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International migration and the global economic order : an interview


  • Solimano, Andres


Global capitalism, vintage early 21st century, favors the movement of goods and capital across national borders more than it does the movement of people. It was not always this way. The first wave of globalization, in the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th, came with massive international migration. Around 60 million people migrated from Europe to the countries of the New World (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States) over a period of 40 years or so. In a sense, current globalization has a smaller degree of"cosmopolitan liberalism"in thedimension of international migration. While there is consensus on the benefits of an open trade regime and relatively liberal capital movements, that consensus rarely extends to the free movement of people. Solimano examines this difference in the"freedom to become global"by looking at both standard trade theory, basically the Mundell theorem of trade and migration as substitutes, and the ensuing analytical developments and empirical evidence around the Mundell result. He then looks at this asymmetry in today's global economic order from the perspective of freedom, individual rights, and transnational citizenship, as well as the potential of international migration to reduce global inequality. Preventing factor (labor or human capital) movements from lower- to higher-productivity activities (countries) may entail a global welfare loss in terms of forgone world output (although the distributive consequences for sending and receiving countries vary). International migration tends to reduce income disparities across countries. But it can increase inequality within labor-scarce receiving countries by moderating the growth of wages, because of the associated increase in the supply of labor. In contrast, in sending countries emigration can have an equalizing effect by reducing the supply of labor and raising wages. Still, international migration is bound to have a positive effect on long-run growth in receiving countries by keeping labor costs down, increasing the profitability of investment, and raising national savings. For sending countries, the impact on growth depends on the pool of labor and human resources that emigrate. In labor-abundant developing countries with chronic unemployment (or labor surplus), the growth-depressing effects of emigration can be small (compensated in part by labor remittances). Nevertheless, the emigration of highly educated people, professionals, and national investors can have a detrimental effect on long-run income levels and growth rates for sending countries. Froma global perspective, however, world output would be expected to increase if people could freely move across the planet from areas of low labor productivity to areas of high labor productivity. From the viewpoint of global economic freedoms, the result would be equally positive.

Suggested Citation

  • Solimano, Andres, 2001. "International migration and the global economic order : an interview," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2720, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2720

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gordon H. Hanson & Raymond Robertson & Antonio Spilimbergo, 2002. "Does Border Enforcement Protect U.S. Workers From Illegal Immigration?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(1), pages 73-92, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bernhard G. GUNTER & Rolph HOEVEN, 2004. "The social dimension of globalization: A review of the literature," International Labour Review, International Labour Organization, vol. 143(1-2), pages 7-43, March.
    2. Solimano Andrés., 2004. "Globalization, history and international migration : a view from Latin America," ILO Working Papers 993733883402676, International Labour Organization.
    3. Schiff, Maurice, 2005. "Brain Gain: Claims about Its Size and Impact on Welfare and Growth Are Greatly Exaggerated," IZA Discussion Papers 1599, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Gudrun Biffl, 2008. "Migrant Women and Youth: The Challenge of Labour Market Integration," WIFO Working Papers 320, WIFO.
    5. Anthony P. D'Costa, 2006. "The International Mobility of Technical Talent: Trends and Development Implications," Working Papers id:778, eSocialSciences.
    6. Nkamleu, Guy Blaise & Fox, Louise, 2006. "Taking Stock of Research on Regional Migration in Sub-Saharan Africa," MPRA Paper 15112, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Gudrun Biffl, 2003. "The Role of Migrants in the Production of Tradeables and Non-tradables. The Case of Austria," WIFO Working Papers 194, WIFO.
    8. Andrés Solimano, 2010. "The International Mobility of Talent and its Impact on Global Development," Working Papers id:3063, eSocialSciences.
    9. Jose Antonio Alonso, 2011. "International Migration and Development: A review in light of the crisis," CDP Background Papers 011, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.


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