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The Migrant Boon

OXFORD/SHANGHAI – Many of the immigration debates now raging around the world reflect the faulty assumption that admitting immigrants is an act of largesse – and a costly one, at that. But, far from being an economic burden, immigrants represent a major economic opportunity for destination countries. Those countries that take a thoughtful, long-term approach to immigration can capture large and tangible benefits.

New research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) shows that cross-border migrants – more than 90% of whom have moved for economic reasons – comprise just 3.4% of the world’s population, but contribute nearly 10% of global GDP. Because roughly two-thirds of these migrants reside in developed countries, where productivity tends to be highest, they are maximizing the impact of their work, with far-reaching economic benefits. Migrants of all skill levels contribute to this effect.

Migrants added roughly $6.7 trillion to global GDP in 2015 – some $3 trillion more than they are projected to have produced had they stayed in their countries of origin. Because flows from developing to developed countries generate the largest productivity increases, these destinations account for more than 90% of migrants’ total contribution to global GDP. MGI estimates that, in 2015, immigrants generated some $2 trillion in the United States, $550 billion in Germany, $390 billion in the United Kingdom, $330 billion in Australia, and $320 billion in Canada.

McKinsey chart