Thursday, February 25, 2010

Irish Economic Refugees

Brain drain is real. It is a problem. Noreen Bowden of GlobalIrish responded to my post about disaggregating migration data, putting the dire situation in stark terms. In a post of her own, Bowden links to stories about the lack of choices facing graduates. It humanizes the numbers, as opposed to offering a cost-benefit analysis. People want to stay, but they can't.

The other side of the issue is that the Irish economy is reeling, unable to absorb the prolific talent it has produced. At this juncture, what can the policymakers do? At stake is Ireland's relationship with its emigrants. There might be a more constructive way to manage the exodus. Right now, there is a lot of anger and finger-pointing.

I see an opportunity to build a bridge (instead of burning it) to the expatriate economy. I've mused about the connection between Limerick (Ireland) and Lodz (Poland). The idea is to strategically target potential pathways of brain circulation. For example, where is clean tech blossoming? The Irish government could help its homegrown talent move there with eye towards that innovation eventually cycling back to the country once the economy begins to improve.

The out-migration is going to happen regardless. Now is a good time to increase investment in expatriate services, not cut back. Brain drain doesn't mean that there won't be a return on the investment in education.

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