Skilled Migrants Have Doors Open

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 8/21/2007 11:15:00 AM
Ace migration reporter Jason DeParle has yet another interesting article on the topic that ties with the recent series of articles in Newsweek I posted about earlier on how education can open doors for skilled migrants. Migration is a political hot potato the world over, but you definitely improve your chances of successfully emigrating to your destination of choice if you can bring valuable skills. It relates to a need for enhanced international "competitiveness" by cultivating "human capital." This article appears in both the International Herald Tribune and New York Times. (Hint to fellow bloggers: it is usually preferable to excerpt the IHT article instead of the NYT one if it appears in both publications for the former doesn't hide behind the "Times Select" subscription service after a period of time.) Here are some excerpts:
This is migrant work, Ph.D.-style — a lesson about labor, a comment on class, a window onto globalization and a phenomenon on the rise.

Legions of common workers across the globe face new barriers to migration, as destination countries tighten their borders and toughen their talk. But professionals like [migrant professor who works in the UAE] Mitias, 39, find ever more welcome mats. Even countries wary of migrant brawn are bullish on migrant brains, and many offer tax breaks and streamlined visas to compete in the global marketplace.

"Everybody wants smart people in their country," Mitias said.

While most migrants remain unskilled, and many are desperately poor, the global demographics are shifting.

The number of college-educated migrants in rich Western countries rose 69 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to a World Bank analysis prepared for The New York Times. By contrast, the number of less-educated migrants rose 31 percent.

The analysis, by Caglar Ozden, an economist at the bank, measured movement to 20 nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia and most of Western Europe, and included people who went to college after migrating as children. Of 52 million migrant workers in those countries, 36 percent had some college education, up from 31 percent a decade before.

Of those migrants leaving one rich country for jobs in another, the number with some college education rose 30 percent. The parallel movement of less-skilled workers fell 8 percent.

"My sense is these trends have gotten much stronger since 2000," Ozden said. "Educated people are becoming more mobile."

As a small country filled with hired hands, the United Arab Emirates offers students of migration a uniquely rich habitat. About 85 percent of the work force comes from abroad. There are crowds of Indian construction workers, hammering and hauling in the sun, and solitary maids from Southeast Asia scrubbing behind locked doors.

Most are forced to come alone and spend years without seeing their children. But there are also pockets of prospering professionals, families in tow: Indian doctors, British bankers and American lawyers. Ski Dubai, the famous indoor slope, has Russian ski instructors.

"We're stuck in the paradigm of thinking that migration is only about poor people moving to rich countries," said Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah of the Institute for Public Policy Research, a London research group. "But lots of people move among rich countries, and people from rich countries increasingly move all over the world..."

Some countries want migrants to stay. Canada long ago pioneered a point system that promises a work visa and a path to citizenship to any worker with the right qualifications. Now the list of places with similar programs includes Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic. But much of the recent growth has been in temporary plans. The United States, Britain, Ireland, and France are among those with time-limited visas. Sweden and Denmark have courted foreigners with tax breaks. Several countries, most notably Australia, try to capture migrants early, by encouraging foreign students to remain.

For all the global stress on brains, many economies need low-skilled migrants, too. A legion of foreign-born nannies keeps educated Americans on the job. Still, poor foreigners often raise fears of crime and cultural conflict and are more likely to cross borders illegally. Many countries are narrowing — or threatening to narrow — their ability to get in...

"Governments give a green light to high-skilled migrants, but put speed bumps in front of others," said Jeanne Batalova, a demographer at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington research group. "There's a stark contrast."

Though educated migrants are often called "elites," some analysts say the term disguises the problems they face. Some are reluctant travelers with displaced families, struggling to find housing, health care and schools amid the isolation of a foreign land. A nascent academic literature is exploring such problems as workplace discrimination and the frustration of spouses without jobs.