Once you wade through the myths and misperceptions that have depicted migration so negatively in recent years, there is clear evidence that in fact migration promotes economic growth. A recent study in the UK, for example, found that in the first decade of the 21st century migrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) made a net contribution of £25 billion to public finances, and paid 34% more in taxes than they received in benefits. Similar findings have been reported around the world.
In countries where they settle, migrants tend to be among the most entrepreneurial and innovative. At the lower end of the skills spectrum they fill critical gaps in the labour market, for example as nurses and domestic carers. In their home countries, the money they send back lifts entire communities out of poverty, and can contribute significantly to national GDP and foreign exchange reserves, as acknowledged by the new Sustainable Development Goals. In 2014, remittances have been forecast by the World Bank to rise to $436 billion.
In other words, the problem is not that there are too many migrants, it is that there are too few. One of the main objectives for the Global Agenda Council on Migration during its 2014-16 term is to help lift barriers to mobility, and thereby promote economic growth. A pilot study conducted by the council earlier this year, among multinationals operating in Africa, identified some of the main obstacles to talented Africans moving across their own continent, ranging from outdated legislature to poorly implemented polices, to a lack of information. Our challenge now is to develop and promote concrete proposals for addressing these and other obstacles.
In order to achieve this ambitious agenda, cooperation is essential between governments, international organizations (such as the International Organization for Migration) and other key partners, such as the African Union and African Development Bank. Our council will place particular emphasis on involving the private sector. Through public-private partnerships and innovative funding mechanisms, the private sector has helped develop new solutions to longstanding challenges in other policy realms, and it can also help find solutions for migration. One example is the pioneering use of technology to drive down the costs of sending home remittances.
Specifically, we will support the chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in 2015, Turkey, to engage the private sector, as we did the previous chair in Sweden this year. This annual meeting brings together hundreds of states and other stakeholders, and helps set the agenda for migration policy worldwide.
If a lack of engagement with the private sector is one reason why migration management has often been ineffective, another is a lack of coordination with other directly relevant policy areas, ranging from security, through health and education, to human rights. In this context, another priority for the Global Agenda Council on Migration over the next two years is to develop stronger synergies with other Global Agenda Councils working in relevant fields, and contribute towards the new “meta-councils” that will cultivate cross-council collaboration.
Promoting mobility through engaging the private sector and adopting a holistic approach to migration policy forms the basis for our response on how to more effectively and humanely manage one of the most pressing global issues of our time. We will take advantage of the unique constituency of the Global Agenda Council network, and the convening power of the World Economic Forum, to develop innovative new proposals, support and strengthen existing initiatives, and inform better policy-making.
It is time to explode the myths and unlock the potential of migration.
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Author: Dr Khalid Koser is the executive director of the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF). He is the Chair of the 2014-16 Global Agenda Council on Migration and was chair of the council in 2012-14.
Image: UV lights illuminate security features on a passport that is placed in a passport validation device of the federal police in Berlin April 25, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter