The Battle for the Brains: Why Immigration Policy is not Enough to Attract the Highly Skilled
Selective migration policies are proliferating among migrant destination countries of the developed world. Canada, Australia, the United States, New Zealand, Germany, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the Czech Republic have devised special visas and programs to attract scientists, highly-skilled engineers, medical professionals, computer programmers, and information technology professionals from developing countries such as India and China. The proliferation of these immigration policies has set up a competitive dynamic. Germany's Independent Commission on Migration to Germany, led by Rita Süssmuth, described it in terms of a "battle for the brains."1 This competition has taken on a transatlantic dimension as European policymakers call for policy changes with explicit reference to their competitors across the Atlantic. For example, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has argued that "the most qualified migrants, the most dynamic and competent ones head to the American continent, while immigrants with little or no skills come to Europe" (Bennhold 2006).
Not only do EU member states wish to compete with the United States and Canada for the highly skilled, they have initiated new selective immigration policies that copy elements of the Canadian-style point system as well as the U.S. temporary H1-B visa for high-skilled workers.
This paper examines the contemporary debate in Europe about implementing selective migration policies often modeled after immigration policies found in North America. The authors argue that there are several different kinds of selective immigration policies, but that success in attracting highly-skilled migrants may be less a matter of picking the right technical approach and more a function of the interplay of larger economic trends, educational systems, research funding, recognition of professional qualifications, and other social factors.