Can more social spending curb emigration?

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Migration is an ongoing natural phenomenon, with approximately 4.8 million new permanent entries to OECD countries in 2015, representing a 10% increase compared to the previous year. Despite the economic dynamism of certain developing countries, migration is still concentrated in high income destinations, while shocks, uncertainty and vulnerability are often the cause of emigration. Moreover, workers with lower skills are particularly attracted to countries with stronger social safety nets. Could this movement be countered by improving social protection in the home countries? 

Possibly yes. In fact, an increase in social protection as a share of GDP is linked to reduced rates of planned emigration (see graph, which shows this negative correlation). Costa Rica spends almost 16% of its GDP on social programmes and has only around 4% of planned migration, whereas in the Philippines, where less than 2% of GDP is spent on social protection, almost 20% of the population plans to leave.

Public social spending on programmes such as unemployment insurance, disability pay, medical care and child care all decrease vulnerability and can discourage people from emigrating out of necessity.

OECD (2016), Perspectives on Global Development 2017: International Migration in a Shifting World, OECD Publishing, Paris  

©OECD Observer No 309 Q1 2017




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