Migration is one of the most contentious issues in today’s political landscape. Though international migrants make up only 3.4% of the world’s population, the proportion has increased more than 40% since 2000. Migrants are typically assumed to be young, male, unskilled and unattached, but in fact about one in three are tertiary educated and the majority leave their homes not because they have to, but because they are looking for better life opportunities abroad.
Twenty emerging markets account for about 84 million of the world’s 258 million international migrants and four, India, Mexico, Russia and China, collectively account for a fifth of all migrants worldwide. Global migration was the subject considered by the 2018 Emerging Markets Symposium, an annual event at Templeton College, Oxford University, attended by academics, politicians and business leaders from around the world.
Politically, the focus of the debate is often about the impact that migrants have on the countries they move to, but the EMS report points out that we think far less about the effect on the countries from which they have moved.
They are losing educated, skilled young people in fields such as medicine and technology; conversely, the prosperity of wealthy countries has been enhanced by the ideas and innovative talents these migrants bring. In the US, migrants from emerging markets have founded Google, Intel, PayPal, eBay and Yahoo. Thirty-three per cent of venture-backed companies that went public in the USA between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant founder.
But most emerging markets have been slow to create migration strategies or to establish bilateral arrangements with migrant-receiving countries, which, in turn, have struggled with the impact of migration on their social fabric whilst not making the positive case for the link between migration and development.
A new international agreement, the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration is being drawn up in Marrakech in December 2018. It is an opportunity for policy makers to use evidence-based arguments to create a new consensus. The economic differences between emerging markets and wealthier countries may diminish but they won’t disappear; the incentives for migration will remain so we need to find a better way of aligning their interests.