Reverse Brain Drain
There is a new term that people living in developed countries, particularly in the U.S. start to hear. The term is "reverse brain drain." Although the U.S. is certainly still a hegemon in so many aspects, it faces some problems that may shatter its hegemony. One of the problems is the level of competitiveness. For centuries, "American Dream" has been being a mantra that keeps the nation vibrant. It is often associated with immigration to America which keeps America constantly renewed by streams of hardworking people who are desperate to succeed. However, there is a concern that current American employment-based immigration system is not secure and efficient enough to welcome highly educated and talented professionals to America. Take the fields of sciences as an example. Science laboratories in America are more than half filled with foreign students and immigrants. Without them, America's leadership position in the sciences would collapse. This is the reason why the States is still staying at the top of the game.
Closing the door to professionals from abroad surely puts U.S. companies at a competitive disadvantage and pushes jobs away from the country. Statistics show that only 65,000 H-1B visas (working visa) for foreign professionals are allocated each year. The trend in the past few years has been that the quota was exhausted almost as soon as the applications became available in April. More importantly, this means that more than half of all foreign nationals who earned advanced degrees in math and science in 2007 have been kept away from the U.S. job market. Ironically, some of them were former students in America's best universities. So, where would they go? A few came back to their home countries while a lot of them decided to move to other developed countries, preferably English-speaking countries.
Last year, Microsoft, which is the third-largest sponsor of H-1B visas, announced plans to open a new software development center near Vancouver. The decision to locate the facility in Canada shows that the demand of foreign professionals in the States remains high; however the current immigration policy doesn't support American companies' demands very well. This is may be the reason why outsourcing becomes so popular in the U.S. nowadays.
An area that becomes a new potential target for those who have been rejected by American immigration policy is Europe. Countries that are member of the European Union offer high standard of living that is comparable or even better than what the U.S. offers. Decent employment benefits such as education for family members, insurance, healthcare, etc are among incentives that European countries offer. Interestingly, professional workers might choose Europe because the continent offers a freer working environment. Take the stem-cell research as an example. After President Bush decided to limit federal funding for stem-cell research, a highly sensitive area, last year, many commented the United States is risking not even "reverse brain drain", but also real "brain drain". Lord Sainsbury, Britain's science minister, said: "There are a group of American scientists who are very disillusioned. In this field we have seen U.S. scientists coming to the UK. If the U.S. continues to take this very negative position I think within this field of regenerative medicine we will see scientists come from America and from other parts of the world, who would have gone to America, to the UK instead."
A country that once admired because of its innovation, flexibility, openness, and immigration is now also famous for its closed doors, its immigration policy that are not flexible. If the States do not change the policy or instead behave in some contraproductive ways, it may be left behind at some point. A larger question then arises: would that be good for rest of the world?