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Migrants: The workforce on the move

  • Published at 04:23 pm December 27th, 2016
  • Last updated at 05:06 pm December 27th, 2016
Migrants: The workforce on the move
The year 2016 has seen some of the largest migrations across the globe on an unprecedented scale – in the form of refugees and migrants pursuing work. McKinsey Global Institute recently released a report titled “People on the move: Global migration’s impact and opportunity” to highlight some very crucial points which are often overlooked. As of December 2016, worldwide migrants number 247m. The number in itself is a new world record displacing the 2015 record of 244m. Although conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East raise most flags and lead to speculations of most of the migrants originating in the region, the reality is otherwise. 90% of all migration in 2016 was voluntary, and only 10% were forcefully displaced. The major driving force behind voluntary migration is merely better employment opportunities, the pursuit of a better life.
Statistics show about half of all migrants move from developing to developed countries – also called South-South movement. Two-thirds of migrants live in developed countries to fulfil vital functions in society. The 247m migrants make up a paltry 3% of the global population, but they produce 10% of the global GDP. In 2015, they generated about $6.7tn in global GDP. The output is $6tn more than their projected output had they remained in their country of origin. But of the $6.7tn produced, the migrants and their countries where they send back remittance make very little, just 10% of the total output. The developed countries reap the benefits almost exclusively. In 2015, 7m people left Bangladesh for employment purposes, the fifth-highest number of migrants after India (16m), Mexico (12m), Russia (11m), and China (10m). In the 2015 fiscal year, the net Bangladeshi remittance amounted to a record-high $15.71bn, while the global remittance total was $601bn. In 2016, Bangladesh netted a $12.65bn in remittance. Bangladesh Bank confirmed Bangladeshi migrants have transferred well over $1bn in remittance between 2000 and 2014. Bangladesh migrant workers prefer Gulf areas – namely the UAE, KSA, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman – and Southern Europe in Spain and Italy. Italy has a burgeoning Bangladeshi community, spurred on by the country’s relatively lax migration laws. Italy has appeared to be more lucrative compared to the harsher lifestyle proffered by Middle East destinations where manual labour is the leading form of employment for migrants. Reportedly, nearly 150,000 Bangladeshi migrants – illegal and legal – are living in Italy. The illegal Bangladeshi migrants number almost as much as the legal immigrants. Hundreds of people risk their lives to be subjected to human trafficking via containers via freight ships. Many die during the passage, and many are caught by authorities and sent back. The ones who do make it to Italy often take up shop assistant roles or become small-scale entrepreneurs. The McKinsey data, confirmed by UN statistics, states that between 2000 and 2014, immigrants contributed 40-80% of the labour force in their destination countries. Employment rates are slightly lower for immigrants than for locals in the top destinations, but this varies by skill level and by region of origin. The study collates extensive academic evidence that shows immigration does not have an adverse effect on local employment. But if there is a large inflow of migrants to a small region, or if the migrants stand to substitutes local workers, or if the destination economy is in a slump, then it can cause more problems, as in the case of Greece. Today, immigrants tend to earn 20-30% less than local workers. The McKinsey study suggests a 5-10% reduction in the wage gap can have a spiralling effect which can generate a further $800bn-$1tn annually.
The numbers are strictly conservative, keeping in mind numerous restrictions on any such reforms. But any such motion can lead to wider positive results including lower poverty rates and higher overall productivity in destination economies. To sum up, migrants are now a vibrant and rapidly evolving workforce on the global stage. Neither their presence nor their contributions are overlooked. However, the ongoing refugee crisis has made it a point of debate, as illegal immigrants with goals to work could be jeopardised if immigration laws become strict.
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