India, China to be source of regional and global migration

May, 2001

Populous countries such as India and China will be the source of growing regional and global migration flows, which could contribute to demogrpahic and economic dynamism in developed countries, a US national intelligence council report has said.

High-tech workers and entrepreneurs will be increasingly prepared to emigrate from countries like india provided immigration laws in industrialised countries become sufficiently flexible to permit their entry, the council, a representative body of US intelligence agencies, said.

"During the next 15 years, globalisation, demographic imbalances between developed and developing countries, interstate and civil conflicts will fuel increasing international migration, much of it illegal," the report titled 'growing migration and its implications for the United States' said.

On intra-regional migration and its consequences, it said countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand and China account for growing migrant flows in the region and potential for continued emigration and potentially unsettling regional and global ramifications are substantial.

"Today, over 140 million people live outside their countries of birth and migrants comprise more than 15 per cent of the population in over 50 countries. Their numbers will grow as demographic push-and-pull factors intensify."

The report was prepared by Dr David F Gordon, national intelligence officer for economics and global issues, with inputs from experts and think tanks, including the rand corporation, carnegie endowment and Alfred P Sloan foundation.

The report said migration had "positive and negative consequences" for the sender and receiver countries alike. "Other countries' responses to migration issues will affect migration pressure on the us and a broad range of US economic and security interests."

Foreign-born residents now comprise nearly 11 per cent of the US population, up from six per cent in 1980, and immigration will continue to climb during the next 15 years.

Immigration will enable the us to maintain a more balanced demographic profile than most eu states and japan which have an aging population.

"For aging developed countries, migration will offer economic dynamism that will expand shrinking labour and military recruitment pools," it said.

It will also contribute significantly to sustained, non-inflationary economic growth, despite some initially higher welfare costs and some downward pressure on wages.

For sender countries, emigration will relieve pressures from their unemployed youth, generate substantial remittances, and often provide them with leverage in receiver countries. Returning immigrants often will be agents of economic modernisation and political liberalisation, it said.

The report suggested that restrictive migration policies, by limitingeconomic growth in europe and japan, may undermine efforts to overcome the imbalances among advanced economies.

"On a broader level, the reluctance of key us economic partners and allies to substantially liberalise migration policies will place them at a competitive disadvantage, especially in important sectors such as it," it said.

Restrictive migration policies also may skew the "guns versus butter" debate in these countries towards maintaining social expenditures at the expense of defence spending, weakening burden-sharing and the alliance system, the report said.

On the negative side, it says, for the developing countries, emigration will drain some sender countries of an increasing portion of their small, highly educated elites.

The report points out there are at least 1.5 million skilled expatriates from developing countries employed in western europe, the united states, Australia and Japan.

Although South Asia and East Asia are the principal sources for such professionals and students, Africa has been hardest hit proportionately, it added.

"Emigration will result in the loss of skilled personnel, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, south and East Asia, and russia, while ethnic diasporas will sometimes be agents of extremism or separatism, as in the Balkans," it said.

Another negative fallout will be the vulnerability of the to attempts by some foreign governments to the threat of mass migration as leverage in bilateral relations.

Transnational terrorist, narcotrafficking and organised crime groups will seek to blend into and recruit among co-ethnic immigrant communities and exploit gaps in migration control efforts to ply their trades, it said.

The views of this column are the author's own, and do not necessarily represent the views of NRI Online.

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