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Winning the Race for Global Talent

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Partnership for a New American Economy is a nonpartisan group of over 400 mayors and business leaders who are committed to supporting immigration reform to help boost the U.S. economy. Members of this vital organization recognize the dynamic role that immigrants play not merely in filling jobs but in generating catalytic innovations and startups that have energize our economy.

Recently, the group published an important report titled “Not Coming to America” that critically examines the deficiencies of current United States immigration policies ( The report also offers suggestions to rectify current problems that are undermining the expansion of the American economy. However, what makes the report unique is its review of several other successful nations’ efforts to attract international talent to boost their economies.

The current restrictive state of immigration laws is crippling our economy, and the report outlines several unpalatable realities the U.S. will face if it does not institute reforms. First, the need for workers in science, technology, engineering and math (i.e., “STEM” fields) is increasing three times more quickly than jobs in other fields. In fact, it is estimated we will face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified STEM workers with advance degrees by 2018. Second, the United States is facing a shortage of young workers. With baby boomers retiring in large numbers and the overall U.S. population aging, the growth in the American labor force has dropped below 1 percent to historic lows. Third, the current stagnant economy will be further hampered by the record-low number of business startups. As for larger companies, how central are immigrants to anchoring major U.S. business and industry? It is estimated that over 40 percent of America’s Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant.

The Partnership for a New American Economy’s report points out other countries such as China, Canada, and Germany are taking advantage of America’s restrictive immigration policies and instituting reforms to make themselves more economically competitive. For instance, by creating fast-track permanent visas for immigrants in STEM fields, establishing new visas to lure foreign entrepreneurs and investors, implementing visas to keep foreign students earning advanced degrees at their universities, and recruiting bright, innovative expatriates to return home through various incentives, such countries are reaping a windfall in international talent.

How can the U.S. win this war for global talent? The report makes six suggestions:
  • Provide visas to the STEM graduates educated in American universities.
  • Award more green cards based on economic needs (i.e., green cards for individuals who will boost companies and businesses).
  • Create a visa program to allow foreign entrepreneurs to build their firms in the U.S.
  • Let American companies hire the highly educated workers they need.
  • Give seasonal and labor-intensive industries access to foreign workers when they cannot find Americans to fill jobs.
  • Allow local governments to recruit more immigrants to meet regional needs.

It’s not too late to win the race for global talent. But unless we make such reforms, we don’t stand a chance. After all, to win any race, you have to enter the race to begin with.

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