Brain Drain is Showing the Pitfalls of Protectionism

Take the case of Britain’s shock vote to leave the European Union, which is arguably the biggest demonstration of the free-trade backlash. It has also fueled commitments from both U.S. presidential candidates to either tighten borders or reject new pacts.

Europe provides Britain with more professional migrants than any other region, according a new analysis by LinkedIn of its 450 million members. What’s more, the professional social network discovered that European migrants are better educated than their British peers.

“Our findings are clear: UK companies need to prepare themselves for a more difficult talent market, and may want to start looking at how they can develop more talent at home, or cast the net further.”

LinkedIn found that 40% of members who had move to the UK over the past three years came from elsewhere in Europe, while 17% came from North America and 14% came from Asia.

More than 60% of members who moved to the UK from the EU had a masters or doctoral degree, compared with 34% of UK members.

“Our findings are clear: UK companies need to prepare themselves for a more difficult talent market, and may want to start looking at how they can develop more talent at home, or cast the net further,” LinkedIn UK Country Manager Josh Graff said.

“The USA and Australia already account for over a fifth of professional migration to the UK, so they are a good place to start.’’

LinkedIn’s figures show that concerns about labor shortages post-Brexit extend to white-collar roles. The majority of European migrants to the UK are currently employed in lower-paid jobs, and there are fears of a labor shortage should they be forced to return home.

Similarly, anti-immigration rhetoric in the US voiced by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is threatening to push up wages, should immigration from Mexico be curbed as he has promised.

The need for immigration reform has been cited as a major policy shortfall by American CEOs, including JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, who supports allowing undocumented migrants to stay in the country legally. The issue was also mentioned as a key area of concern by some of the 50 CEOs recently polled by the American University.

“Immigration reform, from the ways we attract and retain good talent, to the systems and processes for streamlining the legal immigration process, need massive modernization and reform,” said Sid Banerjee, CEO of customer service technology company Clarabridge.

Ross Kelly :Ross Kelly is a London-based business journalist. He has been a staff correspondent or editor at The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance and the Australian Associated Press.