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George Borjas: “we should admit more qualified immigrants if we want to maximize the economic pie”

Borjas, considered “America’s leading immigration economist”, participated in the IEB’s Fourth Summer School in Public Economics, which focused on immigration and public policy.

George Borjas, regarded as "America’s leading immigration economist" by The Wall Street Journal, declared that "admitting more skilled immigrant workers is the best immigration policy if you want to maximize the national income, the economic pie", but noted that "when we draw skilled workers from poorer countries, these countries are worse off, and we are ignoring the welfare of the people left behind." For the Harvard Professor of Economics and Social Policy, "it cannot be good for a poor country if all its engineers and physicians leave to work abroad."

Although the arrival of skilled immigrants is desirable "because they can contribute to higher productivity," Borjas said that "not everyone wins" – skilled local workers, for example, who now have to compete for the same jobs. He added that it is very important to assess the political and cultural consequences of the phenomenon and concluded that, from the economic point of view, "the best strategy is to maximize economic gains, but to do it in a way that is prudent and does not cause too much disruption in other parts of society."

In an interview on the IEB website (www.ieb.ub.edu), Borjas said that, in general, "immigration is good for people who use immigrants” (for example, as domestic help, gardeners, nannies or workers in a company) and "the bigger the employer, and the more people you employ, the greater the gains." But this may be at the expense of other people: "the people who compete with immigrants for the same type of work, because now there is someone who will do the work for a lower wage."

Professor Borjas agreed that the arrival of new immigrants is needed to maintain our welfare state but stressed that "this is only a short term solution, because at some point these immigrants also age and retire, and who will pay for them? Will we have to bring in more immigrants here in 30 years to solve the problem we are delaying?".

Professor G. Borjas has participated in the IEB’s Fourth Summer School in Public Economics (July 4-8), wich has analysed the economic effects of immigration, and the consequences of segregation (along the racial or ethnic dimension). The objective of the course was twofold: to offer an intensive training program for interested PhD students, and to provide young scholars with the opportunity to discuss their own ongoing research with leading researchers.