Monday, August 10, 2009

Super Mobility

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) suggests the United Kingdom do something to attract and retain "super mobile" talent. You can read the overview here. Talent in the highest demand happens to be the most geographically fickle. That's not necessarily a bad thing:

Rather than focus on the question of whether or not homeownership is on its way out, it might be worthwhile to consider whether or not reduced homeownership is a bad thing. Homeownership is often cited for its ability to create stable neighborhoods; this, in turn, presumably translates into stable tax bases, as well as healthy businesses, public parks, big shaggy dogs, and apple pie. On a broader context, however, all these benefits are largely the outgrowth of sufficient jobs.

To a certain extent, homeownership and a stable job market don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. As homeowners in Detroit, Buffalo, Youngstown, and many of America's other rust belt cities can certainly attest, homeownership can often keep workers from going to where the jobs are.

In bad economic times, in fact, homeownership can act as a sort of force multiplier: in a boom market, homeowners can generally count on finding buyers if and when they need to move. However, when jobs dry up, and a family desperately needs to move, selling a house can become a long, painful exercise in dropping values, lost money, and lowered expectations. Taking this to its extreme, job options narrow and families go into default, making it even harder to sell homes. Suddenly, a home becomes a huge cinder block around the neck of its owners.

The above analysis nicely highlights the tension between the success of workers and the communities in which they live. As far as the neighborhood is concerned, migration is a bad thing. Hence, irrational xenophobia and brain drain hysteria tend to drive workforce development policy. The result is economic failure.

The nationalisation (part, full or implicit) of financial services has brought territories back to the centre stage of the world economy at the expense of networks and their flows. Relations between cities and states are being readjusted in the latter’s favour as globalisation faces its greatest challenge, says Professor [Peter] Taylor.

Right now, localization is holding sway over globalization. The rooted (the stuck) are enjoying their day in the sun. But as the IPPR argues, this won't last very long. Talent shortages loom and the most geographically mobile again will be an elusive prize.

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