Economic Refugee

Written By
Paul Tracy
Updated November 4, 2020

What is an Economic Refugee?

An economic refugee is a person who moves to another country in search of a higher standard of living.

How Does an Economic Refugee Work?

Let's say John Doe lives in Cyprus. The country is undergoing tremendous economic upheaval: Nothing is affordable, there are few jobs and public programs are defunct. John's wife just had another baby, and he knows that they cannot support their children if they stay in the country. Accordingly, they pack up and move to England, where John is able to get a visa and a job as a computer programmer.

Unlike political refugees, most countries do not grant asylum to people fleeing countries because of bad economic conditions.

Why Does an Economic Refugee Matter?

Economic refugees are controversial in large numbers. They often arrive in their new countries with little money and depend on taxpayer-provided public services to get started. In some cases, they work in underground economies and are paid "under the table" because they can't get legal status to work in their new countries. This can create a tax-collection problem for the new home country. Economic refugees can also be educated and talented, and so their arrival in new countries is sometimes welcomed if the new country is in need of a particular skill set or talent.

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