Friday, September 5, 2008

Getting paid $25,000 to go home

This week a politician suggested paying unemployed foreigners over $25,000 on the condition that they leave the country. Where? In Ireland. Leo Varadkar represents Dublin West, and suggested that unemployed foreigners receive six months of benefits (equivalent to over $25,000) if they agree to leave Ireland. The reason is that Ireland, like much of the Western world, is experiencing an economic downturn.

In Spain, the same Irish Times story reports, unemployed foreign nationals from 20 countries have been offered €18,000 to go home on condition they do not come back for three years.

In the UK, there does not seem to similar calls to pay people to leave, but the Economist reports that some of the people who moved to the UK since 2004 from Eastern Europe, numbering over one million people, are returning home now.

It is hard to draw analogies with the US. In many parts of the European Union, it is possible to travel and work anywhere. Ireland and the UK allow people from many Eastern European countries to work in their countries, and have seen an influx of people from Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, etc. As such, the analogy may be migration between US states rather than immigration into the US from (let's say) Mexico. It may be more analogous to like California paying migrants from the East Coast to return home. Also, European countries have more generous benefits, so they are worried that yesterday's visiting worker becomes tomorrow's benefits tourist. Finally, most of the workers being paid to leave by Spain (and maybe Ireland if Leo Varadkar's idea takes off) are there legally. But, in the US much of the discussion seems to be about illegal/undocumented workers. Indeed, I have seen some US proposals that are the opposite of the European idea, where the workers themselves are paying to stay (rather than being paid to leave) and become legal residents.

In any case, Leo Varadkar's proposal was shot down in Ireland. It is good to see that Ireland is still "Ireland of the welcomes".

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