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Open Borders: Visa-Free Work Abroad

Goods can travel visa- and tax-free, why can't people?

Photo of David

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Why is it that inanimate objects have more mobility rights than people? International free-trade laws have allowed for the free flow of material goods across international borders, but people are required to obtain visas to do the same. 

This is particularly an issue when it comes to people being able to move from a place without jobs to a place with plentiful job opportunities. Employers sometimes want international applicants to have the necessary visas before applying for a job, but their countries often require job placement before they will issue the work visa. 

It's a Catch 22. Free and open borders, however, would allow for young people to legally move to where they can get jobs. 

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Photo of priyanka botny

David,

Do you have any suggestions? I have a cool idea now.. but cannot implement it in the US :( Take a look at Social Getwork and I am on H4.

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Photo of David

Hi Priyanka! Sorry, what is "Social Getwork" and "H4"?

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Photo of priyanka botny

David,
Social Getwork is one of the winning ideas - https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/winning/get-a-job-based-on-your-daily-routine

H4 is a dependent visa status that I on a temporary work visa holder.

The situation is that I am eager to take things forward but I am not allowed to work in the US. Would love to here about your say.
Thanks!

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Photo of David

Thanks for the clarification, Priyanka!

It's indeed a neat idea, for which I have many questions:
* Do you plan for this venture to be for-profit or nonprofit?
* What is your planned budget? And how many users will it take to break even?
* Why would the social-media sites allow you to access and collect information about their users?
* How do you map social-media interests to actual jobs? (Is there evidence that people who like a specific sports team on Facebook are well suited for a specific position?) And what evidence is there, if any, that one's social life (or non-professional likes and dislikes, such as what one posts on Facebook) can be correlated to their professional interests?
* How do you measure impact? Perhaps this last one can be addressed by refunding the advertiser half the ad fees if the person is hired through the app, but there's also a lot of abuse potential with that. Still, it's important to have a plan to figure out if you're being effective.
* Does the app address the problem? In other words, are youth unemployed because current job-seeking apps don’t work well? Or are there other reasons at the root of youth unemployment?
* How is what you propose materially different than what’s out there already in a very crowded field? Aside from the big ones (CareerBuilder, Monster [and its BeKnown app], LinkedIn, Indeed), a number of sites already mine social-media data for jobs purposes:
http://www.inthedoor.com/
https://apps.facebook.com/careeramp/
http://www.shldirect.com/ipq/
http://lunchmeetapp.com/


Hope that you find that useful.

All the best,
David

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Photo of Agraj Dangal

This is an interesting share David. I am thinking about how will this idea fit into an economy where more than 1300 young people fly abroad in search of job opportunities. Here in Nepal we have very less of job opportunities and the attractive remunerations abroad attract the youth.
Despite of restrictions on working visas we have such drain of labor. I cannot imagine how empty this place is going to be if we have this idea implemented here.
I am aware of the fact that government should take actions on creating opportunities here but the process seems to look like its going to take forever.
Thank You for sharing this idea

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Photo of David

Thanks Agraj!

Right now Nepal has little competition for its workers, since leaving is not an option for most people. But open borders internationally would force the Nepalese government to take action in order to retain its workers. Without that competition, the government can afford to be more complacent when it comes to action.

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Photo of Agraj Dangal

Hi David
I totally agree with your thoughts. The main reason for government inefficiency in developing opportunities in Nepal is that the work force doesnt have option. Here in Nepal ideas are being developed on how can we create a favourable condition for the youth in Nepal. I am sharing one of those approaches with you. Hope you find it useful.

https://openideo.com/challenge/youth-employment-pathways/ideas/3-step-model-to-turn-job-seekers-into-job-creaters

Thanks

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Photo of David

Thanks Agraj!

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Photo of Sarah Klein

I love this idea, and I love the fact that it shatters our pre-conceived notions of borders. I can't help but thinking about these two points for continued thinking on this fascinating concept:

1.) Goods and people require and deserve different things from governments. For example, goods do not require social services and public resources like people do. Therefore, I think that in order for governments to enable more fluidity between borders, I think that social service policies might have to be more cooperative and all-encompassing than they are currently, i.e. not nation-exclusive or nation-based. What might these policies look like?

2.) If youth are able to move away to where the jobs are, how will we be able to prevent an imbalance in economic stimulation? For example, a large issue today in small towns is that youth move away to cities, leaving small town economies to suffer and for communities to diminish. How would we be able to prevent this from happening on a country-to-country scale?

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on these two points!

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Photo of David

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Sarah!

Goods actually require a lot of services, just different ones than people — usually more expensive capital-intensive ones. Goods, for example, require ports and freighters and railroads and train tracks and trucks and highways and planes and airports and warehouses., all of which require large volumes of energy and natural resources and people to staff them. Many of those resources — airports, ports and highways in particular — are publicly financed. Countries may invest just as much, if not more, in goods than in people. (Although the two, of course, are almost always intertwined.) Either way, of course, it remains the case that goods are more free to travel than people.

In an open-border system, some countries would suffer while others would do well. But it would be incumbent upon countries to each do their best to attract and retain workers. Right now, many countries have fewer incentives to do so since their population of workers is largely unable to go elsewhere. They stay because they don't have a choice, and things remain the same because there is little incentive for change. Open borders would introduce more competition, spurring government to work to improve to be better work environments than other places. More competition is better for the consumer, and the consumer in this case is the global worker.

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Photo of Sarah Klein

Hi David. Thank you so much for your thoughtful, intelligent responses to my points/questions. What do you think about...

1.) In regards to the expenses related to goods vs. people, I agree with you that goods are more capital-intensive. However, what if we were to consider confusion regarding increased border fluidity from a legal perspective? For example, while I am certainly no legal expert or professional, in the United States, there is much debate over health care provision for individuals living in the U.S. illegally. I do not wish to take a side on this debate here, but I bring up this scenario to illustrate that while yes, expenses are partially at issue here, there is also confusion over who is legally obligated to take care of and provide for these individuals in terms of healthcare--the countries in which they are citizens or the country in which these individuals are socially contributing? This confusion is not present for goods, because when goods arrive in, say, the UK, it is clear that the UK must build a port to receive these goods regardless if they originated in another country. Would this confusion be cleared if we were to have visa-free work between countries?

With regards to Point #2...

2.) The competitive environment between countries for workers is an interesting concept. Anyone else have any thoughts on this?

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Photo of David

a) In the United States, we do not even provide free healthcare for our own citizens let alone for undocumented immigrants.

b) Immigrants, legal and otherwise, all around the world pay taxes, sometimes directly and always indirectly, that contribute to the government's coffers. U.S. undocumented workers provide fake social-security numbers to their employers, resulting in taxes being taken from their salaries but them still being denied the right to services. And in the United States and everywhere in the world, immigrants pay direct sales and service taxes and indirect taxes such as through paying rent — their rent bill includes a portion that pays for the property taxes.

c) The United States became the most powerful country in the world with the largest economy in the world because of immigrants. We are a country founded by immigrants and their children. And whatever kind of economy we've had —from manufacturing in the 1800s and 1900s to the current consumer and service industry — our economy has been powered by the labor of immigrants.


The notion that immigrants are a drain on society is a false one. Rather, immigrants are a valuable ingredient in the formation of a robust economy.

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Photo of Sarah Klein

Hi David,

Please understand that I am not trying to say that immigrants are a drain on our society or that they are not valuable in a robust society. I am a first generation child of immigrants in the U.S., and my parents contributed immensely to U.S. society for years before they became U.S. citizens. The reason why I am intrigued by the idea of working without visas is because I think it is a good one, and I am interested in hearing more details on how it can work.

The points you have made in a, b, and c are true. Do you have any more detailed thoughts or suggestions on what kind of legal partnerships and cost-sharing could exist between countries if/when people can work across borders without visas? The E.U. is an existing model that may provide insight into this, and while this model may not be applicable to the North American situation or elsewhere, perhaps evaluating this model can help us take more steps into fleshing out details on the work-without-visas (or more lenient visas/work permits) concept.

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Photo of David

a) I understand.

b) There is no need for cost-sharing because on an aggregate basis the societal benefits of immigration outweigh the costs.