GQ (Australia) - - WHAT IF -

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.

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