Migration And Reform

Well today is obviously immigration day, as thousands of Latinos take to the streets in the United States to demand some kind of ‘regularisation’. I have been posting on Demography Matters about the changing pattern of Latino migration in the US, and on the not entirely unrelated topic of whether it is the arrival of the Latinos or the presence of religious belief which is primarily responsible for the fact that US fertility is still hovering round the replacement mark (especially the comments, and here, and here and here).

But this post is not about migration in the United States. Rather it is about migration inside the frontiers of the EU itself. As populations age, and our economies come under increasing strain, some societies will prove more able to reform than others. Now one conjecture I have been making is that in this process some societies will attract population (and get that famous win-win dynamic going) while others will lose even that which they have (sounds a bit like the biblical parable now doesn’t it). Actually economists have terms for all this. You might say that the ones who attract are experiencing an increasing returns process, while those who lose are suffering from negative feedback.

Claus has already touched on how Denmark is suffering from a lack of immigration (and me here), in the sense that more people are now leaving than are arriving, but perhaps more importantly for the future of the entire EU, Germany is very near to becoming a net exporter of people (and here).

Pperhaps a bit more spice was added to this already simmering cooking-pot last week by a sudden, and rather unexpected, bout of finger pointing from Peer Steinbrück, Germany’s finance minister, in the general direction of Vienna. Now according to Steinbrück, Vienna’s recent decision to cut corporate tax rates from 34 per cent to 25 per cent has led to an increasing number of German companies investing across the border in Austria. In other words, not only are people leaving, companies are now also leaving, and to less than anticipated destinations, and of course, on the backs of the companies will go even more people. Are we really so sure that that recently heralded sustainable recovery is as sustainable as some are suggesting? Morgan Stanley’s Eric Chaney understandably still has his doubts.

The real issue is this: as the FT says “Mr Steinbrück has limited room for manoeuvre in the tax field because of Germany’s high budget deficit”. All these issues interlock. So, on a day when Jaques Chirac seems to have taken a step backwards in the French reform process, it might be just worth asking ourselves whether, at the end of the day, there won’t be a price to pay for all this ‘no rush now is there’ style delay.

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About Edward Hugh

Edward 'the bonobo is a Catalan economist of British extraction. After being born, brought-up and educated in the United Kingdom, Edward subsequently settled in Barcelona where he has now lived for over 15 years. As a consequence Edward considers himself to be "Catalan by adoption". He has also to some extent been "adopted by Catalonia", since throughout the current economic crisis he has been a constant voice on TV, radio and in the press arguing in favor of the need for some kind of internal devaluation if Spain wants to stay inside the Euro. By inclination he is a macro economist, but his obsession with trying to understand the economic impact of demographic changes has often taken him far from home, off and away from the more tranquil and placid pastures of the dismal science, into the bracken and thicket of demography, anthropology, biology, sociology and systems theory. All of which has lead him to ask himself whether Thomas Wolfe was not in fact right when he asserted that the fact of the matter is "you can never go home again".

One thought on “Migration And Reform

  1. Excellent post: I find it surprising that there have been no comments. I believe that your conjecture regarding future migration within the EU will prove true. Those countries that implement reforms that provide incentives for people to immigrate will experience positive net migration.

    The example that you give of the result of Austria’s tax cut should not surprise anyone. Business owners and entrepreneurs will locate their operations in countries that offer the best total package of costs and opportunities.

    In my view, Germany has a very difficult road ahead. Without immigration the country is on the path to shrinking itself out of existence.

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