An article titled “People Over Robots (The Global Economy Needs Immigration Before Automation),”  written by Lant Pritchett and published in the March/April 2023 issue of Foreign Affairs Magazine, argues that concerns about automation taking jobs from humans are overemphasized. According to Pritchett, the real solution to labor market challenges lies in immigration, not in further investments in automation. The author suggests that increasing immigration is crucial to ensuring economic growth and meeting labor demands, particularly in sectors such as healthcare and construction. In this blog post, I will explain certain points and provide further evidence for discussion.
First, the global economy and labor market are experiencing major shifts in job allocation, driven by technological innovations such as automation and artificial intelligence. While these developments hold enormous potential to enhance productivity and improve living standards, they also pose significant challenges to the labor market. In turn, labor market challenges can have significant implications for democratic societies. As scholar Robert Dahl explored in Democratization and Public Opposition, economic instability, income inequality, and job loss can threaten democracy . In How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, the authors also explore how these factors lead to social dislocation, contributing to political polarization and extremism . Therefore, concerns are growing about the impact of automation on jobs, wages, and economic inequality. At the same time, demographic shifts and inflation are creating a labor shortage in the USA. To overcome this labor shortage and economic instability, the article written by Pritchett promotes immigration over automation.
Nowadays, against this backdrop, immigration is becoming a critical aspect of addressing these challenges. However, the immigration waves around the world are subject to debate by all governments and populations.
One of the primary arguments against immigration is that it takes jobs away and hurts the wages of native-born workers. However, Pritchett argues that immigration can boost economic growth particularly in sectors such as healthcare and construction. Pritchett also points out that the net impact of immigration on the average wages of domestic workers in the United States was either zero or, more likely, slightly positive. . Moreover, immigration can also help address demographic challenges in countries where the birthrate is declining, ensuring that there are enough workers to sustain economic growth. Additionally, immigrants who start new businesses can also create more job opportunities for the country. According to a report by the National Foundation for American Policy, immigrants have started more than half of the current crop of U.S. “unicorns,” including companies such as Uber, WeWork, and SpaceX . This data shows how immigrants participate in and benefit the country’s economy as well as debunks the common myth that immigrants drain social services and resources. In fact, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, immigrants contribute more than $300 billion to the economy each year .
On the other hand, immigration critics are more in favor of automation over immigration. For example, the US is experiencing a political backlash against immigration with anti-immigrant sentiment being stoked by right-wing populist movements. Moreover, some critics argue that increasing immigration could lead to cultural clashes and social tensions, particularly if immigrants are not well integrated into their host communities. Nonetheless, these concerns and challenges should not overshadow the economic and social benefits of immigration over automation. Policymakers should work to address these challenges through better integration policies and stronger protections for immigrant workers . By doing so, countries can ensure that they have the workers they need to sustain economic growth, while also promoting social cohesion that in turn will prevent the rise of extremist political movements. While increasing immigration is not without its challenges, policymakers should recognize the significant economic and social benefits that immigration can provide and work to address the challenges associated with integrating and protecting immigrant workers.
References: Pritchett, L., Bahar, D., & Segal, A. (2023, February 28). People Over Robots: The Global Economy Needs Immigration Before Automation. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/united-states/global-economy-immigration-before-automation-people-over-robots  Dahl, R. A. (1971). Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. Yale University Press.  Levitsky, Steven, and Daniel Ziblatt. How Democracies Die. New York: Crown, 2018.  ANDERSON, S. (2018, October 1). National Foundation for American Policy. NFAP. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://nfap.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/2018-BILLION-DOLLAR-STARTUPS.NFAP-Policy-Brief.2018.pdf  Report Assesses the Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration. (2016, September 21). National Academies. Retrieved April 10, 2023, from https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2016/09/new-report-assesses-the-economic-and-fiscal-consequences-of-immigration
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