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The enduring Japa phenomenon: A win-win for all



The “Japa” phenomenon, which refers to Nigerians migrating to greener pastures abroad, has become a trend that is not only here to stay but is also mutually beneficial for both the home country, Nigeria, and the host nations.

This mass migration has been driven by various factors, including economic opportunities and the pursuit of a better life. While it might seem like a brain drain for Nigeria, the Japa syndrome has far-reaching implications that extend beyond its initial appearance.

Western nations have long been recipients of immigrants from around the world, including Nigeria. In some Western countries, such as the United States, it is official government policy to attract immigrants to fill underworked industries and diversify their populations.

For instance, the United States has been running the Diversity Visa Program for over a quarter of a century, issuing approximately 55,000 immigrant visas annually.

This program aims to diversify the immigrant population in the United States. Nigerians have been beneficiaries of these visas, reflecting the global demand for skilled workers.

The United Kingdom, Australia, and more recently, Canada, have also intensified their immigration programs. This trend raises questions about why industrialized nations are actively welcoming immigrants.

The answer to this question lies in the concept of the welfare state. While welfare states and social security systems are relatively new phenomena worldwide, they have become integral to many industrialized nations.

These systems are designed to redistribute wealth and provide support to those in need, including the elderly, infirm, and sick.

The welfare state concept, pioneered by Germany’s Bismarck in the mid-1800s, has since spread globally.

However, funding welfare systems poses fiscal challenges. Most social welfare systems operate on a pay-as-you-go basis, where today’s taxpayers fund the pensions and benefits of current retirees.

This model worked well during the post-World War II baby boom when there were ample young workers contributing to the system.

With declining fertility rates since then, many countries, including the United States and Japan, face an impending demographic crisis.

The proportion of elderly citizens is increasing, and they are living longer, demanding more medical care and social support.

Generational economists predict that the shrinking working-age population, coupled with the rising costs of welfare for the elderly, could lead to economic instability and even bankruptcy in some countries.

One practical solution to address this economic challenge is to welcome immigrants who can contribute to the workforce. This approach has been adopted by several countries facing demographic pressures.

Allowing immigrants to work in these countries increases the size of the workforce, providing much-needed labour to support the economy.

Many immigrant workers eventually return to their home countries without claiming state pensions, reducing the fiscal burden.

Nigeria, with its burgeoning youth population and entrepreneurial spirit, plays a crucial role in this global dynamic.

As Nigerian professionals and workers migrate to affluent countries, they contribute to the labour force and the host nation’s economy. Simultaneously, they continue to send remittances back home.

Nigerians living abroad currently remit approximately $22 billion to Nigeria annually, a figure expected to reach $35 billion over the next five years.

These remittances provide a significant boost to Nigeria’s economy, supporting families and businesses.

Nigerian youth, driven by a desire for success and economic opportunity, fill the labour gap created by the ageing populations in Western countries.

This symbiotic relationship ensures a continuous flow of remittances, fostering a lasting and mutually beneficial connection between Nigeria and the host nations.

The Japa syndrome, while initially viewed as a brain drain, has evolved into a global phenomenon with far-reaching implications.

It not only provides opportunities for Nigerians to seek greener pastures but also offers economic relief to countries grappling with demographic challenges.