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A question of migration

Giacomo Boffi, PhD candidate on Economics and Governance of Migration, is one of the many young talented researchers of Leiden University. We spoke to him about his research and the importance of giving scientists the opportunity to devise sustainable solutions for the challenges we face as a globalised society.

Can you tell us about your research?

'My research moves at the intersection between the economics and the governance of migrations. What are the policies to foster positive migrants’ integration? Are migrants a resource for our economy? How do migrants perform in our labour market? What do governments do wrong in attracting/repelling migrants? These questions are at the base of my research and their relevance is self-evident. Migration is one of the most urgent issues our society is facing. My inner interest towards complex matter and societal problems naturally brings me towards migrations. One cannot tackle migration just from a one-side perspective. For example, if you focus only on the reason why people migrate, you lose sight of their integration in our society. For this reason, an interdisciplinary approach is fundamental.'

How does your research impact our world, our lives?

'My research can bring a fresh perspective on one of the most debated topics these days: migrations. We often hear heated opinions on newspapers and see discussions on television. An empirical, fact-based approach is lacking. We need to bring back policy evidence to the front of the debate. Economics may scare people and seem boring at first sight. Yet it is a fundamental tool to get to the core functioning of societal processes such as the movements and integration of people. Only by using a clear, simple, and direct approach we can ensure a common societal understanding of migrations that can benefit everyone. A common understanding will generate shared prosperity and leave the foggy discussions out.'

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What are the challenges you encounter?

'People get easily involved in heated discussions with strong opinions. It is often the case that we tend to rely more on emotions than on facts. Politics may also come into the arena and play a role, every party has its stand on migrations, we know that. Would it be easier not to fund my research and let noisy opinions cover the facts about migration economics and policymaking? Yes. Should we allow it? No, I do not believe so. I must always keep an open-minded approach to colleagues working on similar topics and from close fields, as migrations are a truly-multifaced phenomenon. Diversity and contributions from different sides enrich my research.'

Why did you choose Leiden specifically?

'The unicity of Leiden University lies in world-level reputation for governance studies on policymaking and the young department of economics I am part of. Leiden University has a long history of fact-based research that is well-known in academia. The university rankings speaks for itself. The possibility to work in an excellent faculty as the Faculty of Law and in close contact with colleagues from Governance and Public Administration enriches this experience even more.'

What would it mean if you couldn't complete your research?

'If my research could not be completed, the understanding of migrations would lack a significant puzzle for its understanding. It is urgent to keep researching migrants, their moves, their integrations, to keep our society ahead of the challenges of tomorrow. This is exactly what my research does. It is tiring to wake up every day and hear news about migrants without knowing how their integration will take place, what challenges they will face, and what the final societal balance will be. We need a clear answer to these questions, and we need it soon.'

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