The Power of Migration and Demography
Learn how migration is having a profound bearing on political elections around the world, and why growing elderly populations are taxing developed economies.
- Joseph F. Coughlin, Director, MIT AgeLab
- Ertharin Cousin, Payne Distinguished Lecturer, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University; Former Executive Director, UN World Food Programme
- Jean-Christophe Dumont, Head of the International Migration Division, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
- Moderator: Anne-Laurence Roucher, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Head of Development and Operations, Mirova
Migrant population is dramatically rising
The world’s population is growing at a rapid clip: from around 7.5 billion people today to a projected more than 11 billion people in 2100.1 The number of migrants, however, is increasing twice as fast as the population rate and is projected to go from 250 million today to 400 million in 2050, according to the United Nations’ Office of Migration.2
Additionally, Dumont says, over the last ten years there has been a 70% increase in the number of highly educated migrants to OECD countries,3 all of which have clear policies in place for well-qualified migrants, who are likely to become relatively integrated into their new countries.
For those with mid-level qualifications, however, the path is less straightforward. “We need to find a way to match the increasing supply to demand,” Dumont explained. “We need to invest in skills development and integration programs for those who are already in OECD countries. We find that those who are moving are people between the ages of 20 and 60. If we look at the broader picture, migration is already contributing a lot to the dynamic of our labor market. In Europe, 92% of the growth of the labor force over the past ten years was due to migration. It was 65% in the US.”
About a fifth of all recruitment in growing occupations is of migrants. The figure is about 22% in the EU in highly skilled sectors, such as the tech sector, but also in lower skilled occupations like security services, where there is high demand, and healthcare, where there is a bit of a skill mix.4
Aging population also a workforce factor
Another area of concern is the rapidly aging population in developed countries, where more than a quarter of the population will be 65 years or older by 2050.5 This will affect not only political agendas, but also the demand for new products and workers.
“We need to put systems and incentives in place that effectively enable people to change jobs over their career,” Dumont said. “That equally applies to migrants, young people and everybody else. The incentives are not necessarily available yet in all countries, and this is probably a big opportunity for investment.”
Continual education and retraining programs also will be critical to future success in the workplace.
“Do you genuinely believe the education you received from 0 to 21 years old is going to keep you going through 40 to 50 years of your work life?” asked Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, director of the MIT AgeLab. “Technology is changing at such a velocity that you're going to have to be in education and training programs for a lifetime. Not only do we have the challenge of people retiring and leaving gaps and lost knowledge and capability, but we also have a reason to try to keep them in the workforce because of the real resources they provide, and their knowledge about what they do.”
Meanwhile, when aging workers do finally retire, the migrant population’s need for jobs will begin to dovetail. “It becomes a challenge for the developed world when we see those with a lack of skills looking for jobs and opportunities in developed countries,” said Ertharin Cousin, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme. “But as the population ages, that's a workforce that we’ll require.”
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2 2017 International Migration Report – Highlights. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Accessed December 28, 2018.
3 World Migration in Figures. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed December 28, 2018.
4 Is migration good for the economy? Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed December 28, 2018.
5 OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction – Key Facts and Figures. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Accessed December 28, 2018.
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