10 July 2021



Borders are arbitrary lines on a map, but they have real impact on where we live and work, and the ways we trade and transact. How porous or rigid they are is determined mainly by policy, sometimes geography, and occasionally by sheer human will. Tax havens, visas, human migration—they all are evidence of a global economy that operates across states and in the spaces between them.


    Will the coronavirus pandemic boost or deflate globalization?

    Covid-19 has been more effective than any globalization foe at restricting the movement of people across borders. Is it putting a damper on globalization itself, though?By forcing us to shift our work interactions online, the virus is supercharging cross-border collaboration, and some experts say this is just the beginning. “It will be probably equal to the invention of electricity,” says professor Vasyl Taras of the transformations that virtual work will spur. Still, others worry people without an internet connection will be left out, further widening the gap between the world’s haves and have-nots.


    272 million: Number of international migrants in the world 583,420: Estimated number of H1B visa holders in the US$85 billion: US taxes paid yearly by H1B visa holders 69%: Number of migrants currently working in the UK’s healthcare sectors who would have been ineligible for a visa under new regulations $95 billion: Amount China pumped into infrastructure in Africa in 2019, mostly on ports and other logistics projects3%: Uptick in world trade between 2018 and 2019, part of the longest lull in the global exchange of goods in a decade


    The Statue of Liberty is seen at sunset in New York HarborIMAGE COPYRIGHT:REUTERS/BRENDAN MCDERMID

    13.7%: The percentage of foreign-born people in the US is currently about the same as it was in 1900, though that figure has fluctuated over time. After hitting nearly 15% in 1910, it declined consistently for six decades. In 1970, as few as 4.7% people in the US were foreign-born, and only since then have the numbers gone up again. It’s not just immigration that accounts for the share of the foreign-born, but also how many children people are having in the US.  


    Whatever you think of global migration, one thing is certain: It’s not going anywhere. For the past few decades, the number of immigrants leaving their countries has been going up consistently, and with the uncertainties brought in from climate change, the trend is about to pick up speed.


    “In this new, protective environment, people are trying to build walls. But I don’t think any wall could be high enough to stop people from connecting to each other, especially where we are with the tech environment. The old globalization we know was driven mainly by corporations like Western Union, big corporations. They produced a lot of jobs, gave a lot of wealth, gave access to health, and gave access to education. But the new globalization is basically [driven by] 7 billion people, and one of the reasons for that is [the proliferation of] web, network, and mobile connections. Today, an Indonesian entrepreneur can build a small business from their mobile phone and sell goods to Canada—and do the payments hopefully with Western Union!” —Hikmet Ersek, the CEO of Western Union

    Are open borders bad?

    Open borders are often discussed in the context of demonizing liberal immigration policies. But there is little evidence that having a more open immigration system would be damaging to the economy. On the contraryresearch shows there are many economic gains from the dynamism, competition, and entrepreneurship foreigners willing to leave their homes to improve their lives bring into their new country. Many economists believe that more immigration, even with added cost, would generate more economic growth.

    • American Factory. This remarkable film might be the most thoughtful movie ever made on how globalization may impact the future of work.
    • The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work. Richard Baldwin, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, delves into how digital workforces and telemigration are changing the nature of globalization.
    • “Get out.” A New Yorker profile of Stephen Miller, the architect of Donald Trump’s hard line on immigration, which shows the kind of political cachet it carries. 
    • “Of Mice and Merchants: Trade and Growth in the Iron Age.” Four economists studied communities along the Mediterranean 3,000 years ago. They found those most likely to trade also were likely to be more developed.
    • Because China. This Quartz video series shows China’s superpower in action around the world, along with all of its opportunities, tensions, innovations, and dangers.


      Estonias government chief information officer Kotka holds cards to promote e-residency in TallinIMAGE COPYRIGHT:REUTERS/INTS KALNINS

      Marten Kaevatz isn’t an immigration or trade expert—he’s a digital advisor. He’s also the mind behind Estonia’s trailblazing digital government initiatives, from online voting to an e-residency program that allows people to obtain Estonian residency without physically living there. Through Estonia’s digital-first infrastructure, Kaevatz is disrupting not just the logistics of immigration but its very essence, and offering a glimpse of how immigration might work in a global, digitally integrated world. 

      Five things that will deepen your understanding of borders:


    Youths play in the water on the beach of Rodney Bay after sunset in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, November 23, 2016.IMAGE COPYRIGHT:REUTERS/CARLO ALLEGRI

    You can buy your way to citizenship, or at least residency, in quite a few countries—but it doesn’t come cheap. Countries like St. Lucia or Barbuda will allow you to live there with a $100,000 donation, while you’ll need to invest at least €350,000 ($415,000) for a residency permit in Germany or Portugal. A European citizenship calls for a €2.2 million ($2.6 million) investment by way of Cyprus, while a three-year residency in the UK comes at a hefty £2 million ($2.6 million). By comparison, the US is a bargain: A green card can be yours with a $900,000 investment. 


    The Diversity Visa Lottery is an official US government program that gives out 50,000 US green cards to randomly selected applicants from countries that were underrepresented in US immigration over the previous five years. It was started in 1994 with the goal of adjusting the legal status of Irish immigrants and increasing immigration from Europe, but ended up being an effective tool to diversify the country. 

  • DIY

    Here are five things you can do to shore up your border-crossing skills:

    • Study a foreign language, or your local dialect. Both will make you feel more comfortable with disruption and diversity no matter where in the world you find yourself.
    • Browse through Mexico’s exports to the US. You’ve probably heard of Americans’ dependence on Mexican avocados, but did you know the country also relies on its southern neighbor for plastic ladders?
    • Find out which countries offer birthright citizenship.
    • Draw a circle to see where in the world you fall in culturally.
    • Learn about previous iterations of globalization by making mole poblano—a gorgeous sauce of ground and stewed chilis, tomatoes, nuts, fruit, and, iconically, chocolate. Today, it’s arguably Mexico’s national dish, but it emerged from remezcla—a remix—of indigenous heritage, colonial influence, and Muslim history.