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Tackling Migration at the Source

For advanced economies, immigration is a contentious topic, with countries struggling to settle on policies that will enable them to reap the benefits of immigration, without incurring excessive costs. But, rather than focusing on their own borders, they should be looking to mitigate migration pressures in source countries.

WASHINGTON, DC – For citizens of poor countries, migration often is a highly appealing option. The journey to a new country is often perilous, but it promises far greater economic opportunity: average per capita incomes in advanced economies can be more than 50 times higher (in terms of purchasing power parity) than those in the developing world. In many cases, migrants’ physical security improves as well. Yet, for recipient countries, immigration remains a contentious topic, with governments struggling to settle on policies that will enable their economies to reap the benefits and avoid incurring excessive costs.

Immigration is a particularly salient topic of political debate in Europe and the United States. Even in Japan, which has largely closed its borders to migrants, the need to find ways to cope with rapid population aging has lately been stimulating discussion of the issue.

In all of these countries, the debate tends to boil down to three basic positions. The first – espoused by a small minority, and lacking significant political support – is that immigration is fundamentally beneficial to an advanced country, as newcomers can mitigate demographic challenges and contribute to the economy’s skills base.

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