The Next Brain Drain

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Manpower CEO, Jeff Joerres talks to the Financial Times about the crisis and the possibility of a new brain drain in the U.S. and Europe.

Mr Joerres says opportunities in the developing world could prompt a "brain-drain" from America and Europe that could exacerbate the talent shortage.

"It's not just Irish going back to Ireland or Indians going back to India," he says. "It's Americans saying: 'Mumbai is not so bad and when I go there I get a standard of living that's acceptable to me'. You'll see more of that."

In a reluctant foray into politics, Mr Joerres says the US is shooting itself in the foot by having too low a limit on the number of non-immigrant visas it issues, meaning that the work permits tend to run out by May every year. "That's just wrong," he says. "The growth of this country came from people who were not American but were classically American - who came here from another country with an idea, developed it and created employment. Two-thirds of Silicon Valley companies were started by people not born in the US.

"We were so arrogant about being able to capture the smartest people in the world because we were the best alternative. But there are a lot of other neat alternatives right now. Go to Shanghai, Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi - that's who the US is competing against. We're competing against the nightlife and the energy in Mumbai and Bangalore.

"This is a global labour market," Mr Joerres adds. "If you see migration back to Mexico, India, China, some of the western countries could be really adversely impacted by a brain-drain that they didn't quite anticipate."

We know that economic crises are periods of accelerated innovation and creative destruction, but they can also radically reshape the global flow of talent. Europe's economic difficulties and relative closure during the previous two major economic crashes - the Long Depression of the 1870s and the Great Depression of the 1930s - helped pave the way for the U.S. to achieve its global talent advantage. We may be seeing the beginnings of another shift today - less toward nations and more toward thriving mega-regions. One thing is for sure: The global competition for talent promises to get more heated as we move from crisis to recovery. The places that can attract the most capable and broadest array of talent will gain considerable long-run competitive advantage as that happens.

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Richard Florida is Co-founder and Editor at Large of CityLab.com and Senior Editor at The Atlantic. He is director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at NYU. More

Florida is author of The Rise of the Creative ClassWho's Your City?, and The Great Reset. He's also the founder of the Creative Class Group, and a list of his current clients can be found here
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