Singapore is just 26 miles across. It’s a tiny country with dozens of cultures. We’re in one of the largest hawker centers in Singapore. You’ll find Malay food. Can I get one of the popiah? You’ll find halal Indian food. What kind of food is this? This is chicken biryani. You’ll find local Chinese food. This is called a century egg. This shows the diversity that is Singapore. Thirty percent of Singapore’s population are foreigners. Around the world politicians are trying to shut down their borders. But Singapore is letting lots of immigrants in, especially low skilled immigrants. And it’s working out pretty well for them. Immigrants clean this country. They raise its children. They build from the ground up. And Singapore is clean, efficient, futuristic. It’s kind of a financial utopia. If this is the promise of a more open border, why isn’t everyone doing it? I’m Preeti Varathan. This is Quartz. Subscribe to our channel for more videos like this. Immigration is messy and every country approaches it in a pretty different way. If you talk to economist Bryan Caplan though he’ll tell you there’s a best way. Economists call it open borders. The entire world is open to you for where you want to live. Open borders is the idea that anyone should basically be able to move and work anywhere in the world. To understand that think about the European Union. The EU has open borders inside of itself. That means you can move from Poland to Portugal without needing a visa or a work permit. What the EU doesn’t have is open borders with the rest of the world. Right now, no place does. That’s because open borders is really just an ideal, a theory. Open borders is not a trickle down economics. It’s Niagara Falls economics. It’s where you pour a firehose of wealth on the world. Caplan thinks open borders would solve one of the world’s biggest economic problems that people are stuck in countries where they’re not as productive as they could be. And he uses the example of a worker in Haiti. If you allow a Haitian to simply get on a boat and move to Miami the day that he arrives, his wages and productivity skyrocket. You can go from making two dollars a day in Haiti to making 50 or hundred dollars a day in Miami very easily. So just by virtue of moving that Haitian worker is richer. Miami is productively using his labor so it’s also richer, which makes America richer. And that Haitian worker who’s now earning more will probably send some money back home, so Haiti gets richer. Amazing right. Implement that on a grand scale and you’ve got open borders. Economists also love to talk about the United States before the 1920s. Back then the US let almost anyone in and Caplan says the country benefited tremendously from it. If you take a look you can see the US as a result became the world’s richest and most powerful country. You can basically sum up open borders like this. When you let a lot of people in your country prospers. OK, as you might have figured out, this theory is not universally agreed upon. The big worry is that people lose their jobs to immigrants or see their wages fall. But economists have had a really hard time actually proving that. For instance, when 125,000 Cubans left for Miami in 1980, the city’s workforce jump by 7 percent. But economists found they didn’t hurt local wages or jobs. When hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jews fled for Israel, economists couldn’t find any evidence that the flood of immigrants hurt Israeli workers economically. Singapore doesn’t actually have open borders but its entire migration policy is built on a very open borders-ish logic. That If you let workers in, your country benefits. Rose Sanchez is from the Philippines. She works full time for this family and lives in their home. She’s the worker Caplan is talking about. A domestic worker in the Philippines makes only two dollars a day. But Rose makes around $550 a month in Singapore. So there’s a huge difference? Yes there is. And that’s just a virtue of being in Singapore? Yeah, working here for eight years I can say my life but any change. How did it change? I have my own house. I have my own farm. I have my own motorcycle. My kids also in the good schools. In Singapore, there are more than 965,000 low skilled workers just like Rose taking jobs Singaporeans don’t want to do and making more money than they ever would at home. Sounds great, right? But here’s the truth about Rose and about all low skill migrants in Singapore. She can’t stay. A community that settles here, will want to integrate more, will want to interact more with the existing population. Alex Au is an activist for the fair treatment of migrant workers. He says the laws around those workers are set up to make it very very hard for them to ever become citizens. We have a very efficient fine tuned system for choosing who comes in and who doesn’t come in and how long they can stay and when they must go back out again. In Singapore a lot of transient workers live in dorms sequestered to the edge of the island. They can’t bring their families. They can’t marry Singaporeans without government approval. They can’t even have children in Singapore. If they do, they’re kicked off the island. This is one of the most pro migration places in the world, and they’ve created a legally inferior class. We’re very happy if Sunday come. Today is Rose’s day off. Her friends are Filipino helpers too. They doll themselves up to send photos to family back home and then they head to Lucky Plaza. It’s the lower budget mall on the strip and every Sunday it turns into a bustling little Philippines. Pretty much everyone here is a domestic worker. Do you feel like a Singaporean? Rose isn’t assimilating because she knows she’ll never be a citizen. I want to be a Philippino and I won’t change that. And that’s exactly what the Singaporean government wants. Rose and her friends don’t fit with the government’s idea of what the Singaporean identity is. And even Alex Au, the migrants rights activist, kind of thinks that makes sense. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect any country to take in large numbers of foreigners in a short period of time. At social and a cultural level, there will always be resistance. That resistance is why we don’t see countries opening their borders all over the world. Even in a place like Singapore, a place that depends on a huge number of migrant workers, there is a fear of what would happen if they got to really become a part of the country. Right now, the question of national identity is an issue everywhere in the world, not just in Singapore. In places like the US and Germany, it’s coming up in a way that it hasn’t in decades. And Singapore is one extreme version of how you deal with that question. Economists make a great case for open borders but they haven’t solved the stuff that’s harder to quantify:. culture, identity, the idea that where you’re from matters. Hey guys thanks for watching. Where would you go in a world with open borders. Let us know in the comments and subscribe to our channel for more videos record.