On April 18, 2018 at lunchtime (12.00 to 13.00), Klaus F. Zimmermann, Co-Director of POP at UNU-MERIT and President of the Global Labor Organization (GLO) spoke in the UNU-MERIT Migration Seminar about “The Economics of Walls and Fences”. The event was well-attended and the issues covered were discussed intensively.
As Zimmermann argued, migration research suggests that mobility creates economic welfare. The question then is why there is not more global migration than is observed. One explanation is the existence of borders, either legal, cultural or ethnic constraints, others are limits generated by geography or are simply walls and fences build by humans. Behind the creation of such borders are either humanitarian, military, security or economic arguments. However, migration research also suggests that hindering free mobility creates a larger stock of migrants and delays cultural assimilation, typically the opposite of what those want who propose those borders. Examining the fate of walls and fences around the world, one can conclude that they are in general not very successful. They also tend to be at odds with economic rationale and their popularity as political projects remain a puzzle.