Migrants are good for ageing societies, says World Bank chief

Migration will prove to be an economic boon to Europe – if the region’s nation states are willing to open their borders and embrace diversity, said Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, in a talk at Zayed University yesterday.

Movements of people “from places where there are lots of young people but no jobs, to places where there are lots of jobs but no young people” will benefit recipient countries with ageing societies, Dr Kim said.

“Societies that are open and diverse are the societies that are going to do better in the future. But it is a very difficult argument to make in many countries and you see the rise of extreme right parties” as a result, he said.

Dr Kim said that there are many advanced economies that face challenges because their birth rates are low and their embrace of diversity and inclusion is necessary for them to succeed economically.

“I am a migrant – I came to the US when there were very few people who looked like me in the US,” said Dr Kim, who was born in South Korea but moved to the US to study, eventually graduating with a medical degree and a PhD in anthropology from Harvard University.

The Syrian crisis led to asylum applications to European Union member states rising to 1.2 million in 2015. While the EU has taken some steps to increase sea patrols, the bloc remains divided on proposals to mandate its members to accept large numbers of refugees.

The World Bank is considering proposals to raise a subsidised loan for Jordan, supported by the United Kingdom, to help the Hashemite Kingdom create jobs for its large refugee population, Dr Kim said.

The UK was offering to provide a large grant to improve the terms of the loan, which would have a 40-year term and interest rate of zero per cent, he said. The discussions took place at a conference on Syria in London, where governments pledged US$10 billion in humanitarian aid to the region.

The loan “would hopefully be used to build infrastructure, so that would generate profits, help people pay taxes, and create some hope”, Dr Kim said.


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