Monday, 10 November 2014

"By welcoming migrant workers, the UAE and its neighbor Qatar do more than any other rich country to reduce global inequality" [amended]

Many people have spotted that places like Dubai are quite strange to Western eyes. "About 85 percent of the population of the UAE, for example, consists of migrant workers living on roughly $5,000 per year. Fifteen percent of the population are Emirati nationals, who live on roughly three hundred thousand dollars a year, implying greater economic inequality than existed even in Apartheid South Africa or the antebellum South." It just doesn't sound very nice.

But. so this piece argues, this is no criticism of Qatar and UAE. Quite the opposite. True it is that there are some fantastically rich people in (e.g.) Qatar and some terribly poor ones in south Asia, but allowing some of the latter to live and work in the same country as the former in fact narrows the global inequality: the south Asians do much better in Qatar than they would by staying at home. There's a good graph at the link that shows quite how much of a difference the middle-Eastern states make - a lot better than the likes of Norway.

Here, I think common sense morality conflicts with utilitarianism. But it's not clear that common sense morality should prevail.

Amendment: on the subject of global versus national inequality see Tim Harford.

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