Is America losing its appeal to brainwashed foreigners?
It is a fact of American politics that the interests of the less educated, like high school graduates, need better protection. Before next year’s presidential race, President Donald Trump and many Democratic candidates will be talking about the concerns of blue-collar business workers. Joe Biden, the front-runner to take on Mr. Trump, recently launched his campaign from a union hall in Pittsburgh. Mr. Trump’s anti-trade policies, his vow to restore America’s manufacturing strength, and his rallies in the industrial cities of the Midwest, show that prosperity depends largely on creating more jobs. for the least skilled.
But America – like all advanced economies – must increasingly attract the most educated talent. Highly skilled people, who tend to cluster with other highly skilled people, usually in cities and universities, are more likely to be wealth creators, in financial or creative industries and well positioned to take advantage of new technology. Entrepreneurs, university graduates and others with obvious talent are in high demand. How a country attracts and retains the most skilled migrants, therefore, is a measure of its strength in the future.
Historically, America has surpassed competing countries in attracting and employing foreign brains, for example in how it gets foreigners to work after they graduate from their universities. . But under Mr Trump that crown is slipping.
The OECD, a think tank for mostly rich countries, outlined America’s problem this week. In terms of the real attractiveness of highly skilled people around the world, the authors of a new report say that America is still the most popular place. Across seven indicators the think tank surveyed to measure “talent attractiveness” — including unemployment rates, tax rates, gender equality, how easy it is for a talented person’s family to settle and more – America still stands out as the most attractive destination for the brain.
But on a second set of indicators the country is getting worse. These include whether an applicant is likely to be refused a visa, how strict quotas are for skilled people, and the time and difficulty involved in getting through the application process. Count in these considerations and America’s appeal to the most talented international workers drops dramatically. The OECD ranks America behind several other wealthy countries, including Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Ireland.
Such a ranking can be disputed, and the rush of people who would like to study and work in America is not going to dry up. But the horror may be slow. The number of international students present in America has already been declining in the past few years, for example. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement department counted a 2.7% drop in student numbers this spring (it found just under 1.2m foreign students in the country in March). Mr Trump’s talk of “America First”, his hostility towards Muslims, as well as his threats to tighten visas favored by Indian applicants, seem to be doing little to make America a more attractive place for foreign talent.
Mr Trump’s proposal in early May could overhaul America’s immigration system to focus more on admitting skilled workers who can meet the needs of the economy – and less on family reunification or accepting refugees – addressing some of the concerns raised by the OECD. . But that immigration plan is unlikely to become law. It seems impossible, since both Democrats in Congress are against it (because it does nothing to accommodate DREAMERS, immigrants who came to America as children illegally and were granted stay) and some conservative Republicans (because it is not tough enough, for example, towards refugees).
America has long succeeded in attracting foreign talent. But any sign that the country is becoming less attractive to skilled foreigners, as the OECD suggests, could mean America will pay a price down the road.