Immigration and Globalization

Dec 8, 2017

The World Economic Forum defines globalization as “the process by which people and goods move easily across borders.” As such, you can’t have globalization without human migration. People cross borders to offer their labor, their investments and their ideas in markets that feature opportunities unavailable in their home countries.

Opponents of globalization’s effects often cite concerns around migration. According to the WEF, the recent “Brexit” vote to disentangle Britain from the EU was largely spurred by concerns about policies allowing the free movement of migrants from one EU country to another. “Much of the concern over immigration stemmed from fears (real or imagined) over the number of new people arriving on British shores and what it would mean for jobs, the economy and British life as they knew it.”

Although it is now accelerated by technologies ranging from container shipping to modern air travel to the Internet, globalization is as old as human migration itself. People and goods have moved along major trade routes like the Silk Road for millennia. Traders plied the Indian Ocean and other bodies of water for centuries before the so-called “Age of Discovery” kicked off a cascading series of new trade and migration links between the Old and New Worlds beginning in the 15th century.

Some present-day advocates of uninhibited globalization argue that a global “open borders” policy for migration could allow labor to allocate itself far more efficiently, yielding huge increases in global GDP. Others are much more skeptical, suggesting no country practices truly free trade, and that migration controls and trade laws are needed to protect individual countries’ economies.

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