Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Argonauts of Globalization

Via the blog at Foreign Policy, I learned about a migration of workers from India to Poland:

As of now, there are only around 3,000 Indians employed across various sectors in Poland but this number is expected to get significant boost once the [memorandum of understanding] is signed. The Polish minister has taken the initiative to promote recruitment of Indian workers in her country.

Stating that her country is facing an acute labour shortage, [Poland's Minister for Labour and Social Policy Anna Kalata] said, "We have noticed severe discrepancies in our labour market. Around 800,000 Polish workers have left to work in other countries in the EU (European Union)."

To partially borrow AnnaLee Saxenian's term, Indians are the Argonauts of Globalization. I reference "globalization" instead of the "knowledge economy" because labor from India has long done much more than ply the trades of the information and knowledge age:

Indian construction workers have a history of proven flexibility, with thousands heading to the Middle East in the late 1970s and 1980s to service a construction boom. But demand for them has slackened since countries there started giving preference to workers from within the region, such as Yemen.

In the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 31-year-old master mason Mekulal Kachwaha, whose family have worked in construction for at least three generations, welcomed the news of the new opportunity. Although he had never heard of Poland, he would gladly go to work there. He would be the first member of his family to achieve the Indian worker's dream: a job abroad.

"Only one worker in our village has so far made it abroad - to Saudi Arabia," Mr. Kachwaha said. "He's doing very well, and comes back regularly to see his family."

India may be the world champion of labor mobility (in every sense of the term). As the Polish Diaspora helps to build Western Europe, Indian workers are making sure that Poland's economy continues to grow at a face pace. Migration is the lifeblood of globalization. Move or perish.

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