Refugees: An Opportunity, Not a Burden

It is World Refugee Day and I’d like to highlight some additional insights from research published since my post last fall.

Philippe Legrain, founder of the Open Political Economy Network and a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, recently wrote a paper with an important key finding: “Investing one euro in welcoming refugees can yield nearly two euros in economic benefits within five years.” Here are a couple points from the report.

  • “Welcoming refugees is not only a humanitarian and legal obligation; it is an investment that can yield significant economic dividends.”
  • “From a global perspective, enabling people to move to more technologically advanced, politically stable and secure countries boosts their economic opportunities and world output.”
  • “The IMF calculates that additional spending in the EU on refugees of 0.09% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2015 and 0.11% in 2016 will raise its GDP by 0.13% by 2017. Add in the boost to the economy from refugees working and GDP could be 0.23% higher by 2020: a total increase of 0.84% of GDP between 2015 and 2020.”
  • “Refugees, who on average tend to be in their early twenties, can also provide a demographic dividend. Aging societies with a shrinking native working-age population, such as Germany’s, benefit from the arrival of younger refugees whose skills complement those of older, more experienced workers. Refugees can also help care and pay for the swelling ranks of pensioners.”
  • “Refugees provide a development dividend – to themselves, their children and their country of origin. Remittances to Liberia, a big refugee-sending country, amount to 18.5% of its GDP.”

I highly recommend reading this report: “Refugees Work: A Humanitarian Investment that Yields Economic Dividends“.

Additionally, some of my own work (joint with Scott Loveridge from MSU), forthcoming in the Forced Migration Review, unpacks the issue of refugee secondary migration and how the current mechanisms for resettling refugees could be improved. Thus, the key take-away, for me, is: even under a flawed and inefficient refugee resettlement system, refugees present a huge opportunity for advanced countries and the rest of the world. Imagine what could happen if we reformed the resettlement system!

P.S. for those of you in Washington D.C. Philippe Legrain will be presenting his work at the Center for Global Development next Monday, June 27 from 12:30 – 2:00pm.

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