December 10, 2004

Going Back I

Thomas Barnett asks:

The "need job, will travel" route certainly represents a release valve function on an individual basis for those who feel trapped in dead-end lives, but when enough of them go, like in the case of Armenia today, you get the Gap equivalent of a dying prairie town, with all the morose social sentiment that mass departure represents. As one young Armenia woman put it, "We can fit in anywhere. The only place we can't is Armenia."

That's good for the Core, which always needs people willing to work, but that's a killer statement for the very Gap-ish Armenia. I mean, how can Armenia join the Core if its young people mostly want to leave?

There is an answer, a quite simple one. Change the rulesets so that those emigrants or their descendents can make a good living back in the old country and you will have people moving back to provide both a skill boost and a source of capital. I speak from personal experience here as being raised in the US but born in Romania and having a wife who grew up and trained in Romania, we have discussed the idea extensively.

We ended up deciding that we would make the move if we could generate enough income to live decently and to have enough extra put away so that if our children wanted to strike out anywhere in the world, they'd be able to given the material base we had established in our generation. That means being able to fund college and provide startup financing for new couples for three children, the oldest of whom is 5 right now.

We've never been able to make the numbers work but every once in awhile we reexamine the situation (most recently about a month ago) informally. I suspect that there is a pretty large group of ethnics out there in the world who are doing much the same thing with respect to their own homelands, including those from Tom Barnett's example, Armenia.

I know personally of one family who made the jump back and another that is right in the middle of the process. These examples aren't from the numerous "temporaries" who are here for a few years to make some startup cash and go home to start a business. Those kinds of reverse migrants are a dime a dozen in any ethnic community. These are US citizens with good US careers who have voluntarily made that choice.

If any Gap nation wants to reverse the brain drain and gain skills and investment, change the rules and the people will come. It really is that simple.

Posted by TMLutas at December 10, 2004 02:04 PM