Tax incentives could lure migrants back home: OECD

Study looks at 10 countries with top priority on attracting back migrants

Reuters February 18, 2017

NEW YORK: Migrants from developing nations could be tempted to return home if exempted from paying taxes on their savings and given opportunities to build on their foreign experience, an intergovernmental think-tank said in a major report.

The recommendations, which come amid the largest movement of refugees and migrants since World War Two, are among proposals put forward by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to encourage the return of migrants from poor countries.

The number of international migrants has doubled in the past quarter century, reaching 240 million, the 35-nation economic policy body said in its report launched in New York. As world leaders grapple with stemming the migrant flow, the study by the OECD’s Development Centre urged poor countries to invest in policies that can lure back citizens and convince them to stay.

“Return migration is a largely underexploited resource,” the report said. “With the right policies in place, return migrants can invest financial capital in business start-ups and self-employment and have the potential to transfer the skills and knowledge acquired abroad.”

The OECD researchers found that attracting back migrants who had gained experience or education abroad was a top economic priority for governments in the 10 countries they examined. The study looked at Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Morocco, Georgia, Armenia, Cambodia and the Philippines.

It said measures which could persuade migrants to return included abolishing taxes on savings they bring home, providing opportunities to use skills acquired abroad, offering refresher courses to help them re-enter the job market and boosting social and health services.

Researchers said the decision of returning migrants to remain in their home country was directly related to how much the authorities spent on public welfare. In Costa Rica, which had the highest relative spending on social and health services - some 16% of GDP, 95% of migrants who had returned home said they intended to stay, according to the study.

Earlier this month, European Union leaders met in Malta to discuss measures to curb migration from Africa.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2017.

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