About 4 million migrants have moved into OECD countries each year since 2007. And 60 percent of Europe’s 3.4 million immigrants in 2013 came from other European Union member states or already held EU citizenship. Those from outside amounted to less than 0.3 percent of the EU’s population. The urge for a better life is the main driving force for migration, both local and international.
Extreme poverty is found mainly in rural communities, where most internal migration begins. Poverty is not simply a matter of low incomes but also of limited access to adequate housing, clean water, energy, decent education and health services. On almost every score, rural people are worse off than city dwellers and also more vulnerable to shocks. Paradoxically, the incidence of hunger and malnutrition is highest in the very communities that produce much of the world’s food. In 1950, 746 million people lived in cities, 30 percent of the world’s population. By 2014, urban population reached 3.9 billion (54 percent).
In some recipient countries there has been calls for fences and walls to cut migrant flows. Some destination countries have cut social security allowances for new arrivals.
A report by The International Longevity Centre think-tank found that that on average, areas with higher employment rates for immigrants also tended to have more of the white UK-born population in work. The report also used Office for Budget Responsibility projections to calculate that by 2064-65, the UK’s GDP would be 11.4% (£625bn) larger with high migration than it would with low migration.
The report’s authors argued, the idea that immigrants crowd native Britons out of the jobs market “is built on the false premise that there are a fixed number of jobs in the economy.” Instead, they said: “An increase in the number of migrants in the labour force can actually help increase employment opportunities. Increased employment means greater demand for goods and services. As supply increases to match this demand, even more jobs may be created.”
They added: “Arguing that migrant workers will ‘crowd out’ UK-born workers is the same as arguing that women will crowd out men or older workers will crowd out younger workers. This is based on the same lump of labour fallacy. “An increasing proportion of women have joined the labour force over the last 30 years, but these increases have not coincided with falling employment rates for men.”
The report’s authors concluded: “The evidence suggests migrants have had an overall positive impact on the economy and on government finances and that concerns that migrants will ‘crowd out’ UK-born workers or be a burden on public finances may have been overblown.”
The report argued, migration could help support a population where the number of pensioners is expected to double between 2000 and 2050 and the number of over-85s is thought to be on course to more than quadruple in the same period. By contrast, said the report’s authors: “A reduction in the level of migration may require unpopular changes to government policy in other areas. “An increase in the state pension age or national insurance contributions, or a decrease in pensioner benefits may be necessary to offset some of the negative economic impacts [of] a reduction in migration. Since migration helps to support growth and the sustainability of public finances as our society ages,” they added, “We need not fear it.”