UK Brain Drain

For some years I have covered in my talks the possibility of the UK ending up as a retirement home, as high taxes and intergenerational conflicts of interest couple with the forces of remigration and professional mobility. The newspapers this morning say that of the 3.6 million to leave the UK in the last 10 years, two million were between 25 and 44 and one million were professional/managerial. Only 125,000 pensioners left. While this is hardly a major catastrophe, it is still worrying, but then again, it confirms my theory so at least I get to say I told you so.

On one hand, emigration is consistent with a healthy system. We want our kids to be sought after and to be free to move and prosper in a globalised world. On the other hand, those who are leaving are the ones we need to keep to pay for those that won’t leave. If this pattern continues, the ratio of old people to those paying taxes to look after them will increase still further, making care costs even less manageable than they already are. And it is a vicious circle – more will want to leave as it gets worse.

If emigrants were balanced skill for skill against immigrants, there would not be a problem. We certainly will need immigration to balance the outflow, but to solve the problem it needs to be the right immigrants with the right skills. Some immigrants won’t contribute sufficiently to pay for their extra load, others will contribute well in excess of their loading, so we need to get as many of those as we can. To attract them and deter others is not easy. Every country wants the best people to come to help pay their bills.

Low taxes, light regulation and freedom would be much more likely to attract and keep good people than high taxes, high levels of poor regulation and an obsessive surveillance and control culture. It would be better to change in that direction before it’s too late.

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