Dr. Christian H. Kaelin is Chairman of Henley & Partners. He is an expert in investment migration and the inventor of the passport index concept.
Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges once said that when traveling to Uruguay as a child in the early 20th century, his father told him to have a good look at the border controls and the flags because those things might not exist in the future. This thought, he said, made him doubt the relevance of national boundaries. A century has passed since this father-and-son conversation. Perhaps to his surprise, national institutions still stand, and borders and nations still exist. In fact, there are now far more sovereign countries than in 1899, when Borges was born.
But the observation by Borges’ father is not entirely fallacious. The limitative nature of the borders demarcating countries has indeed diminished over the years. National borders have always been interfaces characterized by a variable permeability across different periods of time. Nowadays, they hold the potential to frame a historical phenomenon that is taking place: the recirculation of the global population.
The rapid development of the means of communication and the evolution of social media have exposed a discordance between the distribution of people around the globe and the location of resources we all rely on. At the same time, technology and the improvement of transport systems have dramatically increased people’s mobility and ease of traveling (current Covid restrictions aside). Communities are making the most of these advancements as an increasing number of reasons drive their need to migrate.
Repeated economic crises, pressing climate change, the advent of workplace automation, political instability, and economic volatility are real global problems that require solutions. These issues affect both rich and poor countries alike and compel vast numbers of people from certain nations to relocate in search of a better quality of life, stability, and security.
In his latest book MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us, FutureMap founder and member of Henley & Partners’ Board of Advisors, Dr. Parag Khanna, identifies this momentum as an important trend in the years to come. To him, “The decades ahead will witness constant circulation as we attempt to rectify the grave mismatch among resources, borders, industries, and people.”
The inaugural Ecological Threat Register, released in September 2020 by leading international think-tank the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicted that in the next 30 years, over 1 billion people will have to relocate to escape various climate calamities, potentially engendering permanent refugees. This global drift of human beings is ineluctable and will be exceedingly more inter-regional. Together with the issue of aging populations in richer countries, this surging emigration movement creates a predicament that must be resolved for both sides of the spectrum.
The demographic reality is self-evident and can no longer be denied: developed economies must encourage inward migration if they aim to improve, or at the very least maintain, their social model as well as the size and quality of their workforces. Fortuitously, these nations’ needs (namely, human resources and talent) are congruent with various developing societies’ supply reservoirs.
There are countries that have long been behind the curve in terms of economic development and education, that are now overflowing with youth and talent. Recognizing the essentiality of keeping up with the pace, these countries have exerted extraordinary efforts over the years in making policy changes and developing programs specifically to improve their higher education systems. Their populations now comprise highly skilled, educated, and efficient young professionals who are members of the most mobile generation in history.
Many of these capable individuals tend to travel, complete an international baccalaureate, study abroad, and interact with the global youth. From their hybridized values a new model of thought is emerging that transcends geographical segmentation. In other words, the highly mobile 21st-century youth is promulgating a new culture aligned with the principles of the modern economy — taking the best from East and West, North and South, they bypass intellectual barriers.
Resourceful countries need to futureproof their economies by attracting and welcoming the upcoming generation and avoid stagnating and lagging behind owing to complacency. It is pivotal that advanced nations consider revising their current somewhat exclusive approach to the rest of the world, and reform and adapt to overcome the competition and not miss the opportunity to capitalize on this potential. In the scramble for young talent, but also for investors, the countries that are first to review and streamline their outdated migration policies will have the edge.
The enterprise of realigning the needs and resources of the global community is desirable and is in the best interest of people worldwide. If successful, it could help prevent the inevitable migration trend from becoming a lasting global migration crisis. Such a project, however, requires adequate migration policies. Regrettably, studies have shown that countries with short labor supplies often do not make the necessary legal and policy adjustments.
Following the latest economic crisis and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, several countries have created or augmented a growing range of residence and citizenship by investment programs. Many aim to attract wealth, experienced talent, entrepreneurs, and foreign direct investment, but more and more are also designed to appeal to young individuals with unique expertise and skills.
Heightened and better managed global migration is the appropriate route for humanity to take in these troubled times. High-net-worth individuals, investors, entrepreneurs, as well as governments and charities should attend to their interests and, in doing so, they could be contributing towards the solution of one of the century’s most pressing conundrums.