Placing the Blame

I ran across this quote from Tony Blair earlier today and it seemed noteworthy. The ex-Prime Minister is trying to find someone to blame for the economic dislocations that immigration inevitably creates in the receiving country. And this is what he said:

The answer to someone who is unemployed in a country like mine or anywhere else in Europe, is not to blame migrants for having taken your job, [it] is to get the education and the skills necessary in order to be able to operate in the modern world.

In short, it is not the immigrants who are causing the dislocations. The fault lies with the native workers who haven’t bothered to update and upgrade their skills. All those workers at Disney displaced from their jobs: Shut up and go back to school!

I wonder if Mr. Blair would give the same advice if the immigrants had been imported under a program that only let in politicians interested in running for public office. Somehow I doubt it.

A few questions for Mr. Blair: Who will pay for that additional education? Do the benefits that immigrants generate cover these additional costs? And how exactly would this help out workers who are say in their 40s or 50s?


Author: George Borjas

I am a Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.