Monday, March 14, 2011

Engineering Talent Migration

There is a exodus of talent from the United States. The commonly cited cause for this brain drain is immigration policy. Sanjay Saigal contends otherwise:

[Vivek] Wadhwa's article jars especially because he has convincingly documented, e.g., here, that immigrants are not being driven home by visa issues or other negative motivations. Instead, his research points to reverse migration as a positive decision. Returnees are being pulled by exciting business environments in their home countries that are getting better all the time, and to the comforts of settling back in a familiar cultural milieu.

There's an easy test to figure out who is right. Pick another policy geography, particularly one held up as a positive example of immigration done right. O Canada:

Asian countries with promising employment opportunities and strong economic growth have replaced Canada's reputation as the "land of opportunity" for many, immigration experts say, pointing to the numbers of young Asian Canadians emigrating to the home of their forebears.

Return migration, the phenomenon of people migrating back to their countries of origin or their families' country of descent, is picking up in popularity. The movement has been steadily increasing in Canada since 2006, said Graham Johnson, a University of British Columbia professor who specializes in immigration and multiculturalism.

"Something is going on with respect to the economic potential which is much greater now in East Asia than in Canada.

More welcoming and tolerant? You betcha. Same brain drain, too.

The boomerang migration from Canada gravely undermines the argument for policy reform in the United States. I think there is a lesson in there for Rust Belt talent attraction, as well. That's not to say that nothing can be done. But hunting for snipe isn't the answer.

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