Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Immigration Reform Race

A cursory glance at the news about the war for talent might lead one to conclude that the United States is rapidly falling behind. Recent blog posts here detail the concern about brain drain in Canada and the United Kingdom. However, when we consider policies to address the problem, the grass still looks greener across the pond. Or, should I say bluer?

The European Blue Card is hardly a slam dunk. The European Union lags well behind the United States in securing global talent and lack of highly skilled labor is a full blown crisis in some countries. Consider the current lack (UK being the obvious exception) of Indian immigration to the EU:

According to the World Bank's Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008, there is only one European country, Britain, among the top 10 destinations for Indian emigrants.

Recently, the European Union had introduced the idea of a "blue card" to compete directly with the American "green card" to attract the right kind of highly-skilled educated emigrant. "But most of the countries have to still agree to implement it. Therefore, negotiations with individual countries to facilitate manpower supply is a better idea," said the [Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs] official.

For India, the chief aim to go into talks with European nations is not just to streamline the rules but also to target specific shortages in different countries. "We want to put in a system of placing skilled workers depending on the trends for labour supply gap that are emerging in those countries," he said.

It started when Polish Labour Minister Anna Kalata came to Delhi in February 2007. She agreed to sign an agreement to import more Indian manpower, especially for the construction projects for Euro 2012 as well as for agricultural farms.

"But after that the Polish government collapsed and there were elections, so there was not much work on that. Now, we are again reviving those talks," he said.

Europe is not out-hustling the United States for talent, but that's not a reason to get complacent. I take the India-EU relationship as an example of how difficult meaningful reform can be. Government is too slow to address a talent shortage and the legislative concessions of negotiation often prove too dear. That's why the US continues to limp along with the H-1B and EB-5 visa programs.

The best bet, at least in the short term, is to fully exploit existing opportunities. Cleveland's nascent attempt to leverage the EB-5 visa is a clever ploy for human capital gains. Another one is to promote the secondary migration of immigrants who have already jumped through all the hoops to get here. A third approach is to maximize the spillovers of foreign-born students attending local universities.

Or, we can keep obsessing the natives who leave the region upon graduation.

2 comments:

Brian said...

Considering how difficult it is to get a home loan these days, perhaps local municipalities could set up attractive home loan programs for first time home buyers. It might be the kind of thing that would attract recent college graduates from other regions (or countries).

Jim Russell said...

Urban homesteading is along your suggested policy line. Pittsburgh has plenty going on in that department.

You might find interesting the following story about attracting artists to Paducah:

Paducah Story