Friday, March 22, 2013

Ironic Migration: Spain To Morocco

As US domestic migration settles back down into familiar patterns, the international scene continues to surprise. The stubborn economic crisis in Europe is largely to blame. The resulting talent flows are downright weird:

For generations, Moroccans have immigrated to Europe for work but now, in a surprising illustration of Europe's economic crisis, that trend is reversing –Europeans are coming to Morocco in search of jobs.

It's "the world upside down," writes Hein de Haas, co-director of the International Migration Institute, affiliated with Oxford University.

The number of Spaniards officially registered as residents in Morocco quadrupled between 2003 and 2011, according to the National Statistics Institute of Spain. Tens of thousands more are now believed to be in Morocco illegally. Before the crisis, Martinez says, no one in Spain ever thought they would come to Morocco for work.

Emphasis added. The movement from the core to the semi-periphery is strange enough. But a relatively better economy really doesn't explain the migration. Geographic arbitrage opportunities are helping globalization to diffuse:

Morocco may seem like a strange preference for a Spaniard. With its GDP one-sixth of Spain’s and an unemployment rate estimated at 30 percent, “Morocco is in a deeper crisis than Spain,” says Mehdi Lahlou, an economics professor at Morocco’s National Institute for Statistics and Applied Economics. Still, Mr. Lahlou says it makes sense that Spaniards would consider moving to Morocco for work.

Spaniards do not need a visa to enter Morocco for a stay of up to three months, and only need to step on Spanish soil – which includes Spanish enclaves in Morocco, such as Ceuta and Melilla – to renew their stay. (Moroccans, on the other hand, must receive a visa to legally enter Spain.)

Plus, with the euro to Moroccan dirham exchange rate currently at 10 to 1, Lahlou says Spaniards who work for European companies in Morocco or come with savings from home can “live like kings” in the country. These advantages, he says, allow Spaniards to easily move back and forth between continents looking for work wherever it may arise.

Emphasis added. The tyranny of the Euro zone is fueling an exodus from Spain. Morocco could devalue its currency to make exports more attractive. Spain has no such option. The fundamental draw is a cheaper cost of living. The rent in Europe is too damn high.

Fortress Europe is a one-way street. It's easy to leave, but difficult for citizens of non-member countries to enter. Furthermore, EU residents are notoriously inert. For a large and diverse labor market, there is surprisingly little relocation:

The Dutch are attached to the place where they are born and tend to remain living in the same locality as their family, according to new research on migration within the Netherlands by the Meertens Institute.

For example, 72% of the people who were born in Zuid Limburg at the beginning of the 20th century still have a great-grandchild in the area, the research shows. Zeelanders (60%) and Frisians (70%) are also more likely to live in the same province as their great-grandparents.

‘People tend to stay put in regions with their own dialect and culture, such as Friesland, Twente and Zuid Limburg,’ researcher Gert Bloothooft told the Volkskrant.

Spain is pulling a Pittsburgh, doing the fail. The Netherlands is amassing too much social capital. The long-term prospects for Spain are much better than that of the Netherlands. Most of the European Union is wasting a perfectly good crisis.

1 comment:

Matthew Hall said...

"Too much social capital". I've never heard such a description before. It certainly describes Cincinnati and is why Cincinnati has only started to get its act together as the the members of the old tribe moved beyond the municipal borders. Cincinnati has better demographics than most older industrial metros, but few natives leave, yet when they do they rarely come back for more than a visit. How do we change that?