Abhijit BhaduriGuest Author

Robots or migrants – you choose

By Abhijit Bhaduri

 The desire to find a better life is a great trigger for migration. The wildebeest herds of the Serengeti migrate across the arid regions in search of fodder. They risk getting killed by the big cats on land when they rest. Even when they are on the move they are not safe. Their young ones get trampled during stampedes. The crocodiles grab them while they cross the rivers.

To be able to survive, these migrants have to keep moving. When the war for independence began in 1983, South Sudan had as many as 80,000 elephants; today the figure has plummeted to about 2,000. The sedentary species risk dying. In comparison, the antelope population has remained stable. They are always on the move. Migrants survive because they move out of their comfort zones.

Conflict zones have produced migrants in every region. There are now more than 5 million Syrian refugees scattered throughout the world.


Photo Courtesy: Yashwant Mahadik

Two decades ago when Rwanda experienced genocides waves of migrants braved death to save their loved ones. India is no stranger to refugees. A year after the partition more than fifteen million people had been uprooted, and between one and two million were dead. The war of 1971 triggered a wave of refugees from the newly born Bangladesh into India. We know a thing or two about migrants and refugees.

Every migrant bears scars of poverty and death as they make the journey across a border. While they may escape political conflict but they struggle to integrate with the locals in the new country. All things unacceptable are pinned on to immigrants and refugees. Politicians fan the flames of discontent by telling the unemployed that it is migrants who have taken their jobs.

Do countries miss out on innovation when they don’t have enough immigrants? China and India who make up 45% of the world’s population are home to less than 1% of migrant workers. By contrast, migrants make up 75% of their population in UAE, Qatar and Kuwait. The blue collared workers perform jobs the locals do not wish to be seen doing. Knowledge workers bring in domain knowledge and leadership skills needed to run enterprises. They drive innovation. Look at US where immigrants make up 20% of the population. Immigrants founded 51% of US billion dollar startups. (Indians form the largest number of these).

The host countries don’t make things easy for immigrants. When they come in as students, they pay a higher fee. The foreign workers face long hours, get lower wages and face social isolation. The locals resent having to put with their festivals and religious practices. The migrants’ children struggle to cope with their education. They have to learn new languages and deal with new subjects, teachers and hostile peer groups. Integration remains a challenge for every migrant. When they succeed, their relatives back home claim them as their own. But during the days of struggle, the migrants face the jeers of the clan for chasing money.

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