Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Migration Opportunities

New Zealand's Minister of Immigration recently presented a new plan for taking advantage of emerging patterns of global migration. The policy shift is a reaction to perceived out-dated efforts to address immigration concerns that existed 20 years ago. The new immigration landscape is the result of 4 agents of change:

Circulation – there are now greater people flows around the world. In general, people are more transient now than they were 20 years ago.

Competition – the global competition for skills, labour and talent. As labour mobility increases, countries will increasingly compete for migrants.

Diversity – New Zealand is becoming more culturally diverse. One in five Kiwis were born overseas. We must identify what this diversity means for our communities and respond by ensuring the best settlement outcomes for migrants.

Heightened risk and pressure on the border – Unfortunately, a sign of our times is the heightened threat of international terrorism, illegal migration and trans-national organised crime.

Pittsburgh should be concerned with the first two agents, circulation and competition. Again, the trend is towards increased labor mobility. Migration used to be a reaction to economic transformation (e.g. Pittsburgh's youth exodus). Now, migration is a primary feature of economic transformation (e.g. transnationalism and co-location). Unfortunately, Pittsburgh appears to be consumed with the former migration pattern.

New Zealand isn't above such misunderstanding, hoping to attract talented immigrants to their country. As competition for talent increases, barriers of entry around the world will lower, allowing global nomads to act like multinational corporations and constantly seek better location opportunities. In order to compensate for the likely out-migration, New Zealand will need more immigrants than the polity will tolerate.

Pittsburgh will demand similar population churn to thrive. Promoting immigration is a good idea, but trying to stop emigration is futile. I think the trick is to encourage emigration, cultivating a loyal relationship between expatriate and hometown. I hypothesize that Pittsburgh could brand itself as a useful stopping point on the journey to personal prosperity and a high quality of life. Pittsburgh should put itself in the path of those seeking to take full advantage of labor mobility.

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