Friday, November 20, 2009

Flight Of The Kiwi

Concerning brain drain from OECD countries, New Zealand stands head and shoulders above the rest. The primary destination is Australia, where Kiwis can earn a greater return on their education. The home country is getting serious about luring these expatriates back:

Last night, the economic think tank the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) held a forum in Sydney called ''Flight of the Kiwi to Australia'' to discuss ways of reversing the trans-Tasman brain drain. The former Fairfax chief executive and All Black captain David Kirk, CIS policy analyst Luke Malpass, business broadcaster Andrew Patterson, and Dr Don Turkington from the New Zealand Government's regulatory responsibility taskforce, canvassed issues such as wage disparity, tax structures, streamlining Anzac business, career prospects and social and cultural changes.

The CIS exploits the wounded pride, laying the talent exodus at the feet of lousy economic policy. People wouldn't leave if the homeland prospects were relatively brighter. Tapping brain drain anxiety for political gain is a classic ruse. For another example, see the Empire State Exodus report.

Plugging the brain drain is a snipe hunt. However, catalyzing boomerang migration could work. Trying to attract talent is an even better idea. Some policy innovation from Detroit:

Monika Johnson is 20 and the Midwest Coordinator for the Roosevelt Institute. It's a student-run policy organization that put together a two-day event called Midwest Version 2.0. ...

... "Detroit has so many great opportunities and potential for change," Johnson said. "In fifty years, this could be a great city. It could rival Chicago. I would consider staying in Michigan if I had an opportunity to participate in Detroit's revitalization."

Detroit is New Zealand and Chicago is Australia. The money is in Chicago, but Detroit offers a unique opportunity. Detroit shouldn't try to catch up with Chicago. Instead, offer a viable alternative experience. Call home all Rust Belt refugees to rebuild the region, starting with Detroit. Ironically, the CIS sets the stage with the following snarky comment:

Maybe New Zealand suffers from the supposed generation Y complex—we want it all, we want it now, and we want it at no cost.

That describes the frontier mentality. The urban pioneer lifestyle appeals to this demographic. Chasing Chicago is foolish. That ship has sailed. But Chicago can't be all things to all people, either.

1 comment:

xxancroft said...

Paul from NZ calling. I have been tracking the reverse trend of kiwis returning to the mothership for a little while. This was hinted at in the CIS report however my view is that the steady state world economy, based on continuous growth is going through a phase change due to ecological limits being reached. How quickly this adjustment takes place will depend on the supply and demand of the resources that underpin all economic growth. Kiwi diaspora will continue as long as kiwis think the brown lands of Oz (and UK) are greener than home, and higher wages cast an altogether greener glow on one's perception.

Kiwis definitely suffer from "small island syndrome" which is why sports teams must win at all costs rugby matches - and recognition on the international stage through "exceptionalist" policies.

Like the Irish, a diaspora mentality is firmly part of Kiwi culture and people are not thought to have completed their education until the have been on the "obligatory OE" (OE = Overseas experience) with Oz usually being the first port of call as a stepping stone to grander places. The onset of children is often a powerful return motivator as is the decrepitude of parents in families where it is unthinkable to consign loved ones into geriatric silos.

You are probably aware of the real problems Australia is facing with water and the discussions that are now taking place to reign in future immigration.

The hugely envious attitude kiwis have to Ozzies is beautifully captured at various points in the comedy series "Flight of the Concords" with incredibly high cringe levels. The expression of this cultural envy is is one of the reasons why FOTC has been universally popular.