Einkommenseffekte der Flüchtlingskrise: Eine Pi-mal-Daumen-Rechnung

Im Jahr 2015 erreichte die Immigration nach Österreich einen Höchststand. Der Nettozuzug betrug ca. 113.000 Menschen, fast doppelt so viele Menschen wie im Jahr davor. Davon kamen 75.650 Menschen aus sogenannten Drittstaaten, der Rest aus der EU und assoziierten Saaten wie der Schweiz. Hauptgrund dieses Anstiegs war natürlich die Flüchtlingskrise, die riesige politische und mediale Aufmerksamkeit bekam. Zu den vielen heißen Themen in diesem Zusammenhang gehört die Frage nach den wirtschaftlichen Auswirkungen der Immigration. Weil ich im kommenden Semester eine Vorlesung in internationaler Ökonomik halten werde, dachte ich es wäre nützlich sich einmal anzusehen was das Lehrbuch zu dieser Frage beizutragen hat.  Also habe ich folgende vom Lehrbuch inspirierte Pi-mal-Daumen-Kalkulation aufgestellt.

Das Bruttoinlandsprodukt Österreichs im Jahre 2015 betrug 339.896 Mio. Euro und die Zahl der Erwerbstätigen 4.148.400. Die Lohnquote betrug 69 Prozent. Unterstellen wir, dass Österreich eine Cobb-Douglas-Produktionsfunktion mit einer Arbeitselastizität von 0,69 aufweist. Des weiteren gehen wir in üblicher Lehrbuchmanier davon aus, dass alle Immigranten in den Arbeitsmarkt integriert werden und vollkommener Wettbewerb herrscht.

Konzentrieren wir uns auf die 75.650 Einwanderer aus Drittländern. Diese Menschen kommen zum überwiegenden Teil aus armen Ländern, sind relativ jung und bringen daher wenig Kapital mit. Wir behandeln daher diesen Zustrom als reine Verschiebung des Arbeitsangebots — und zwar von 1,82 Prozent der Erwerbstätigen.

Gegeben unsere unterstellte Produktionsfunktion würde das zu einem Anstieg des BIPs von 4.265 Mio. Euro bzw. 1,25 Prozent (= 0,69 x 1,82) führen. Das ist schon mal keine Kleinigkeit! Nur zum Vergleich: Der Effekt des Handelsabkommens TTIP aufs BIP wird auf 0.5 Prozent geschätzt.

Wie verteilt sich dieser Gewinn auf verschiedene Bevölkerungsgruppen?

Zusätzliche Arbeitskräfte führen zu einem niedrigeren Grenzprodukt der Arbeit und daher zu sinkenden Löhnen. Unter meinen Annahmen sinkt der Lohnsatz um 0,56 Prozent (= (1-0.69) x 1.82). Das geht primär zulasten der heimischen (also nicht zuwandernden) Arbeiter, deren Gesamteinkommen somit um 1.310 Mio. Euro sinkt (= -0,0056 x 0,69 x 339.896 Mio.). Die Gewinner sind die heimischen Bezieher von Kapitaleinkommen und anderen Einkommensarten außer Löhnen. Ihr Gewinn ergibt sich zum einen daraus, dass sie die heimischen Arbeiter billiger beschäftigen können, zum anderen (kleineren) Teil aus der Möglichkeit, die zugewanderten Arbeitskräfte gewinnbringend zu beschäftigen. Insgesamt entsteht ihnen so ein Einkommenszuwachs von um 1.322 Mio. Euro (=0,31 x 4.265 Mio.). Das ist ein durchaus beträchtlicher Einkommenstransfer innerhalb der heimischen Bevölkerung — so als würde jeder österreichische Arbeiter mit einer Steuererhöhung von 300 Euro pro Jahr belastet, deren Ertrag zur Gänze an Kapitalbesitzer fließt.

Unterm Strich bringt die Zuwanderung der heimischen Bevölkerung also ein kleines Einkommensplus von 12 Mio. Euro (= 1.322 – 1.310 Mio.), sodass der der Großteil des BIP-Zuwachses (4.243 Mio. Euro) an die Zuwanderer selbst fließt. Das ist natürlich eine direkte Folge der Annahme vollständiger Konkurrenz am Arbeitsmarkt, die impliziert, dass jeder ungefähr das verdient, was er zum BIP beiträgt.

Also fassen wir zusammen: Die Eingliederung der Immigranten in den Arbeitsmarkt bewirkt einerseits einen spürbaren Anstieg des BIPs, andererseits eine Umverteilung von heimischen Beziehern von Arbeitseinkommen hin zu heimischen Kapitaleinkommen. Diese Rechnung ist selbstverständlich nur als erster Anhaltspunkt zu verstehen und soll nur dazu dienen einmal die Größenordnungen abschätzen zu können. Aller Vereinfachungen zum Trotz glaube ich, dass die grobe Richtung, in die diese Kalkulation deutet, richtig ist.

The Myths and Realities of the European Migration Challenge

Recently the Graz Economics Club invited Martin Kahanec an associate professor from Central European University Budapest to give a talk on migration in Europe from a labour market perspective. On his website Martin Kahanec writes:

There is no price tag attached to my hand stretched out to refugees, people threatened by wars, and violent regimes. The humanitarian argument prevails over any cost-benefit analysis. But as a labor economist, I firmly believe it is my obligation to help us better understand the labor market impacts of immigration.

Following this motivation he starts his talk with quoting several common fears on immigration: Migrants are low skilled, take our jobs, lower wages, abuse the welfare state, shop for welfare and increase crime rates. As a scientist he does not want to blindly believe such myths but rather tries to test these hypotheses to find out whether there is any empirical evidence supporting or rejecting them. Put differently, are such kind of fears justified?

Comparing skills of immigrants in Europe and natives, he finds no substantial differences. Migrants, however, tend to fill existing labor and skill shortages and they do so more flexibly than natives. He cites several studies which empirically reject the hypothesis of increasing unemployment due to migration. In fact, there is even some evidence for job creation triggered by migration in the long run. For instance, a nurse migrating to Austria to take care for a disabled person might not take away a job but rather create new ones: The home caring she is doing might have previously been carried out by a family member which consequently was not able to fully participate in the labour market. By employing a nurse from abroad the nursing job is created and the family member may return to his or her own job. When it comes to fears about migrants abusing our welfare systems, Martin Kahanec actually comes to a very different conclusion: Migrants seem not to abuse welfare benefits but rather suffer from a lack of access which should possibly be changed as a matter of fairness. He shows that post-enlargment migration had positive effects on GDP, GDP per capita and employment rates. Given Europe’s aging population we should not fear migrants but rather actively attract them to our countries. He concludes by stating

The current migration crisis in Europe offers a potential for a triple win:

  • Provide humanitarian help to refugees
  • Revamp our migration, asylum, and integration policies
  • Benefit from the new hands and brains that can boost our labor markets

Otherwise a triple loss looms.

An Economist’s Solution to the Refugee Crisis: Tradable Asylum Quotas

This week I took a course on migration with Hillel Rapoport from the Paris School of Economics. Lots of interesting stuff there: For example, recent empirical research suggests that allowing highly educated persons to emigrate may actually lead to a net increase in human capital in the home country (“brain gain”). The reason: the possibility to emigrate and earn higher wages abroad increases incentives for everyone to get more education and this could outweigh the direct brain drain effect.

Less surprisingly, we also talked quite a bit about the ongoing refugee crisis and an economist’s solution to it, proposed in recent work by Fernandez-Huertas Moraga and Rapoport. Let the EU set quotas for member states according to some initial key (capacity index), let the countries trade quotas on a market similar to the EU’s emission trading system, then use matching theory to allocate refugees to countries until the quotas are filled.

So how would this work in theory? Suppose 1 million refugees need to be allocated to 2 countries, A and B. According to the initial key, country A has a quota of 600,000, country B a quota of 400,000 refugees – say, because A is 50 percent larger than B (in terms of population or GDP). Costs of hosting refugees include both expenses for housing, food and clothing as well as costs arising from potential immigration-related social conflicts. The marginal cost of hosting refugees is increasing: the more refugees you already have, the higher the additional cost of hosting one more. For some reason, at the initial allocation, country A has higher marginal costs of hosting refugees than B, perhaps because popular opinion in country A is more hostile towards foreigners. For concreteness, let initial marginal costs in A and B be 15,000 and 11,000 euros, respectively. In that case, A’s government will be happy to pay up to 15,000 per refugee for the right to transfer refugees to country B. B’s government is happy to accept more refugees for any price above 11,000 euros. Given a competitive market (or a good auctioning mechanism), refugees will be transferred from A to B until marginal costs of hosting refugees are equal across countries ensuring an efficient allocation of asylum seekers. In equilibrium, the price will be somewhere between 11,000 and 15,000 euros per refugee, and country A will host fewer than 600,000, country B more than 400,000 refugees. (Readers familiar with the Coase theorem will notice that the initial allocation of refugees is of no relevance for this result.)

Alright, I can already hear the moral outrage: How dare you put a price tag on refugees?! Well, whether you like it or not, we are already putting a price tag on refugees. 6,000 euros – that’s the compensation the EU Commission is now offering member countries for each relocated asylum seeker. What’s more, under any quota scheme, there have to be some penalties in place for countries that don’t fulfill their quota. And in order for the plan to be incentive compatible, the penalty per refugee not hosted must be higher than the marginal cost of hosting refugees. So at this point, we are merely talking about what the correct price tag (or, equivalently, the correct penalty for not fulfilling the quota) is. There is simply no way to find this out without some kind of market mechanism that elicits the true refugee-hosting costs, as perceived by the member countries’ governments.

There are, of course, problems with that proposal. First and foremost, though the initial distribution of quotas doesn’t matter for the final allocation of refugees across countries, it does matter for who receives how much money in the end. In our example above, the larger the initial quota of country A, the more it will have to pay to country B in equilibrium. This creates a very tricky bargaining situation as each government tries to get as small an initial quota as possible. Judging by the recent experience of intra-EU negotiations, this problem alone might kill the whole thing. But then again, if the EU wants to have any kind of quota system, it has to solve that problem somehow.

Once that problem is solved (I’m assuming the can-opener here), it should be a piece of cake to get the auctioning mechanism going. Also, the algorithm to match refugees to countries is no more complex than the ones used by your average online dating platform.

So, the plan is well within the realm of the technically feasible. It makes great economic sense. Alas, it’s probably a non-starter politically.

PS: Here’s Hillel Rapoports website for additional info.