The poor migrants versus the millionaire migrants

MS Siddiqui | Published: July 31, 2018 21:16:33 | Updated: August 02, 2018 21:56:07

Acceleration of migration and human mobility marks the present times. Approximately 214 million people or about three per cent of the world's population live outside their countries of origin. The United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affairs (UNDESA) defines international migrants as persons living outside of their country of birth.

The classical theory for migration is based on  "push" and "pull" factors. There are situations that force people from a country or region to other country or region. There may be some issues or things other than push and pull factors. The reason(s) for leaving one's home can vary: difficulty in survival, religious or political persecution, lack of opportunities, an adventurous inclination etc. Forced migration is becoming ever more prevalent as a result of civil, political and religious persecution and conflict.

One might feel attracted to any region because of better job or business opportunities, more religious and/or political freedom, an atmosphere conducive for intellectual and cultural practices etc. Different global and regional inequalities in terms of social and economic parameter are expressed most powerfully through the migrants who cross borders in search of work, education and new horizons. Migrants are moving around the world, and shaping up the lands and cultures.

There are many countries such as the US and Australia, which are often cited as example of lands of the migrants. In 2016, a record number of American citizens living abroad decided to renounce their US citizenship. A total of 5,411 persons, accounting for a 26 per cent year-on-year increase, decided to no longer remain the American citizens. The mass exodus picked up steam in the fourth quarter of 2016, just after Donald Trump was elected president.

Many of the migrants, however, have not necessarily chosen to do so. There is a common impression that migrants are poor or starving people who leave their places of origin to go to other countries to survive. Such an image is supported by pictures of people shipwrecked in the Mediterranean Sea or reports about illegal immigrants suffocated inside the floor of small boats and closed containers in trains. The Forbes list of the world's billionaires offers an international look at elite-level migration. The number of millionaire migrants increased by 28 per cent 2016 from the previous year. Millionaires can avail the migration as money provides a highly effective means to escape their home country when time gets tough for them. They can pack their bags, and move their family and capital to a location that will provide superior opportunities for prosperity.

According to migration management specialists, rich people are keen to obtain a second passport. They prefer visa-free travel, family security, expanding businesses, preservation of wealth and avoidance of double taxation agreements are some of the few benefits that these individuals wish to attain when looking for an alternative citizenship. As for example, high net worth expats living in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia contributed a 42 per cent increase in overall demand for a second nationality and passport in 2017.

Migrant labour is desirable and necessary to sustain economic growth. Migration is important for the transfer of manpower and skills. It facilitates spread of knowledge and encourages innovation for global growth. A recent study by the European Commission has shown that the employable age within Europe's population by 2030 will decrease by 20 million, and the percentage of people over 65 will increase from about 23 per cent to 40 per cent. This decrease in the workforce will see an increase in the number of dependents and consequently a stagnation, or decline, in the economic growth and competitiveness of the region.

A United Nations report published in 2000 stated that the number of migrants needs to get doubled to maintain the size of the working population. In fact, the European Commission (EC) argues that without steady migration by 2050, the EU will need two workers to pay for one pensioner. The only solution is inviting migrant workers to meet the challenge of shortage. Already, there are 40 million foreign-born, that includes about 30 million working migrants, in the EU aged over 25.

The EC has also stated that it is assumed that the developed countries will absorb 4.0 per cent of the population growth in developing countries. With an estimated net migration of one million people to Europe, this means 100 million people by 2050.

MILLIONAIRES ON THE MOVE: Global statistics reveal that not only the poor people, but also the rich may lack happiness. Many of the world's millionaires are on the move. An analysis of the list of migrants shows that most of the world's billionaires still live in their country of birth and that the migrants became wealthy after migration with their parents as children or they had basically migrated as overseas students. Only a small percentage of world billionaires moved abroad after they had become successful. These individuals readily fit the stereotype of a "transnational capitalist class" - unplugged from their nation state, travelling the world for some combination of tax avoidance and cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Let's take a look at the New World Wealth report on global wealth and wealth migration trends in 2016. There are many countries deemed lucrative for millionaires. According to the report, global wealth migration is accelerating. Approximately, 82,000 millionaires migrated in 2016, compared to just 64,000 in the previous year (2015). Australia, for the second straight year, is the top country across the world for millionaire inflows, beating out traditional destinations such as the US and the UK. An estimated 11,000 millionaires moved to Australia in 2016 compared to 10,000 that moved to the US and 3,000 to the UK. Australia has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) is deteriorating.

The millionaires of a country are often the first people to leave. They have the means to leave unlike the middle class citizens. They remain concerned about crime, treatment of woman and safety of woman, financial concern of their investment, schooling and higher opportunity for their children, easy business transfer, lower tax, better healthcare system, religious and racial tensions, better lifestyle to avoid climate, pollution, space, nature and scenery and above all the standard of living etc.

'BEGUM PARA' SYNDROME: Unfortunately, there is a different migration scenario among the Bangladeshis. About 8.0 million not-so-educated workers are working mostly in the Middle-East with few more living in the west. A recent second home project of Malaysia has also attracted Bangladeshis. Most of them went there as migrants with some going for higher studies and getting nationality of the country.

The migration of some people are not in conformity with the law of Bangladesh as remittance from Bangladesh is restricted. The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has identified 1,050 Bangladeshi citizens having invested in Malaysia to build their second home under the 'Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H)' programme. Bangladesh was ranked third among the top 10 countries after China and Japan to avail the Malaysian scheme. Currently, Bangladeshi citizens have 10.6 per cent share in the investor programme.

Available data show that the migrants to the West and Malaysia are mostly from the middle class. They are from varied professions - not only from business background. A majority of them have somehow earned money illegally and transferred to these countries and living there with family at the end of their life.

Some of the citizens of different professions sent their children to foreign land for higher studies. As these children obtain citizenship in due course of time, parents too join them after retirement. There is no consistency in the income of those parents and the cost of their children's education. In many cases mothers accompany children in their own houses in those countries while the fathers stay back home in Bangladesh doing their jobs. This is popularly called "Begum Para" in the west. Fathers join the families after their retirement. They are middle class by profession, but live like millionaires. This happens as the source of money in Bangladesh is not always known to the tax authorities.

The poor and illiterate migrants send money to Bangladesh while many of the middle class, with some millionaires among them, are taking money from here to other countries.

MS Siddiqui is a Legal Economist.


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