The Importance Of High Skilled Immigration

The Cameron-Clegg coalition in the U.K. is moving to curtail legal immigration, including of highly skilled professionals. Chris Bertram remarks that “Though hardly the most vulnerable group globally, I imagine this directly affects a substantial number of regular Crooked Timber readers.”

Probably so. It’s also worth noting that while highly skilled professionals are rarely the most vulnerable group of migrant workers, restrictions on their movements have the most negative consequences for vulnerable populations. The British (or American or as you like it) working class, in other words, is bound to rely on the services of skilled professionals to some extent. And to the extent that the local skilled professionals are forced to compete with the global supply of skilled professionals, that increases working class well-being. This actually works in two ways. If more dentists move to a given city, that increases the supply of dentists working class patients can choose from and increases their access to dental services. But because dental offices tend to have a somewhat hierarchical structure, it also greatly increases the demand for less skilled labor related to the running of a dental office.

What’s more, the particular joy of high-skilled immigration is that highly skilled people have specialized skills. An influx of dentists may be bad for dentists in particular, but it’s not like there’s some generic category of skilled professionals who loses out. Lawyers need dentists too. So allowing the entry of skilled professionals across the board has extremely broad based social benefits.