Is the Recession Draining the U.S. of its Talent?
BY Josh Spiro
In a poor job market, American graduates are seeking jobs on foreign soil.
Dismal job prospects in the United States are leading many graduates to look to China for employment, according to a recent article in The New York Times.
"I have seen a rise in the number of American graduates seeking jobs in China," says Grace Hsieh, president of the Yale Club in Beijing and a 2007 graduate currently working as an account executive for the international communications consultancy firm Hill & Knowlton.
She notes that students with a Sinocentric interest are getting earlier starts by taking summer internships in China while still in college. Entrepreneurship, in addition to education, finance and journalism, is a popular career path for Americans fresh off the boat with Mandarin dictionaries in their pockets.
China is not the only country that has gained increased attention from young job seekers. "People have become increasingly aware of other countries [in general] as potential labor markets," says Matthew Freedman, professor of labor economics at Cornell University.
What effect will this exodus have on the talent pool when more American companies are prepared to hire? "In the short run there may be a very real concern that some companies are losing some of their star workers to foreign countries whose employers are still hiring," says Freedman.
He adds that in the long run, he thinks the U.S. will be well positioned to retain its talent pool. The transition to a service-oriented economy where there are large returns for highly-skilled labor gives the U.S. an edge because of its strong higher education system and the financial structures that are conducive to developing and investing capital.
Even if some graduates are looking for jobs abroad, the trend has yet to reach a tipping point. Despite the lower cost of living and starting a business, and the possibility for skilled workers to start higher up on the career ladder in foreign posts, Freedman says, "most graduates these days still keep their eyes on the U.S."
Additionally young émigrés often return to the U.S. after a couple of years. Hsieh describes Beijing as a "revolving door" and says that the majority of graduates she knows "plan to return to the U.S. after gaining some work experience here."