Help Workers by Breaking Down Barriers to Labor Mobility
Today is Labor Day, and—as usual—there is much discussion of what can be done to help workers. But few focus on the one type of reform that is likely to help more poor and disadvantaged workers than virtually anything else: increasing labor mobility. In the United States and around the world, far too many workers are trapped in places where it is difficult or impossible for them to ever escape poverty. They could better their lot if allowed to “vote with their feet” by moving to locations where there are better job opportunities. That would also be an enormous boon to the rest of society.
Internationally, the biggest barriers condemning millions to lives of poverty and oppression are immigration restrictions. Economists estimate that eliminating legal barriers to migration throughout the world would roughly double world GDP—in other words, making the world twice as productive as it is now. A person who has the misfortune of being born in Cuba or Venezuela, Zimbabwe or Afghanistan, is likely condemned to lifelong poverty, no matter how talented or hardworking he or she may be. If he is allowed to move to a freer society with better economic institutions, he can almost immediately double or triple his income and productivity. And that doesn’t consider the possibility of improving his job skills, which is also likely to be more feasible in his new home than in his country of origin.
The vast new wealth created by breaking down migration barriers would obviously benefit migrants themselves. But it also creates enormous advantages for natives, as well. They consume the new wealth in the form of cheaper and better products, increased innovation, and the establishment of new businesses (which immigrants create at higher rates than natives). Immigrants also contribute disproportionately to scientific and medical innovation, such as the recently developed Covid-19 vaccines, that have already saved many thousands of lives around the world.
Similar, though admittedly less extreme, barriers to labor mobility also harm workers within the United States. Exclusionary zoning prevents many millions of Americans—particularly the poor and working class—from moving to areas where they could find better job opportunities and thereby increase their wages and standard of living. Recent evidence suggests that the problem is even worse than scholars previous
Article from Latest – Reason.com