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Help Workers by Breaking Down Barriers to Labor Mobility



On Labor Day last year and in 2021, I wrote posts explaining how breaking down barriers to labor mobility can help many millions of workers around the world. Virtually everything in last year’s post is just as relevant today. So I am reprinting it with some updates and modifications:

Today is Labor Day.  As usual, there is much discussion of what can be done to help workers. But few focus on the one type of reform that is likely to help more poor and disadvantaged workers than virtually anything else: increasing labor mobility. In the United States and around the world, far too many workers are trapped in places where it is difficult or impossible for them to ever escape poverty. They could better their lot if allowed to “vote with their feet” by moving to locations where there are better job opportunities. That would also be an enormous boon to the rest of society.

Internationally, the biggest barriers condemning millions to lives of poverty and oppression are immigration restrictions. Economists estimate that eliminating legal barriers to migration throughout the world would roughly double world GDP—in other words, making the world twice as productive as it is now. A person who has the misfortune of being born in Cuba or Venezuela, Zimbabwe or Afghanistan, is likely condemned to lifelong…

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