Changing of the Guard: Migrate to China, Not US

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,,, at 8/29/2011 12:00:00 AM
It's time to quit messing with deck chairs and abandon the fast-sinking America. Destination: Davy Jones' Locker. The story here is a straightforward application of differences in economic performance between one country that has next to no GDP growth (the US) and one racking up nearly 10% GDP growth year in and year out (China). This growth differential explains employment prospects, particularly for migrant workers.

To start, let us remember how the well-deserved S&P downgrade of US sovereign debt was partly attributable to downward statistical revisions indicating stagnant-to-declining GDP in America for nearly four years now:
From 2007 to 2010, real GDP decreased at an average annual rate of 0.3 percent; in the previously published estimates, the rate of change in real GDP was less than 0.1 percent. From the fourth quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2011, real GDP decreased at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent; in the previously published estimates, real GDP had increased at an average annual rate of 0.2 percent.
It's getting pretty ugly in America, and no sane person would expect marked improvements in the near future. For instance, more recent data points out that the percentage of employed males has hit a postwar low. It's simple, really: if jobs for Americans are now next to non-existent, what more for migrants? As it so happens, the Economist has a new article on global migration prospects after the US-engineered global financial crisis. While the entire article offers interesting points of view on slowing migration to Western countries, the juxtaposition between the migration situation in American and China is particularly instructive:
An even more intriguing development is that America and China have begun to reverse roles. America has always been the greatest immigration magnet of all. But stricter security measures to thwart terrorist attacks and the severity of its recession have changed this. Both legal and illegal immigration have tumbled, with the greatest decrease among Mexican illegal immigrants (only partly due to stricter border controls, as potential immigrants can now also find better jobs at home).

At the more educated end of the market, foreign-born college graduates are increasingly likely to leave America after gaining skills and qualifications. Some of this may be cyclical: they may return when the economy picks up. Yet in the current climate, travellers have a good chance of meeting an Asian-born graduate from an American college who is moving somewhere else to work.
Unsurprisingly, the youth are heading East:
Even as America’s allure is fading, China is becoming a destination of choice for many young workers. According to Chinese statistics, last year Shanghai had 143,000 foreigners with residents’ visas. That does not count the many thousands of Westerners believed to be there on tourism visas, or the illegals from elsewhere in Asia. South Koreans (121,000) top the list of expatriates resident in China, followed by Americans (71,000) and Japanese (66,000). Teaching English is the commonest job for Westerners, but there are also many, usually young, entrepreneurs opening shops, bars and restaurants.
Don't forget South-South migration and regional migration. As more international students come to China, there is an increasing likelihood that they will remain there afterwards to work. It does help that there are *actual jobs* to be found there unlike in a certain North American country...
The boom in China and the country’s activities in Africa have also encouraged more Africans to consider seeking their fortune in the Middle Kingdom. Some 100,000 are settled in Guangzhou. But African immigrants are not the only ones who wind up in this bustling city in southern China. One recent academic study identified five different residential zones of immigrant populations. African traders and Koreans, for instance, live in crowded districts. French and Indian workers congregate in high-rise buildings. Successful immigrants from the Middle East and west Africa cluster in a large white-collar estate with private gardens.

The world may be witnessing the beginnings of a big trek East. Students have started to move to South Korea and Japan. “Many international students remain in their host country,” says Madeleine Sumption, a researcher at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC. She expects this trend to fuel growth in migration between Asian countries.
This is certainly a no-brainer: only the brainless think the US is still the land of opportunity. You certainly don't see folks beating a path to America's door [1, 2]. Just like post-potato famine Ireland, the American Dream is more and more becoming one of leaving America. You're in luck, Tea Party acolytes; at this rate, you'll have your opportunity-free nation all to yourselves.

Go east, young man, go east.