2012 March 10 Saturday
Britain: The Young Person's Guide To Emigration

An article from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph goes over the bleak prospects for many younger people in Britain and then surveys emigration destinations.

It is not a great time to be a young person in Britain. The unemployment rate among under-25s is 20 per cent and rising. Highly skilled roles are being taken by German, Swiss and French graduates. At the other end of the spectrum British workers are losing out to cheaper competition from Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.

Even if you have a job, you are unlikely to be able to live very well. You might not be able to buy a house for years. The average deposit on a house in Britain, according to a survey by Santander, is 37,000. The average age of first-time buyer is nearly 40.

So far most Americans haven't felt a need to leave the United States because the country is big enough that they can move somewhere else. The big exodus from California is an example of this phenomenon. But the attraction of other places beyond America's shores will grow.

What I'm wondering: will declining telecommunications cost lead to the emergence of small countries that suck in the smartest workers? Will emigration become a means of sorting by cognitive ability? For example, could New Zealand fulfill that role? Imagine what Singapore's government could do along those lines if only it had more land to work with.

Is a solution possible in Europe? Unfortunately, the European Union's open internal borders make it difficult for a southern European country with pleasant climate to develop that niche. The smarties need a government that will enforce very selective immigration rules and also that can attract so many smart people that the smarties can basically take over the country. Could some European country manage to keep itself out of the EU and develop a brain power niche?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2012 March 10 07:43 PM  Immigration Brain Drain

I_Affe said at March 10, 2012 7:52 PM:

I'm a little confused when you say, "will declining telecommunications cost lead to the emergence of small countries that suck in the smartest workers?" I don't know much about international real estate, but are land/homes/condos more expensive in smaller, heavily populated, developed countries like Singapore? Isn't that part of the reason for the high costs of houses mentioned in the article? Besides, pricing competition with other smart and high earners probably wouldn't help lower prices in that respect.

Randall Parker said at March 10, 2012 8:09 PM:


I guess I wasn't clear: Your point about high costs is exactly what blocks Singapore from fulfilling this role as a magnet for brains.

To be clear: I think Singapore's government has the sort of outlook that would lead them to want to become a brain magnet (and I think they already achieve this to some extent). But the housing costs there put a limit on how much Singapore can accomplish. So we need a government like Singapore's in attitude but in an area with lower population density.

Mike said at March 10, 2012 8:15 PM:

It's too bad the US won't fill that role. Even in our current economically damaged state, the US is still one of the top choices for emigration. If only we would take advantage of it and let the best and brightest in. It would be quite a boon to our country.

I_Affe said at March 10, 2012 9:23 PM:

Oh, ok. Thanks for the clarification. How about Australia? With some governmental modifications of course.

bbartlog said at March 11, 2012 7:16 AM:

Finland maybe. So far as EU open borders is concerned, that can ultimately be a temporary problem for a country with enough political will. In general there is some advantage to being far north- it means that if you don't have decent welfare benefits, your country is a rather inhospitable destination for the wretched of the earth. 'Forty below keeps the riff-raff out' as they used to say in North Dakota.
New Zealand is also a good candidate. Being at the ends of the Earth it's simply inconvenient for refugees to get to. Also a very nice place to live.

Michael L said at March 11, 2012 11:41 AM:

when it comes to jurisdiction shopping for expats, I think that the GCC monarchies might do well, at least as long as they don't get physically wiped out in the next big war. Come to think of it, they already house vast expat populations with no handwringing over anybody's "rights" and "entitlements". So in the absence of "liberalism" their internal political culture is well suited for this, while externally speaking they are not the UN's or EU's bitch. If anything, they are one of the significant cliques controlling the UN in the first place.

I guess other no-nonsense, no-liberalism places like Taiwan, China or Korea could also do things like that, but that would require a bigger political attitude shift, away from pure national socialism and closer to the more tolerant libertarian empire approach.

Randall Parker said at March 11, 2012 7:13 PM:


Yes, Australia is a candidate. Not clear to me what the net effects are of their current immigration policies. Not clear what the odds are for an even more abilities-based immigration policy there.

Michael L,

I think the GCC is going to go down as oil production goes down.

I wonder whether Uruguay or Paraguay or some other smaller Latin American country could specialize in brainy immigrants. How they could get the ball rolling in the first place isn't obvious. Ukraine? Armenia? Probably not.

We need some catalyst to get the ball rolling in the right place. Ireland could leave the EU and then become heavily skills-oriented. But what're the odds of that happening?

Dewey said at March 11, 2012 8:57 PM:

Eventually, there will be an Ivy League of countries.

It will happen. Remember: Liberal policies have the exact opposite of their intended result. (american liberal)

Thus, the American liberal's love for the University system, but love for the idea of equality will come in conflict.

The graduates of Ivy League University will go on to found Ivy League communities, and began to enforce stricter immigration standards, plus mass expulsions.

Should just anyone be able to immigrate into Yale?

Should just anyone be able to immigrate into the United States?

Jake said at March 12, 2012 3:29 AM:

Most Ivy League graduates are rent-seekers (both public and private rent-seeking). Their rents ultimately derive from taxing the wider populace. They wouldn't have access to the rents that provide them with their wealth, lifestyle and status if they went off on their own. Also they would ultimately be dependent on military power, physical force held by soldiers, mercs, police, gangs, etc. to do anything like go around founding communities.

not anon or anonymous said at March 12, 2012 8:20 AM:

Randall Parker, I think Chile is in the best position among Latin countries. Contra Michael L, I think neoliberal countries (including economically liberal places such as Hong Kong and Singapore) are in the best position to attract high-skilled immigration. Among EU countries, Ireland is quite liberal, as is Denmark.

Check It Out said at March 12, 2012 5:53 PM:

"Among EU countries, Ireland is quite liberal"

You're joking, right? Ireland liberal among European countries? The only European country that is more religious than Ireland is the theocracy called Vatican!

Chile is now facing huge demonstrations; student demonstrations. Venezuela is the country with the second highest percentage of university enrollment in Latin America, right after Cuba who holds first.

McNeil said at March 18, 2012 1:30 PM:

"Thus, the American liberal's love for the University system, but love for the idea of equality will come in conflict."

Really, how do you figure Dewey?

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