New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that cross-border migrants – more than 90% of whom have moved for economic reasons – comprise just 3.4% of the world’s population, but contribute nearly 10% of global GDP.
Many of the immigration debates now raging around the world reflect the faulty assumption that admitting immigrants is an act of largesse – and a costly one, at that. But, far from being an economic burden, immigrants represent a major economic opportunity for destination countries. Those countries that take a thoughtful, long-term approach to immigration can capture large and tangible benefits.
Contrary to popular belief, immigrants typically do not take jobs that would otherwise be filled by native-born workers. Many gain a foothold in a new community by taking jobs that are available precisely because locals do not want them. A large body of research shows that immigrants have a negligible negative impact on the wages and employment of native-born workers, not to mention on the fiscal resources of destination countries.
The problem is that, in many countries, the immigration debate begins and ends with the question of how many people to admit and what their profile should be. It rarely extends to creating real pathways for those immigrants to assimilate fully and maximize their economic contributions.
Focusing more attention and resources on integration can help new arrivals reach their full productive potential – an outcome that is in every destination country’s best interests. Such efforts can transform immigrants’ lives and those of the second- and third-generation immigrants who will shape the labor force of the future.
Of course, immigration does imply short-term challenges and costs for destination countries, particularly when it takes the form of a large and sudden influx of refugees. But these costs are far outweighed by immigration’s medium- and long-term benefits – as long as governments work actively to support integration.
In today’s interconnected world, migration is inevitable. The question is whether we will create isolated, disaffected, and dependent populations of immigrants, or a powerful engine of growth and dynamism.
Global Migration’s Impact and Opportunity