BORDERS DIDN’T EXIST?
Every month, the western world spends $14.8bn in foreign aid. That’s a lot of money. But when it comes to calculating the effect it has, things get a lot cloudier. Essentially, we just don’t know – the jury’s out on whether foreign aid actually improves conditions in developing countries very much. It’s something Dutch author Rutger Bregman addresses in his book Utopia for Realists, which became somewhat of a sensation earlier this year. In it, he has a simple, anti-trump plan for addressing worldwide inequality – open borders. Compare workers doing identical jobs in two different countries. A report by the Center for Global Development states that a Peruvian working in the US would earn about 2.6 times more than they could doing an equivalent job back home. For a Filipino, it’s 3.5 times more; for a Haitian, it’s
a sevenfold increase. These numbers take into account age, education level, gender and job sector, meaning the key factor in the wage disparity is location. Bregman points out that open borders could raise the income of the average Nigerian by $30,000 a year. A worker’s earning power depends on their location, yet 97 per cent of the world’s population lives in their country of birth. There are arguments against greater migration – from crime to welfare burden and national identity – and the idea of making developing countries wealthier at the expense of the developed world is a hard sell. Except that it wouldn’t happen. Economic estimates predict that increasing the global labour movement would not decrease the world’s economy, but expand it – by as much as 150 per cent. In similar fashion, the ‘steal our jobs’ argument doesn’t hold much water, either. When women entered the labour force in the ’70s, they didn’t displace male workers – they expanded the workforce. The same is true of immigrant workers, who create more demand for jobs and benefit their new economies. There are potential setbacks around population density and assimilation, but opening borders also promotes something called ‘circular migration’ – a phenomenon that disproves the idea immigrants will arrive en masse and never leave. When major restrictions were placed on Mexican immigrants into the US in 1964, legal migration remained at the same level, while illegal immigration skyrocketed and temporary migration all but stopped. In the ’60s, 85 per cent of Mexican immigrants returned home from the US. Now, that number is closer to seven per cent. The upshot? Immigrants only stop going home when countries enact stricter border controls. Open borders would fill labour shortages and expand the economies of developed countries, while also pulling developing countries out of poverty. The World Bank estimates if all developed countries opened their borders to three per cent more immigrants, developing countries would have $411bn to spend. That’s double our annual aid budget – or 14 times the cost of Trump’s wall.