Uniting the World’s Workers

Imagine a world where wealthy countries hosted one migrant for every native-born citizen and where migration has overwhelming popular support. Native-born citizens sponsor visas for migrants, who in return share half of the increase in earnings they achieve by coming to wealthy countries with their hosts. A typical family of four can earn $15,000 by hosting migrant workers and millions of migrants increase their earnings by 5-10 times by working in wealthy countries, sending much of their earnings back to their impoverished families who are finally able to afford nutrition and sanitation. Citizens select migrants to sponsor with whom they often have a personal connection, of heritage, religion, language or interests. Local communities regulate how many migrants their citizens can host and many citizens in search of opportunity move to cities that are open to migration.

We propose a Visas between Individuals Program (VIP) that would tie together the interests of the working classes of rich and poor countries through sponsorship of visas and sharing of the gains from migration. Because every citizen would benefit from migration, rather than just the wealthy or those in cosmopolitan cities, migration would move from being one of the most divisive issues in wealthy countries to a widely popular source of growing middle-class income. At the same time, the VIP would do more to reduce inequalities across countries, in both material income and political influence, than all development of poor countries for the last thirty years. And while migrants would be much poorer than their native hosts and would likely be somewhat patronized by him, the VIP would begin to break down the barriers of nationalism and bigotry that harden the hearts of the wealthy countries against the plight of their sisters and brothers in poor countries. Experiments with a similar system in New Zealand have already met with great success and, as we suggest in our chapter 3, could be tried in pioneering model cities in wealthy countries.