I have been writing about H1B visa in the past four years. This is the second year in a row since April 2008 that H1-B visas applications exceeded the 85,000 cap in the first few days. This FY 20015, the cap was reached on April 7. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency has received more than the required number of applications needed to fill the cap for the fiscal year as well as for the 20,000 H1-B petitions under the U.S. advanced degree exemption. This year USCIS will use a lottery system to choose petitions to consider for the visa.
The global diaspora of educated Africans, Asians, and Latin Americans living in the developed world stand accused of undermining the development of their countries of origin.
Paul Collier’s recent book, Exodus, makes the case for strict ceilings on the movement of people from poor countries to rich ones. My colleague Michael Clemens and I already reviewed the book at length for Foreign Affairs (ungated here), but Duncan asked me to respond to the specific issue Paul raised in his recent post for this blog: that skilled migration from some low-income countries is so high that it undermines the development prospects of people “left behind”.
I suspect many people reading this blog in Europe or North America share Professor Collier’s skepticism about skilled migration. You are not racist or xenophobic. You are concerned about the plight of the global poor, and you welcome diversity in your community. But you worry that maybe Paul’s right. Maybe the fate of your university-educated Haitian neighbor down the street, earning a good salary and sending her kids to good schools since moving to the UK, is a distraction from, and maybe even a hindrance to, reducing poverty in Haiti.
Take a seat people, you’re in for a treat. Paul Collier kicks off an exchange with Justin Sandefur on that hottest of hot topics, migration. I’ve asked them to focus on the impact on poor countries, as most of the press debate concentrates on the impact in the North. Justin replies tomorrow and (if I can work the new software) you will then get to vote. Enjoy.
How does emigration affect the people left behind in poor countries? That many countries still provide little hope of even basic prosperity to their citizens is the great global challenge of our century. It is a vital matter that the poorest countries catch up with the rich world, but it will require decades of sustained high growth. To see how emigration might affect this process of convergence we need some understanding of why poor countries have remained poor. Poverty persists in very poor countries because of weak political institutions, dysfunctional social attitudes, and a lack of skills. These all make it difficult to harness economic opportunities. Emigration can either help or hinder convergence depending upon who leaves, how many leave, and for how long they go.
Potentially the most important effect of emigration is on political institutions and social attitudes. There is now solid evidence that emigrants can be influential in their home societies. Students from poor countries who have studied abroad in democracies and then return home bring with them pro-democracy attitudes. They spread these attitudes and are sufficiently influential that they speed up democratization. An astonishingly high proportion of the political leaders of poor countries have studied and worked abroad, and this equips them with both new skills and new attitudes. Even migrants who do not return have some influence with their relatives back home. During elections they give advice and commentary, and they become role models for smaller family size.
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Big data: 4 predictions for 2014
"One could look back at 2013 and consider it the breakthrough year for big data, not in terms of innovation but rather in awareness. The increasing interest in big data meant it received more mainstream attention than ever before. Indeed, the likes of Google, IBM, Facebook and Twitter all acquired companies in the big data space. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden also revealed that intelligence agencies have been collecting big data in the form of metadata and, amongst other things, information from social media profiles for a decade." READ MORE
The rise of civil society groups in Africa
"Under the glaring sun of a recent Monday, an unusual group of protesters marched on the streets of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, all dressed in black “to mourn the loss of Uganda’s public money through corruption,” as some of them pointedly explained to reporters. “Return our money and resign,” read one of the slogans they brandished. Since November 2012, on the first Monday of each month, the Black Monday Movement—a coalition of local NGOs and civil society groups—has taken to the streets to highlight the effects of corruption in Uganda and to press public officials to act." READ MORE
For those of you who are not interested in soccer and for our young colleagues who are growing up with Messi and Ronaldo: Johan Cruijff was the best soccer player ever. At least according to his Dutch fans; skeptics can convince themselves here. As a player and coach he has won every conceivable prize for club teams, but he has become even more famous as an analyst. His judgments are so inscrutable for mere earthlings that his utterings are considered without exception as deep philosophical wisdoms. One of his more transparent quotes might give you already an impression: Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple soccer. There must be deep insight also in Italians can't win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians. People have collected over the years many more examples, but I want to discuss one of his more recent observations.
Refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and the internally displaced. For Syrians and journalists, these are the buzzwords of the moment, but I’ve been curious: are there data that can help to understand the issue better? Since I work in the department in the World Bank responsible for leading the Open Data Initiative, I thought I’d see whether there are open data resources that can help with that.
Each of the terms above describes a different way in which humans move, and all are difficult to measure. In Syria, as a result of the internal conflict, all are in evidence. Refugees need to move in order to preserve their lives or political freedom. Asylum seekers have applied for official refugee status, but haven’t received it yet. International migrants move from one country to another - generally for economic opportunity, but also if they are refugees. The internally displaced are people who have fled their homes but still reside within the borders of their original country.
Robots have been a part of our mythology for thousands of years, the emphasis alternating between their positive transformative power over human society and acting as agents of great destruction. Our image of robots has been shaped to a large extent by Hollywood and literature. Celluloid robots in Star Wars, 2001 Space Odyssey, Robocop, Star Trek and many of Isaac Asimov’s novels have become a part of the human story. Off-celluloid, robots have been helping our society in concrete ways (for example police work (bomb disposal), infrastructure projects etc.). However when Watson won Jeopardy it brought artificial intelligence and robotics a new kind of attention. People started to wonder if robots could replace humans. When we think of robots we think of self driven cars, household robots or even warrior robots. However, in our view, the influence of robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more subtle and their presence more ubiquitous than one would think. One such impacted sector is the agriculture sector (in the US) which is on the cusp of a massive transformation, as it moves from mechanization to automation. When rolled out and commercialized (soon) this massive scale of automation will have a significant impact on US farming and on immigration for sure. But does this also impact the development landscape? If so how?
Agricultural robotic systems have been implemented in fruit and vegetable harvesting, greenhouses and nurseries. Harvest Automation, for example, has developed the the HV-100, a 90-pound robot for commercial nurseries that can pick up and rearrange potted plants. There are quite a few silicon valley startups that are contributing to this revolution in the region known as “America’s Salad Bowl”, around Salinas Valley. California, where Salinas Valley is located, produced $1.6 billion dollars worth of lettuce in 2010 and 70%+ of all lettuce grown in America. Lettuce Bot, a new robot developed by Stanford engineers Jorge Peraud and Lee Redden, both from farming families from Peru and Nebraska, can “produce more lettuce plants than doing it any other way” (Yahoo Finance). Lettuce Bot’s innovation is that while attached to a tractor, it takes pictures of passing plants and compares these to a database. When the weed or a lettuce head that is too close to another one is identified, a concentrated dose of fertiliser is sprayed. A close shot of fertilizer kills the errant weed or lettuce head but actually feeds the further off crops at the same time.
In developed countries, vocal debates about how much immigration is desirable often make the headlines, but what’s the case for migration in the developing world? We recently discussed this topic with one of the leading experts on the economics of migration — Amelie Constant, Program Director of Migration at the Institute for the Study of Labor (Bonn), and a visiting professor at George Washington University and Temple University.
International mobility of people is measured much less accurately than that of goods or finances. The most common sources of global data are from national censuses, which occur only every 10 years (and take years more to come out). Specialized surveys in some countries allow more frequent measurement of some flows, but such data are still relatively rare, and poorly suited to studying short-term migration movements.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim is putting policies to meet and combat climate change on top of the Bank’s agenda. That is extremely timely and has the potential to fundamentally revitalize the Bank, making it more relevant in today’s world.
Global finance for new clean energy projects is currently at $300-400 billion per year, of which the Bank funds about $10 billion. The International Energy Agency estimates that a minimum agenda, compatible with a two-degree temperature target, requires “green” energy investments of about $1 trillion per year. The Bank alone will only be able to provide a small portion of such additional finance.