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Working Abroad: Great Opportunity or Dangerous Trend?

Working abroad: Great opportunity or dangerous trend?With the unemployment rate hovering right below ten percent, desperate times can call for desperate measures. On this blog, we've pondered if going abroad is a positive option for grads who can't find work at home, and the same idea has doubtless crossed the mind of many a frustrated job searcher. But does working abroad represent an opportunity for the unemployed (especially the younger job seeker without a family in tow), or the dangerous possibility of reverse brain drain that will sap the country's intellectual capital in the long term? Or perhaps both? Two blogs weigh in.

On TechCrunch Vivek Wadhwa, an entrepreneur turned academic, weighs in with a big picture post looking at how the relatively better job prospects abroad are attracting American educated foreigners who would otherwise settle in the States. He finds this worrying:

With US unemployment at 10 percent, who cares if we lose the next generation of geeks? There won't be jobs for them for years, anyway, until the US job market recovers. And sure, I know the xenophobes are going to cheer my findings. They believe that foreign workers take American jobs away.
But a growing body of evidence indicates that skilled foreign immigrants create jobs for Americans and boost our national competitiveness. More than 52 percent of Silicon Valley's start-ups during the recent tech boom were started by foreign-born entrepreneurs. Foreign-national researchers have contributed to more than 25 percent of our global patents, developed some of our break-through technologies, and they helped make Silicon Valley the world's leading tech center.
Wadhwa makes a strong case that from the point of view of the US economy, so many workers leaving could spell trouble, but his piece doesn't attempt to convey the point of the view of the unemployed. From their perspective, looking internationally for work makes sense, argues Lydia Dishman on Fast Company. She notes that "A recent survey by Manpower Inc. found that employment prospects are most favorable in India, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, China, Australia, Singapore, Costa Rica, Canada, Taiwan, and Poland," and more and more people, it seems, are willing to look far from home:
Of nearly 30,000 people Manpower surveyed, 79 percent of candidates are willing to relocate for work, and nearly one third are willing to move anywhere in the world. 40 percent are willing to make that move permanently.
Both posts are convincing and well-worth a read, but taken together they pose a conundrum. Could the decision to work abroad, which makes sense for the individual be, in the long run, a significant problem for the economy as a whole?

(Globe face image by Scott McLeod, CC 2.0)

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