The impact of international migration on international trade: an empirical study of Australian migrant intake from Asian countries

Lung, Sidney Mankit (2008) The impact of international migration on international trade: an empirical study of Australian migrant intake from Asian countries. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


In the context of established international economic theory, it is well known that international trade of commodities is effectively trading factors of production such as labour and capital. It follows that if factors of production can be moved internationally, then the need for commodity trade is eased, and trade of commodities and movements of factors of production can be substituted for each other. From this, the conclusion can be reached that factor movement is a substitute for commodity trade. Allowing people to migrate from one country to another country involves migration of labour – the movement of a factor of production. The conclusion that factor flows are a substitute for commodity-trade can be re-stated as international immigration is a substitute for international trade. However, this conclusion does not explain the real world in which both international trade and international immigration have increased over time. Thus, established theory of immigration and trade may not be a reliable policy guide for formulating immigration and/or trade policy. It is the purpose of this thesis to formulate an alternative theory, which more effectively explains the relationship between immigration and trade. For the purpose of distinguishing the impact of immigrants on trade from the impact of other factors on trade, this thesis employs a two-step approach. The first step lays down the theoretical foundations by arguing that immigrants contribute to the economy of the immigrant receiving country in two areas: Firstly, immigrants supply labour to the immigrant receiving country and increase demand for goods and services, hence increase the size of the economy in the immigrant receiving country. Secondly, immigrants bring in intangible social capital and human capital with them (in addition to any tangible capital they bring with them). Both contributions have impacts on international trade. The increasing labour supply could reduce trade, but increasing the market size, and bringing in social capital, in the form of foreign market information, could facilitate trade. The second step employs the latest econometric techniques to test empirically the theory that is developed in the first step, using real world data. The main empirical technique employed in this thesis to analyse the effect of immigration on trade is the gravity model that is estimated using cross-section and time series (panel) data. The case of Australia’s immigration and trade with ten major Asian trade partner countries is selected for the study. The panel cointegration test is conducted to investigate the possible long run equilibrium relation between immigration and trade. The short-run relation between immigration and trade is also examined. This thesis successfully distinguishes between the impact of immigrants on trade and the impact of other influential factors on trade. A strong long run relation between immigration and exports is established. Within a certain range of immigrant intakes, immigrants have positive and significant impact on Australia’s exports to the immigrant home countries. The long run impact is found to be double the strength of the short run impact. However, a long run relation between immigration and imports cannot be clearly established by the panel cointegration test, and the impact of immigrant intake on imports is not strong. Since the long run relation between migrant intake and exports can be established, it is possible that an underlining causation exists. Therefore, a panel causality test on immigration and exports is conducted. The results show that migrant intake “Granger causes” exports, but exports do not Granger cause immigration. This thesis demonstrates that international labour immigration, unlike the movement of other factors of production, is not necessarily a substitute for international trade in the manner described by established international economic theory. In the case of Australia’s immigration and trade with Asian immigrant home countries, immigrants have long run and short run positive impacts on exports, although immigrants do not have a strong impact on Australia’s imports from Asian migrant home countries. Moreover, migrant intake 'causes' exports. The main policy implication of these findings is that Australia can use immigration as a long-term strategy to promote exports to Asian countries.

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Economics and Finance
Historical > RFCD Classification > 340000 Economics
Keywords migration, immigration, Australia, Asia, impact, international trade, imports, exports
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