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18 Jun, 2013 09:03

Immigration: The great horde of prosperity

Immigration: The great horde of prosperity

Once upon a time various ‘Barbarians’ crossed borders to pillage and loot. Nowadays a wondrous horde of foreigners are moving across borders and bringing prosperity to all.

Whether it was Genghis Khan or the Vikings, to name but two, visiting foreign hordes have often had a bad name. More recently it was thanks to mass immigrant labor that nations such as the USA went from obscure colony to world power within a century.

For those bashing immigrants as an economic problem, industrial scale international number crunchers, the OECD, have a simple message in their latest study: immigration is good for your economy.

Maintaining a judiciously open border works best as Germany (less welcoming today than the 1960’s/1970’s) has found out as it fails to maintain an immigrant dynamic (young immigrants tend to add most in economic benefit). By comparison, Britain and Ireland benefitted the most from throwing open their borders to skilled and ambitious “New Europeans” after their 2004 EU accession. Immigrants contribute up to 25 billion dollars annually towards narrowing the appalling Blair/Brown legacy deficit.

Major nationalities arriving in the OECD nowadays are all from the east. Rearranging their numerical order: China, Romania, Poland and India provide a neat acronym for the 4 major migrant nations of today: “ChIRP.”

Immigrants may inject competition for jobs, although they also tend to do work which many locals may be reluctant to take while cosseted in the toxic employment trap of benefits where working provides little incremental income increase.

Most significantly, migration is cyclical. Waves of migrants flush through the great cities: many stay but a great many move on, usually going home. The latter is a huge trade benefit few consider. Meanwhile, visit London nowadays and it is difficult not to find a “Polski Sklep.” As befits the dynamics of migration, that Polish convenience store may have been a Spar shop run by Bangladeshi or Pakistani immigrants a generation or two ago, perhaps Asians purged from Uganda by Idi Amin. One thing is clear: immigrants are fiercely entrepreneurial...

Meanwhile for those smug Brits who wish to close Britain’s borders, bear in mind that in the 16th century it was quite the opposite situation. The enormous success of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth brought a multitude of Scots and others to settle in the then most prosperous nation in Europe...

Romanians immigrants in Belfast.(Reuters / Cathal McNaughton)

My native Ireland was perhaps the first nation to create a huge industry from migration. While famine played a tragic role, the population declined from 20 million early in the 20th century to barely 6 million by 2000 A.D. The end result was that great and wondrous economic asset of the modern global free trading era: the diaspora. It was thanks to the diaspora that the Celtic Tiger gained traction while today it is the Wisniewski’s of New Jersey who are often to be found exporting American goods to the Wisniewski’s of Torun or Gdansk.

Meanwhile, in the west of Europe where unemployment is crippling a generation, Spaniards are opting to abandon the blessed land of sun and sangria. The lengths to which many Spaniards have gone are rather impressive. It is lovely to see so many baristas embodying Spanish ambition over a latte in London but more fascinating are the hordes now arriving in my adopted backyard.

Spaniards, from architects to IT staff are to be found in all the major cities of Poland. Some have moved their families, others have opened offices to save their business as they realise that with its socialist mind-set, the highly regulated Spanish economy will be take years to recover. That total income in Poland may be a fraction of what workers are used to in Spain is irrelevant. There are no jobs in Spain: any living wage in any other country is better than a lost generation...

Migration is a wonderful thing. It helps the movers to better understand the world around them and it benefits the receiving country to grow their economy as the OECD study shows. Travel broadens the mind, as the old saying goes.

Direct economic benefits aside, think about how the world might look without immigrants. Can you imagine the United States without Christmas trees, hamburgers and hot dogs? Well, that’s all thanks to German immigrants! Nowadays they are all-American traditions as sacred as er, St Patrick’s Day...

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.