Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

EXODUS: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century

by Paul Collier

Allen Lane, hb, 20 [pounds sterling]

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Paul Collier invites us to engage in a debate about immigration that moves 'beyond views that are theatrically polarized and stridently expressed'. This is a worthwhile goal and, although some of the underpinnings of Collier's specific arguments are problematic, his calm, scholarly rigour warrants respect.

The marrow of Collier's book is an analysis of the social and economic consequences of migration--for the migrants themselves, the countries to which they move and the places they leave behind. Collier isn't against migration from poorer to richer countries; it's inevitable and he calculates that, thus far, it has probably produced net benefits. He's eager, however, to determine what levels of migration are desirable and he's concerned that if they accelerate too rapidly in the future, it may be detrimental to all concerned.

There are many intriguing studies within these pages and Collier asks important questions. What role does the size of an immigrant community in a specific place have on the processes of migration? It seems, as one might predict, that the larger the diaspora becomes, the more people are drawn to it from the home country.

What impact does immigration have on the economic life of the safe harbours? Here, Collier warns against exaggeration when it comes to the consequences for employment, housing availability, access to social resources and so forth. At least at present levels of immigration, there's sometimes a deleterious impact on those on the lowest rungs of the indigenous economic ladder but everyone else fares tolerably well. And we also have to factor in the increased economic fluidity and flexibility that immigration provides.

Perhaps the most fascinating parts of the book concern the ramifications for nations that lose sizeable numbers of people to migration. It's simplistic to talk about a disastrous 'brain drain' in which the brightest and most venturesome individuals abandon their homelands. In fact. Collier argues, as long as emigration remains at a modest level, it can stimulate ambition and educational aspiration within the remaining population--and we shouldn't forget the beneficial role of cash being sent home. …