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| 1 minute read

Who is experiencing a brain gain?

As companies and countries compete for highly trained and intelligent people, they may be experiencing a brain drain or a brain gain.

A recent report from The Washington Post titled Rural America suffers from Brain Drain indicates that rural America is experiencing a brain drain where a lack of talent has people suggesting that more immigrants are needed to support the agricultural industry. Additionally, a Bloomberg article titled The American Brain Drain suggests that the tightening of visa requirements is impacting American universities' ability to catch top talent. According to that article there are a number of nations that are competing effectively, including China, Australia, Canada and the U.K.

The sixth annual 2019 Global Talent Competitiveness Index has come out and attempts to identify the ways in which large and small firms, nations, and cities can foster entrepreneurial talent in the era of digital transformation. From the foreward written by Alain Dehaze,

"Talent is the deciding factor in the global scramble for prosperity as skills grow ever more scarce and megatrends redefine our economies. Which countries and cities are setting the pace in talent competitiveness? Who is falling behind? How can we improve the way we enable, attract, grow, and retain talent everywhere? Does talent have to be a finite resource?"

The top 10 countries from the report are:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Singapore
  3. United States
  4. Norway
  5. Denmark
  6. Finland
  7. Sweden
  8. Netherlands
  9. United Kingdom
  10. Luxembourg

Sebastian Reiche from IESE Business School tapped into the report and shared some commentary and insights on his Expatriatus Blog particularly around where, and how Canada has taken the upper hand in the competition for talent. He says,

"Seeing opportunities rather than threats in skilled foreign workers, Canada implements its Global Skills Strategy, which makes it easier to bring in foreign talent. Focusing on tech talents, the immigration system allows developers, computer analysts, software engineers and alike to get work permits to enter Canada within two weeks of application. Moreover, Canadian policies try to retain the brightest foreign talent in the country already upon graduation, by granting foreign students work permits for up to three years after graduation."

And without a doubt, I concur with his bottom line takeaway that companies, cities and countries are indeed facing global competition for talent and it is about time to embrace that reality. What is your global mobility program telling you about where future talent will want to be?  Which countries will experience a brain gain or a brain drain?

Canada seems to have embraced this idea, whereas Trump’s U.S. seems to miss the point. Although president Trump continuously claims that he hires ‘only the best people’, recent data suggests that the best people are increasingly attracted to Canada. For example, according to a CBRE report on tech talent, between 2012 and 2017 Toronto has created more tech jobs than San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, together. Indeed, Canada has become a major tech hub and is experiencing so-called ‘brain gain’ at the moment.


global talent, brain gain, brain drain, migration, immigration rules, business practices, economy, global skills strategy, foreign workers, expatriates, gtci, iese business school