Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ironic Brain Drain

Britain is dying. The recovery, if one can call it that, continues to muddle along. Nativism is reaching a feverish pitch. Talent is fleeing for Australia, the United States, or Canada. Oh. I left out the most important destination, Nigeria:

After benefiting from Britain’s world-class education, amassing post-graduate degrees and acquiring a wealth of experience working in top companies, the worldwide recession and the search for something different has prompted these second-generation British-Nigerians to leave Britain behind.

Although there are no figures to measure how many are moving back, anecdotal evidence shows that a large number of them – many of whom had never visited Nigeria prior to their big move – are choosing to ‘come home’ for several reasons including personal ambition, entrepreneurial success, marital considerations or just the sheer adventure of experiencing where their parents came from.

While thousands of young people regularly leave Nigeria to school abroad, and after a few years return home to continue their careers, for those that call England home, making the transition from their first-world comfort zone to their third-world origins can be both daunting and rewarding. 

Literally, this isn't your father's return migration. When people move, two places are linked. It isn't a zero-sum game. But go ahead and call it brain drain, if you must. London is failing to develop people:

“Lagos is such a dynamic city with a hustler’s heart. If you have an idea then this is the town to explore and experiment with it. London on the other hand can appear to be a saturated market, especially for those with an entrepreneurial spirit.”

She may have found success in Nigeria, but does she miss London? “I have good and bad days, but all in all I could never have had the experiences I have had these past five years had I remained in England. I also try to return every three or four months and I hope to one day have a work structure that affords me the opportunity to spend a few months in the summer there annually, while being based here the rest of the year. But England will always be home for me no matter how long I am away.”

As I see it, the U.K. is in a unique position to benefit from the rapid development going on in Nigeria. As Richard Florida would see it, London is a Creative Class loser and Lagos is a Creative Class winner. The not so spiky world of China:

Are the jobs in more advanced cities better than anywhere else? Perhaps not. According to Beijing Business Today, a man from Hunan Province who works in Beijing said he can earn 3,000 yuan ($481.40) a month, but spends half of that on rent.

A survey by, a recruitment website in China, found that only 4 percent of people who left their hometown for work are earning the salary they'd hoped for, plus they have higher living expenses. Many of these people are not happy in these big cities, but they dare not go back home because their family is proud of them.

The reform and opening-up focused on developing certain areas first, then spreading prosperity throughout the country.

As China's uneven development gets addressed, there are many new opportunities available in small cities and rural areas. While some are hoping to escape first-tier cities due to high housing prices and cost of living, most are still struggling with the "big city" halo.

Migration is restructuring Chinese society and reshaping social concept about "home." Working in China's top cities is certainly an attractive option for many, but perhaps not the best choice for everyone.

Emphasis added. The urban agglomeration economy has started to unravel. The "New Geography of Jobs" is already the old geography of jobs. Innovation is happening where the migrants are going. More people would leave Big City if they could or if they knew they could make it work elsewhere. Word is getting out, and so is the talent.

No comments: