NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 20, 2007

Legions of common workers across the globe face new barriers to migration, as destination countries tighten their borders and toughen their talk.  But professionals find ever more welcome mats.  Even countries wary of migrant brawn are bullish on migrant brains, and many offer tax breaks and streamlined visas to compete in the global marketplace, says the New York Times.

While most migrants remain unskilled, and many are desperately poor, global demographics are shifting:

  • The number of college-educated migrants in rich Western countries rose 69 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to a World Bank analysis.
  • By contrast, the number of less-educated migrants rose 31 percent.

The analysis, by Caglar Ozden, an economist at the bank, measured movement to 20 nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia and most of Western Europe, and included people who went to college after migrating as children:

  • Of 52 million migrant workers in those countries, 36 percent had some college education, up from 31 percent a decade before.
  • Of those migrants leaving one rich country for jobs in another, the number with some college education rose 30 percent.
  • The parallel movement of less-skilled workers fell 8 percent.

"My sense is these trends have gotten much stronger since 2000," says Ozden. "Educated people are becoming more mobile."

"We're stuck in the paradigm of thinking that migration is only about poor people moving to rich countries," said Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a London research group.  "But lots of people move among rich countries, and people from rich countries increasingly move all over the world."

Source: Jason DeParle, "Rising Breed of Migrant Worker: Skilled, Salaried and Welcome," New York Times, August 20, 2007.

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