Open Borders With Bangladesh?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
A future US guest worker program may not be made up of very many Mexicans at all. Mark Krikorian at NRO points to the fact that the advantage enjoyed by Mexico’s workers disappears when compared to other potential labor pools. A per capita income of nearly $10,000 a year puts Mexico near the top of the developing world. Many maquiladoras, a cornerstone of NAFTA, have closed shop and moved to China as a result. In an era of cheap transportation, the proximity of Mexico may, as in the cases of the closed maquiladoras, count for little. Krikorian says:

Egypt is home to nearly 80 million people who make less than half the average Mexican. India and Indonesia together have 1.3 billion people with one-third the average Mexican’s income. And Pakistan and Bangladesh together have more than 300 million people with less than one-quarter the average Mexican’s income.

And how much of Iraq’s working-age population would leap at the chance to get out, regardless of the wages offered?

That’s a lot of “willing workers” who will work cheaper than Mexicans.

Will the Mexicans gain their amnesty only to urge Uncle Sam to close the gate behind them?


Knucklehead said...

You can be sure they'll want the gate closed behind them. It's human nature. Happens every time.

What makes the Mexican version of the recurring immigrations the US has always had is that they can cross a huge land border. In the past there have always been ports of entry. Unless any new migration of Bengalis or Indonesians or whatever happens across the Mexican or Canadian borders it will be nearly impossible to match the sheer numbers of illegals that the Mexicans have poured into the US.

David Thomson said...

I am confused about Mexico's reported annual average income of $10,000. Is this really relevant to the discussion? It is my understanding that the vast majority of that county's illegal emigrants were only able to earn roughly $2.00 a day in the old country. That works out to a mere $720 a year according to my 4th grade math.

Fresh Air said...

And Pakistan and Bangladesh together have more than 300 million people with less than one-quarter the average Mexican’s income.

While this is true, the key difference is that Bangladesh shares a border with India, Burma and Bhutan, not the United States. The lure of American prosperity and security is what brings these people here as much as wage differential.

Eric Blair said...

Last time I looked, Bangladesh was on the other side of the planet from the USA. I don't think they'll be hoofing it in across the Rio Grande anytime soon.

Skookumchuk said...

Eric Blair:

But American companies could bring them in. It would be interesting to do a comparison between the cost of Mexican field laborers paid at prevailing wages for illegals versus the cost of chartering several 747s full of Bangladeshis to do the same work at much lower wages. I'm betting on the Bangladeshis.

More to the point is that northern Mexico isn't developing in quite the way that NAFTA's planners had hoped. It isn't a closed "common market" system, but rather one that is open to the full force of global competition. And it currently doesn't favor the Mexicans. Add to this the fact that a true US open borders policy may not provide the economic escape valve that Mexico's ruling elites are expecting.

Knucklehead said...

Sometimes one just needs to wonder about the numbers...

According to the CIA Factbook Mexico has about $10,100/capita in GDP (PPP). I don't believe that's nearly the same thing as average income. A roughly $1T economy with roughly 100 million people. (107.5 million people)

Other interesting numbers found there (I've never had any good sense about how accurate the CIA factbook is but its sure convenient!):

43M people workforce. 3.6% unemployment but 25% "underemployment". 1.6% of the people are in the lowest 10% of the income distribution but nearly 35.6% are in the highest 10%. 40% are "below the poverty line" whatever the heck that means anymore (but I suspect it means more in Mexico than it does in the US).

Just for comparison and contrast, the US has 298.4M people, $12.4T economy, $42,000/capita GDP (PPP), 149M labor force, 5% unemployment (no number given for "underemployment"), 12% "below poverty line", 1.8% in lowest 10% income distribution (higher than Mexico?!? - I suppose the illegal slave laborers count in this), and 30.5% in the highest 10%.

43M workforce... 3.6% unemployed... 1.548M unemployed.

149M workforce, 5% unemployed... 7,450,000 unemployed.

If we could manage to get 3M working illegals back into Mexico we could triple their unemployment rate and, presuming some unemployed American would immediately step into those jobs, knock our own unemployment below 3%!

Are there really 11M illegals in the US? Make 10M of them Mexican and you're talking about 10% of Mexico's population!

Does anyone know where the current 10-12M illegals numbers come from?

Just putzin' wit da numbers.

terrye said...


You read my mind. I wonder at the numbers too.

Skookumchuk said...

Yes, the numbers are goofy. The CIA Factbook numbers for 3.5% unemployment are close to the 3.9% official numbers (Spanish link).

So-called "underemployment" seems tougher to pin down. A Mexican Senate report calls "informal employment" the "great generator" of jobs between 2000 and 2004, growing from 1.3 million to 11.2 million people. But what is "informal employment" and what does this growth tell us about the Mexican economy?

Rick Ballard said...

"I wonder at the numbers too."

Hmmm.. I thought I mentioned that somewhere...

If you're going to fight a chimera, you might as well make it a great big huge chimera that looks like a cross between a griffen and a gargoyle. Give it the gaze of a basilisk while you're at it - and insist that it has the properties of dragon's teeth to boot.

Then call Sancho Panza (having meticulously checked his papers to determine the legality of his status) to bring Rocinante (a unicorn working off the books as a horse) as you don the shining armor of your principles and prepare to set forth on your quixotic quest to rid the realm, once and for all, of the fearsome giants who have ravished the fair land.

terrye said...


I love it when you wax poetic.

Glenn Reynolds says we should annex Mexico. Reconquista in reverse.

There is no way anyone can really know. I was talking to some folks who spent some time in Rio Bravo and they were saying that people the locals {Americans and Mexicans] went back and forth across that border all the time. So how would you know who stays where? And there are lots of border towns like that.

I read somewhere that there are illegals working in New Orleans and I thought how do these people saying these things know all those workers are illegal? I mean, are they wearing Tshirts proclaiming their status or something? Sometimes I think people see hispanics and they just assume they are illegals.

Knucklehead said...


..."informal employment" the "great generator" of jobs between 2000 and 2004, growing from 1.3 million to 11.2 million people. But what is "informal employment" and what does this growth tell us about the Mexican economy?

Sounds like an official plan to ship folks north and use the money they send home to employ people to build new haciendas and manage estates.

I once had some chats with a Mexican guy from some coastal village somewhere in Baja. I'm pretty sure he converted to legal during the Reagan era amnesty although I have no evidence of his status in any way - just the impression I had. He was forever showing pictures of his family and such and we were chatting and according to him the recipe was to work hard here, live frugally, and support an extended family down there. He claimed that within another 5 years (this was about 3 years or so ago) or so he'd own half his village and would be able to return there and live as the Don.

Rick Ballard said...


That's why the final figures on applicants for citizenship are going to be so low. Who needs it?

If my wife would learn Spanish I'd be looking at Costa Rican beachfront for retirement. Of course, any savings would be chewed up in plane tickets for grandrugrats.

Skookumchuk said...


Been snooping around. Actually it seems pretty complex and has to do with the traditional statist definitions of employment. Think of France. It appears that the Mexican "informal" sector is defined by their government as anything not like traditional employment where workers belong to unions. Thus a contractor, a person paid under the table, a small start-up company with three people, and an illegal sending money home from America are all lumped together by the government when calculating "informal" employment.