Tuesday, 3 December 2013

On the benefits of migration...


Let's begin by acknowledging that there's little objective difference between moving for work from Aberdeen to London or arriving in London for that purpose from Sofia. Other than the matter of language and some unspecified "cultural" distinctions.

Next we need to appreciate that population churn is important to the economy:

It is important to note how this ‘[population] churn’ helps cities. Knowledge-based economies run on the quality of ideas. Ideas are not only a function of intelligence or education, but also the depth of information a person, or a city, receives. Historically, a lack of information – via a lack of demographic inflow – has ‘Balkanized’ social networks in Rust Belt cities. This has led to a culture of parochialism, which has hurt economic development.”

This quote comes from a report looking at Cleveland, Ohio - long seen as a struggling city, even by the standards of the American mid-west. Importantly the work redefines 'knowledge' - rather than see it merely in terms of high order education or skill, it sees it as:

...the set of personal relationships and knowledge of other places and social networks that we all carry to some extent. Global cities not only score well on traditional knowledge measures, but because they are destinations for migrants, they excel in this more broader notion as well

In simple terms, the benefits of migration lie in diversity - if most of your migrants come from one place (as is the case with Bradford, for example), the 'knowledge' advantage is limited. What matters is that the inward migration - as in London - is from a multitude of places.

Thus Cleveland's problem - one repeated again and again elsewhere, not least in England's northern cities - is:

Attraction is very weak. Hence population decline, but also an inbred, closed society. About 75% of the people in metro Cleveland were born in Ohio, versus 30-60% in other, more globalized cities. Among large metros in the US, Cleveland ranks 6th in its percentage of the population living in the state they were born.

Mobility - migration - matters. The central advantage that London has over (most of) the rest of the UK is that it fits this model. People take their ideas, originality, initiative and spirit to the city - it is this rather than any sort of innate, local factor that drives London's success as a great city.

This work should make us stop and think about how we respond to migration. And to consider that by making it a problem we might damage our economic future?


1 comment:

Junican said...

I wonder if what you say reduces places where people live their lives to 'things'. That bothers me. You can mess about with 'things' to your heart's content. I does not matter. But should you mess about with places where people live? By 'mess about' I mean 'experiment'.
Places like London evolve naturally, but such evolution should not be complicated by the dead hand of totalitarian Government. Certainly, some sensible planning restrictions should apply. For example, it would would not be sensible for houses to be built on swampy land.

You do not say what precisely you mean by 'migration'. You could mean natural migration within the UK, or you could mean mass immigration, or, indeed, you could mean the migration of celebs hither and thither. Frankly, I am too ignorant of the facts to comment really. I hate the idea of my mind being influenced by propaganda, and so I shall say only this:

NO!! I do not agree with the migration into the UK of people who hack our soldier to death on the street, nor of people who groom young, English, white girls for sexual purposes. But am I being influenced by propaganda? I certainly think that not as regards the first example, but perhaps it might be so as regards the second. As regards the second, such grooming might have been commonplace anyway for all I know. How do we know that these girls were not quite happy to have lots of sex? We do not know.

But I have digressed.

You yourself said that it is better that cities should be allowed to build an re-build over time without too much planner interference. I suspect that the same is true of migration (in the restricted sense as outlined above).

Mass immigration is painful, even if it works out eventually. The mass immigration of the late 50s (to service the requirements of London transport cheaply) is a case in point. (Mr Marple's initiative, wasn't it?)

The big problem, as usual, is that the State can act only in a totalitarian way. 'One size fits all' is the only way that the State can function. 'One size fits all' does not work (vis communism). Therefore, the less that the State interferes, the better.

Recent evidence of this fact is the Smoking Ban. It has been a devilish intrusion into privacy and private property. The whole thing is based upon crazy ideas. The most important crazy idea one which is not much commented upon, and that is the idea that an unemployed person might refuse to take a specific job because he is afraid for his 'health and safety'. Erm ... What job does not have some risks? ALL jobs have risks merely because a person must step outside their home to go to the place of work.

What do you notice? I have done precisely what Tobacco Control have been doing for years and years. I have gradually 'upped the anti'.

The Conservative Party has been gradually infiltrated by Health Zealots. CHUCK THEM OUT! They are Health Zealots and not Conservatives.

One must giggle. A conservative speaker at a conservative conference said that the conservative party is seen as the 'nasty' party. Since she said that, it has become accepted truth! SHE SAID SO HERSELF!

To conclude, migration within the UK is normal and natural, but applies, generally, to those people who are 'upwardly mobile'. It does not apply to the poor. What would be the point of migrating to London to take up a job at the minimum wage?
There are parts of the UK which are depressed economically. If the State did not impose totalitarian edicts, these black spots might have a chance.