Saturday, October 06, 2007

The upper and lower ends of migrant working

Several articles on migrant working caught my eyes recently. Two op-eds in Kompas discussed the upper end of the issue: one in positive tone, arguing that professional and business migrants create international networks needed by the home country, the other in negative tone, arguing that 'brain drain' increases the gap between advanced and backward countries.

Interesting that Kompas presents both sides of the debate in relatively equal manner. Maybe the daily has yet to decide its own stand? Certainly migration is a sensitive topic. And the idea to let workers roam free across national borders is 'equally offensive to the left and the right' (as DeParle argues in Should We Globalize Labor Too?)

The latter statement was taken from the context of international development debate from the eyes of Lant Pritchett. He was talking about the lower end of migrant working, taking poor villagers in Nepal, like Gure Sarki, as case study:
Pritchett, a development economist and practiced iconoclast, has just left the World Bank to teach at Harvard and to help Google plan its philanthropic efforts on global poverty. In a recent trip through Chaurmuni [in Nepal], he praised the goats as community-driven development at its best: a fast, flexible way of delivering tangible aid to the poor. “But Nepal isn’t going to goat its way out of poverty,” he said. Nor does he think that as a small, landlocked country Nepal can soon prosper through trade.

To those standard solutions, trade and aid, Pritchett would add a third: a big upset-the-applecart idea, equally offensive to the left and the right. He wants a giant guest-worker program that would put millions of the world’s poorest people to work in its richest economies. Never mind the goats; if you really want to help Gure Sarki, he says, let him cut your lawn. Pritchett’s nearly religious passion is reflected in the title of his migration manifesto: “Let Their People Come.” It was published last year to little acclaim — none at all, in fact — but that is Pritchett’s point. In a world in which rock stars fight for debt relief and students shun sweatshop apparel, he is vexed to find no placards raised for the cause of labor migration. If goods and money can travel, why can’t workers follow? What’s so special about borders?

Yes, unfortunately the idea is still not popular. So how can I help, Lant?

PS: here are other articles by DeParle on border crossing: Jobs Abroad Support ‘Model’ State in India (Kerala), and A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves (Philippines).

1 comment:

  1. "So how can I help, Lant?"

    Well learn about it and evangelise it I suppose.

    I firmly believe that freedom of movement would alleviate extreme poverty, and done in the right way citizens of rich countries would only gain from it too.