“Economic and demographic disparities will shape the mobility of labor and skills during the 21 century” writes Rainer Münz in Demography and migration: an outlook for the 21st century (quotes to follow)
Richer societies in Europe, North America, and East Asia already are experiencing rapid population aging. In the future, many rich countries will confront a stagnation or decline of their native workforces. The same will happen in some emerging economies, namely in China. At the same time, working-age populations will continue to grow in other emerging economies and in most low-income countries.
Despite these trends, many highly developed countries and emerging economies continue to assume that today’s demographic realities will persist. Fiscal plans and social policies often are based on assumptions of stable populations or continued population growth, leaving many countries unprepared to meet the demographic realities of the future.
International migration and internal mobility are one way of addressing the growing demographic, and persisting economic, disparities. People will continue to move from youthful to aging societies, and from poorer peripheries to richer urban agglomerations. The current geography of migration will, however, change. On the one hand emerging markets with higher economic growth will provide domestic alternatives to emigration. On the other hand some countries — including China and Korea — will enter the global race for talent, and may become more attractive destinations for workers than some of today’s immigrant-receiving countries that are now enduring slow or no growth and high unemployment rates.
The majority of mobile people manage to improve their income, their access to education, or their personal security. Beyond improvements in their own lives, many of them are contributing to the welfare of their regions of origin by sending money to family members or to the local community. International migration and geographic mobility within countries are the most efficient ways of lifting people out of poverty or increasing their income by giving them better access to formal and informal labor markets. However, migrants are also at risk of being exploited by employers, agents, and traffickers; or experiencing structural discrimination through labor laws, employment practices, and social security systems.
The implications for policymakers are substantial. First of all, receiving countries will have to invest more in developing smart migration, integration, and nondiscrimination policies. Secondly, cooperation in crafting migration policies at bilateral or regional levels should become a standard approach. In this context, countries should view migration policy not only as a tool to bridge labor market gaps, but also as tool of global development.
It must be stated that migration cannot mitigate all of the labor market challenges and economic disparities of the coming years and decades. Youthful and growing countries must continue their efforts to create jobs at home; aging and declining countries have to increase their efforts to raise the retirement age as well as the labor force participation of women and marginalized groups.
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