Friday, September 26, 2008

Skilled Immigrants Call The Tune

Attracting talent is only the first step. Once the geographically mobile arrive, your city or country must labor to keep them. Canada is learning this lesson the hard way:

About 40% of our economic immigrants leave within a few years because they're so disappointed in the Canadian experience. Considering Canada takes in about 140,000 economic-class immigrants yearly (more than half of our annual intake of permanent residents), that's a staggering loss of talent.

Newcomers -- especially skilled workers and wealthy business-class immigrants -- simply have much higher expectations than they did in the past. If Canada doesn't live up to their dreams, well, they just move on. And Canada loses out.

"We have a very globalized world now so people will go where the jobs are," says Naomi Alboim, an immigration expert with the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University.

Can policy keep up with economic migration? Australia continues to churn out a number of innovations in order to attract talent. The country is also a global leader for studying the flows of human capital and the battle for their skills. If the will was there, then I think Rust Belt cities could follow Australia's lead and learn from Canada's mistakes.

A few words of caution: Geographic mobility continues to increase and the sooner regions embrace out-migration as a fact of life, the better. Work with the migration patterns, not against them.

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