Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Talent Migration Geopolitics: Turkey

Migrants link two regional or national economies. It isn't a matter of working in one place or the other. We view geographic mobility as a zero sum game, ignoring the importance of the transnational experience. The talent flow from Europe is quietly transforming Turkey:

Once a month, about 50 of them meet in a fashionable bar in downtown Istanbul. It is a time for chat and the swapping business cards and job offers, but everyone is talking German. “German is my mother tongue,” insists Emine Sahin, the 37-year-old real-estate project manager, who organises the monthly meet of German-Turks who, like her, have chosen to come and live on the banks of the Bosphorus. ...

... According to a survey by the German Futureorg institute, one third of dual nationality students in Germany are thinking about a career in Turkey. Companies on the other side of the Rhine have understood how to take advantage of this phenomenon. The Turkish subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz now reseves 30% of its management positions for German-Turks. Government institutions, hoping to benefit from their dual culture, are also opening their doors to Euro-Turks. “Turkey is developing very quickly and needs people like us,” remarks Belgian born and educated Ilker Astarci, who was recently appointed as an advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “There are more opportunities than there are in Europe. I felt it was important to do something for Turkey, which is my country of origin.”

Instead of trying to retain talented Euro-Turks, EU companies are taking advantage of the trend. This approach can work at the regional level. The Sun Belt boomtowns now hemorrhaging people should piggyback on this migration and redevelop the local economy. Exodus is an opportunity, not a harbinger of doom.

The typical reaction to outmigration is to only the see the leaving with no attention paid to where this talent is moving. This is brain drain, the local labor market losing people. That's the end of it. The act of getting out of town is just the beginning. How far and where they go is very important. Hopefully, they go where there is the most growth so the town they left behind can benefit the most. Inevitably, expatriates are caught between two places. But their hometowns don't seem to notice or care.

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