Migrants 'bring more benefits than costs' to Britain

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The Independent Online

Too many negative myths and misperceptions exist about the world's migrant population, which contributes substantially more in taxes than it receives in benefits in countries such as Britain, the 2005 World Migration Report says.

The report, produced by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), based in Geneva, says the perceptions that migrants cause job losses, lower wages and increase welfare costs are exaggerated and often wrong.

"We are living in an increasingly globalised world that can no longer depend on domestic labour markets alone," said the report's editor-in-chief, Irena Omalaniuk. "If managed properly, migration can bring more benefits than costs."

The IOM cites a British report showing that between 1999 and 2000 migrants in the UK contributed $4bn (£2.1bn) more in taxes than they received in benefits.

An increasing number of migrants are moving temporarily - rather than permanently - so there is potential for "brain circulation" or "brain gain", rather than "brain drain". Contrary to the perception that migrants take jobs from local workers, the report says that they tend to fill spaces at the poles of the labour market - working both in low-skilled, high-risk jobs and highly skilled, well-paid employment. They also make a significant contribution to the economies of their home states, the report says, with returning cash flows sometimes exceeding official development aid.

Morocco received a total of $2.87bn (£1.57bn), or 8 per cent of its gross domestic product, from money sent home by migrant workers in 2002 and remittances sent to the Philippines accounted for almost 10 per cent of its gross domestic product.

The report goes to great lengths to challenge the perception that migration is somehow "out of control". Roughly 175 million people were migrants in 2000, a figure which is now closer to 190 million. "It is not a large and dramatic growth," said Ms Omalaniuk.

Although the number of Asian migrants has increased, the continent's share of the global number of migrants has decreased from nearly 35 per cent in 1970 to 25 per cent in 2000. Instead, more and more Asians are finding job opportunities within Asia.

The report notes that the number of international migrants have decreased in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Oceania. Only North America and the former Soviet Union have seen a sharp increase in migration.

The IOM says that migrants make up less than 3 per cent of the global population and that almost half of all migrants are women. Its report lists the United States, Russia, and Germany as the top three migrant-receiving countries. The top three sending countries are China, India, and the Philippines.

Ms Omalaniuk says that, for several reasons, Africans will continue to seek to migrate to other regions. The reasons include high population growth, high incidence of HIV/Aids, deteriorating education and health systems and armed conflict.

"The African Union has placed the diaspora at the centre of its vision and strategic plan for the years 2004 to 2007," said Ms Omalaniuk. "There is a lot of importance being placed on how African emigrants in other countries can be of use for the development of their country."