Monday, May 07, 2007 05/07/07-Immigrants and Remittances

In today's excerpt, the rapid growth of global immigration and the things that have stemmed from that--opportunity, remittances, and heartbreak:

"About 200 million migrants from different countries are scattered across the globe, supporting a population back home that is as big if not bigger. Were these half-billion or so people to constitute a state--migration nation--it would rank as the world's third largest. While some migrants go abroad with Ph.D.'s, most travel ... with modest skills but fearsome motivation. The risks migrants face are widely known, including the risk of death, but the amounts they secure for their families have just recently come into view. Migrants worldwide sent home an estimated $300 billion last year--nearly three times the world's foreign aid budgets combined. These sums-- 'remittances'--bring Morocco more money than tourism does. They bring Sri Lanka more money than tea does.

"The numbers, which have doubled in the past five years, have riveted the attention of development experts who once paid them little mind. ... A growing number of economists see migrants, and the money they send home, as part of the solution to global poverty. ...

"The growth in migration has roiled the West, but demographic logic suggests it will only continue. Aging industrial economies need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. Transportation and communications have made moving easier. And the potential economic gains are at record highs. A Central American laborer who moves to the United States can expect to multiply his earnings about six times after adjusting for the higher cost of living. That pay raise is about twice as large as the one that propelled the last great wave of immigration a century ago. ...

"Yet competing with the literature of gain is a parallel literature of loss. About half the world's migrants are women, many of whom care for children abroad while leaving their own children at home. ... Television novellas plumb the migrants' loneliness. ... [A migrant] does not say he is off to make his fortune. He says, 'I am going to try my luck.' "

Jason DeParle, "A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves," The New York Times Magazine, April 22, 2007, p. 52.


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