Monday, May 2, 2011

Quote of the day

Remember when FLG posted a quote from IPEZ about how America is such a terrible place for children? Okay.

Today, IPEZ offers this:
If skilled (read: smarter-than-average) migration under H-1B is a useful barometer for the attractiveness of living in America a decade into the twenty-first century, consider it a big "NO." I hope Gary Becker, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, can understand what the supply and demand curves imply here for his far-fetched ideas. Framed properly, it's a matter of paying migrants to come and work in America (land of the bankrupt) given their ever-dwindling appetite for doing so. As the title of this post says, smarter migrants agree America stinks by simply not going there. Face it: nobody's beating a path to America's door.

In case you are wondering why FLG reads that blog, he likes the political-economic analysis of Asia the blog offers. And to be honest, FLG is, like many people, a bit defensive regarding criticism of their country. However, he also thinks, from reading a bunch of Emmanuel's posts, that there's a reflexive anti-Americanism there, tinged with the usual jealousy, fear, admiration, etc. That being said, it's always good to get an outside perspective.

In regards to the specific post in question, FLG has two issues with the analysis. First, an empirical issue -- it omits any mention of what's going on with other countries. If immigration has shifted somewhere else, EU, China, etc then that's one thing. If immigration in general has dropped off a cliff, then that's something different. Pointing out that immigration to America has dropped when it has dropped similarly everywhere is misleading. Given the unemployment rate in the US, a drop in immigration seems entirely reasonable.

A quick Google search led to this OECD report, which seems to support FLG's issue:
There are already ample signs of a fall in labour migration in virtually all
OECD countries due to a significant decline in international recruitment
by employers.

[...]

In the United States, for example, the number of H-1B visas issued (the main
employment-related temporary visa) declined by 16% between 2007 and
2008, from 154 000 to 129 000. In addition, in 2009, for the first time in many
years, the 65 000 cap for H-1B visas was not reached immediately. In Spain,
new entries under the employer-nominated system (RĂ©gimen general) fell
from more than 200 000 in 2007 to 137 000 in 2008. Australia also witnessed
a decline in temporary skilled migration, with a 11% drop in applications in
February 2009 compared to a year earlier.

Declining trends are even more noticeable within the European freemovement
area, particularly in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the first
quarter 2009 approved initial applicants to the Workers Registration Scheme
in the United Kingdom were down 54% (from 46 600 to 21 300) compared
with the corresponding quarter of 2008. Similarly, latest statistics available
for Ireland show that fewer than 9 000 people from the 12 new EU member
states were granted Personal Public Service Numbers between January and
March, a 57% fall on the same period last year.

Consequently, the IPEZ post seems a bit like scoring anti-US points rather than a thoughtful look at immigration into the US.

Second, even though the economic circumstances inevitably play a part in immigration decisions, we Americans like to believe that there are other reasons to immigrate here. Given that the United States has successfully integrated wave after wave of immigrants from around the world, FLG wouldn't bet against the US in an immigration competition. Looking at short-term, year to year fluctuations isn't very illuminating about the long-term future.

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