Would freer migration be even better for growth than freer trade?

Would freer migration be even better for growth than freer trade?

In Greece, right-wing parties have blamed immigrants for economic trouble. But a survey of the facts shows that migration brings benefits to rich and poor countries alike. Photo: <a href="http://flic.kr/p/bDqGit">Giannis Angelakis (Flickr)</a>
In Greece, right-wing parties have blamed immigrants for economic trouble. But a survey of the facts shows that migration brings benefits to rich and poor countries alike. Photo: Giannis Angelakis (Flickr)

After decades of debate, global trade is finally mostly free, and the world is reaping the benefits.

Global migration is another story.

In a tidy roundup of various academic studies about the benefits of open borders, The Economist argued this month that dramatically liberalizing migration could double the average wage of workers in poor countries, help workers in rich countries be more productive without harming their wages, more than pay for itself in tax revenue and increase total global output by 30 percent or more.

By comparison, "the benefits of eliminating remaining barriers to trade … amount to just 1.8 to 2.8 percent of GDP," according to a University of Warwick report about migration's benefits (pdf).

Yes, a pair of Wellsley and Harvard academics found, some immigrants turn out to be a net drain on social service budgets, just as some people of all origins do. But easing immigration barriers seems to bring in more than enough high-productivity immigrants to offset that loss.

People who believe that globalization can help the poor have fought and won a long war for the freedom of capital. Maybe their next objective should be the freedom of labor.

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