Migration – the world on the move

When people move to a new country, they...

  • Spread ideas and culture
  • Increase entrepreneurialism and new thinking (the founders of Google, Yahoo and Intel are all migrants, as are a disproportionate number of Nobel Prize winners)
  • Help countries deal with skills shortages in everything from computer programming to nursing
  • Support the economy through tax contributions and local spending
  • Increase global connections, promoting friendship and trade between nations

Migration brings skills to where they’re needed

As economies and populations expand, pressure on the local workforce mounts. Many countries now look to high-skilled migrants to work in growing sectors of the economy or ones where there is a shortage in local talent, such as healthcare, education and information technology.

Today, healthcare systems across the EU would be incapable of providing the levels of care people expect, were it not for skilled staff coming from overseas. Over the last 30 years the number of migrant health workers in many European countries has increased by more than 5% a year.

In countries of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), around 20% of doctors have come from abroad . And in Paris, half of all doctors currently working are migrants or from a migrant background.

Some economies of Gulf Cooperation Council countries are the most reliant on migration, with migrants making up nearly nine out of ten employees.

An economic boon

Migration not only creates more opportunities for people to specialize in their field of work, but generates direct economic benefits for the places where they move.

In Austria, the purchasing power of migrants has been estimated at €20 billion. This exceeds the estimated spend of foreign tourists (€16 billion).  And in the UK, migrants contributed about £6 billion to the national economy in 2006 .

Home countries benefit, too

Many migrants leave families and dependents back in their home countries as they seek opportunities abroad.  A significant part of their income goes back to their home, in the form of remittances, to support those left behind.  According to some economists , remittances are the single largest source of external finance for developing countries.

These remittances have a significant positive effect on the places receiving them, with analysis showing a direct impact on reducing poverty, which in turn typically leads to improved health and education levels.

Many skilled migrants return home to foster new industries, as well as bringing social and cultural resources that can influence entrepreneurship and family, social and political life. The threat of ‘brain drain’ is replaced increasingly with brain circulation.

Centre for Economics and Business Research, 2007. Future Flows : Forecasting the Current and Future Economic Impact of Highly Skilled Migrants. London, CEBR

World Health Organization 2010

Karen McVeigh. 2008. « Skilled Migrants are Vital to Economy, Study Says. Guardian, March 25, p. 10

Dilip Ratha of the World Bank