More Companies Turn to Asia for Highly Skilled Talent

But many mobile workers still long to work in U.S., report states

By Greg Wright Aug 16, 2011

More companies around the world are turning to China and India for highly skilled workers, and more of these migrants are looking for work in other developing Asian nations, according to a recent report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Still, employers in the United States and Europe who tap potential employees from these countries regularly shouldn’t worry about a talent shortage—especially because many migrants still see the United States as an attractive work destination.

“I’m not that worried about it yet,” immigration attorney Gregory Siskind told SHRM Online when asked whether U.S. employers should be concerned that they will face more competition for skilled workers from Asia as the economy recovers.“I think there is some truth that there is more competition for bright people around the world,” said Siskind, author of The Employer’s Immigration Compliance Desk Reference (SHRM and; 2009).

The depressed global economy and lower demand for workers in OECD nations caused international migration to fall by about 7 percent in 2009 to 4.3 million people, according to the most recent data published in OECD’s 2011 International Migration Outlook report.

There are 34 OECD countries, including the United Kingdom, Japan, Korea and the United States. Twenty-four OECD nations and Russia had the standardized statistics necessary to be included in the migration report.

Migration Expected to Rebound

Despite the severity of the global economic crisis, migration did not fall as much as expected and is forecasted to rebound as the economic situation improves.

“Demand for labor migration will pick up again,” OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said in a statement.

More highly skilled immigrants are emigrating for work in OECD nations from China and India, said George Lemaitre,migration specialist at the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labor and Social Affairs. In 2009, China and India occupied first and third place for the origin of migrants who went to OECD nations, the report stated.

According to the report, 468,000 Chinese went to OECD nations in 2009, accounting for almost one out of 10 foreign migrants. And 226,000 migrants originated in India, accounting for 5 percent of the total.

China, India and South Korea were the top sources for students who migrate to OECD countries to earn degrees, the report stated. Employers often seek these students because they tend to be highly skilled and many know English, the dominant language in the global business community, according to the report.

More than 409,000 Chinese students migrated to OECD countries in 2009, accounting for almost one out of five students who moved abroad, according to the OECD report. The next highest number of students came from India (162,960), South Korea (109,980) and Germany (80,450), the report stated.

As economic development in Asian nations continues to outstrip growth in OECD nations, more Asians are migrating to other Asian nations, the report stated. However, OECD officials said these migrants continue to go to other parts of the globe as well.

“Chinese and Indian migrants are now going pretty much everywhere, and in particular Chinese migration is widespread across the OECD; this is particularly visible in student migration,” said Thomas Liebig, an expert at OECD’s International Migration Division. “Also, several European OECD countries like Germany had significant increases in Chinese migration in recent years.”

Although Asia is becoming more attractive for migrants, employers in the United States should not worry that the supply of highly skilled foreign workers from that region will evaporate, especially if the global economy rebounds and there is increased demand for employees, Siskind said.

Siskind predicted that although more highly skilled Indian and Chinese workers will go to other Asian countries, the United States still will be attractive.

“If you ask [migrants] where they want to go, their first choice would be the United States,” Siskind said.

Greg Wright is a Maryland-based freelance writer who has covered Congress, consumer electronics and international trade for major news organizations, including Gannett News Service/USA Today, Dow Jones and Knight-Ridder Financial News. He can be reached at


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