a multitude of roles in their host countries, all of which help stimulate economic growth. “Immigrant workers take part in the labor market and impact its structure. They change the country’s income distribution and influence investment priorities.”This makes sense in both economic theory and in reality. Student immigrants contribute to human capital and knowledge. Immigrant entrepreneurs and investors create new job opportunities and promote innovation and technological development. Immigrant consumers add to the demand for domestic goods and services, affecting the price and production levels. At the same time, their consumption of goods and services contributes to GDP growth. Immigrants who travel alone send remittances to the countries from which they emigrated and also contribute indirectly to fostering investment in their host countries. “Immigrants are also obliged to pay taxes and contribute to the public budget, for which they receive benefits in the form of public services,” Eiber added.
|[Interviewing Eiber Gonzalez about the economic benefits of immigration. Photo taken by Adam Lee.]|
Moreover, in terms of jobs, immigrant workers are more likely to fill labor shortages and enrich the stock of human capital in their destination countries rather than take jobs away from their native counterparts.“As economic diversification occurs, countries will increasingly depend on immigrant workers to replace or add to the native workforce in the low-skilled segments of the economy. This is most apparent in the developed parts of the world, such as the United States and Europe, where the majority of the immigrant population occupy low-skilled jobs, enabling the more educated and skilled native workforce to move on to more dynamic sectors.”Eiber explained. They also replace native workers that move away from rural to urban areas or abroad. In ageing economies, such as Japan, the inflow of immigrants helps maintain the balance between active and inactive workforces. Not only do immigrants contribute to the workforce, but they also sustain the pension system, within the premise that their employment statuses allow them to contribute to the pension system.
However, there are still gaps and holes in the policies of governments around the world that thwart immigrants from smoothly integrating into their host countries. There are many reasons for this, including a lack of government interest in immigration issues, public funds and programs to assist immigrants, and accurate data. “Immigration has never been, is not, and never will be a temporary issue, so the world needs to come up with a collective solution to effectively address the current immigration crises around the world,” Eiber concluded.
St. Paul Preparatory School (Seoul)
Sungyun Jin firstname.lastname@example.org
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