Migration policy and voters’ attitudesFrancesco FasaniIAE-CSIC, Barcelona GSE, MOVE-INSIDE and CReAM 9th Barcelona GSE "Trobada“ IAE-CCSIC; October 21th, 2011
Trade and migration As economists, we believe in the existence of gains from trade and gains from factor mobility Paradox: in the last century, developed countries have progressively opened to trade (and capital) flows and closed to immigration inflows (Hatton & Williamson, 2006; Mayda, 2008) Source: Richard Freeman (2006) - Period: early 2000’s Why free international trade and capital mobility and restrictive migration policies?
An easy prediction... Higher unemployment rates and fiscal austerity will exacerbate the concern about labour market competition and about the fiscal burden caused by immigrants (and about crime) Will governments opt for more restrictive migration policies? Substantive restrictive policies (stricter legislation and enforcement) or formal ones (stricter legislation without sufficient enforcement)? Governments may have mixed incentives in enforcing their migration policy: pleasing the electorate Vs providing workers to the economy Restrictive polices are costly and undocumented immigrants are not necessarily bad...
1) Restrictive policies are costly Total estimated cost of deporting 10 million of undocumented immigrants from the US: $206 billion over five years ($22 thousand per deportation) (Goyle & Jaeger, 2005) “…unless we hire the illegal immigrants to do it.Then it would cost us a tenth of the normal price." (Jay Leno,The Tonight Show , 2005)
2) Undocumented immigrants are not that bad... Illegal migration is an efficient screening device for low-skilled immigration (ex-post selection): motivation and ability are more important than qualifications (Hanson, 2010) Undocumented immigrants are highly mobile and responsive to labour demand changes: “...there is little evidence that legal immigration is economically preferable to illegal immigration. In fact, illegal immigration responds to market forces in ways that legal immigration does not...” (Hanson, 2007) They are less visible for the electorate (Facchini & Testa, 2010) Easier to limit their rights (e.g. access to welfare, family reunification, citizenship, vote, etc.) They are “disposable”: “They don’t need much. They wouldn’t know what to do with good wages.Why, look how they live.Why, look what they eat. And if they get funny – deport them” J.Steinbeck,The Grapes ofWrath (1939)
Formally restrictive policies Evidence of inconsistent behaviour: enforcement which selectively reacts to labour market demand (US: Hanson & Spilimbergo, 2001; Italy: Fasani, 2010)
But restrictive policies... Limiting labour market access and worsening living conditions may (possibly) discourage new inflows, but it surely makes life harder for immigrants, possibly inducing more criminal behaviour Some empirical evidence: UK: asylum seekers (no access to legal labour market; “dispersed” by the government) Vs A8 immigrants (free access to labour market; free mobility) (Bell, Fasani and Machin, 2010) Italy: lack of legal status may increase incentives to commit crime (Mastrobuoni & Pinotti, 2011) Will voters call for even more restrictive policies?
Undocumented immigrants in Spain Estimates by J. Fernández-Huertas Moraga