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May 2017

Global talent flows: Causes and consequences of high-skilled migration

Caglar Ozden's picture

Co-authors: Sari Kerr, William Kerr, and Chris Parsons

Highly skilled workers play a starring role in today’s knowledge economy. They make exceptional direct contributions, including breakthrough innovations. As teachers, policy makers, and entrepreneurs they guide the actions of others. They propel the knowledge frontier and spur economic growth. In this process the mobility of skilled workers, within and across national borders, becomes critical to enhancing productivity. Using newly available data, a recent paper by Kerr, Kerr, Özden, and Parsons reviews the landscape of global talent mobility and discusses the causes and consequences of highskilled migration.

Much attention has been paid to understanding the worldwide distribution of human capital and how global migration flows further tilt the deck against poor countries. The migration patterns we see today are the result of a complex tangle of firms and other employers pursuing scarce talent, governments trying to manage these flows through policy, and individuals seeking their best options given the constraints imposed on them. The central outcome, however, is clear: the flows of high-skilled migrants are very concentrated, both within and across national borders.

Should a country limit unskilled immigrant workers to safeguard national productivity growth?

Sharmila Devadas's picture

There are about 245 million migrants worldwide – around 3% of the world population. Roughly one-fifth are tertiary educated. Middle-income countries have a smaller proportion of immigrants than high-income countries (about 1% versus 12%). But for a number of middle-income countries with more immigrants than others, there is uneasiness about relying on unskilled foreigners as they strive to leap from low-wage labor and imitation to high-skilled labor and innovation. There are palpable concerns in Malaysia, for example, with some 2.1 million registered immigrants – about 7% of its population - and likely over 1 million undocumented immigrants. Things reached a crescendo early last year when all new hiring of unskilled foreign workers was suspended as the Malaysian government re-evaluated the management and need for foreign workers. The freeze was subsequently lifted for select sectors amid complaints of labor shortages.

Seven ways to think like a 21st-century economist

Phil Hay's picture

Having just published her new book called Doughnut Economics, Kate Raworth —a senior visiting research associate with Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute—is touring the world, appealing to people to break their global worship of growth; redesign money and finance; and to create economies that are regenerative and redistributive, and serve the interests of people worldwide, not just Audi drivers.    

As Raworth readies her slides for the presentation, it feels like more ritualistic torture is on the way for devotees of economics.  Scorned and roughed up for not warning beforehand about the 2008/9 financial crisis, and then lumped in with the backlash against "experts" in the recent UK Brexit vote, economists are being force-fed humility these days. Perhaps it's just a market correction towards the real calling for economists which John Maynard Keynes once envisaged as, "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid."

Kate Raworth's flier for the May 11 event at the World Bank, promised that her game-changing analysis and inspiration for a new generation of economics thinkers will be "simple, playful, and eloquent."

Raworth starts off with her trademark pitch that "economics is the mother tongue of public policy" but when confronted with climate change, inequality, and the other arresting challenges of our present age, its hallowed ideas are centuries out of date and need to be junked. She uses the image of a doughnut to chart social and planetary boundaries consistent with achieving the SDGs and to depict where the "sweet spot" of progressive human prosperity lies. Threats to social justice and the planet's future lie outside the doughnut ring in pulsating red beams.

Charting a new path to income convergence

Margaret McMillan's picture

Developing countries made considerable gains during the 2000s, resulting in a large reduction in extreme poverty and a significant expansion of the middle class. More recently that progress has slowed—and the prognosis is for more of the same, given an environment of lackluster global trade, a lack of jobs coupled with skills mismatches, greater income inequality, unprecedented population aging in richer countries, and youth bulges in the poorer ones. As a result, developing countries are unlikely to close the development gap anytime soon.

The global commodities outlook in nine charts

John Baffes's picture
Prices for most industrial commodities, notably energy and metals, continued on a strengthening trajectory in the first quarter of 2017 while agriculture prices remained on a steady path. Those trends – rising energy and metals prices, stable ag prices – are expected to continue through 2017. 
 
Commodity Price Indices, Monthly

Energy prices rose almost 3 percent in April: Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture

Energy commodity prices rose 2.7 percent in April as the crude oil average rose 2.5 percent, according to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet.

Non-energy prices declined 2.4 percent as agriculture fell 1.4 percent, food and beverages prices dipped by 2.1 percent and 1 percent, respectively, and raw materials rose 0.3 percent. Fertilizer prices declined 6 percent.

Metals and minerals prices slid 4.3 percent, led by an almost 20 percent tumble in iron ore. Precious metals eased 2.7 percent.

The Pink Sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.