Friday, September 25, 2009

The 2016 Generation

Not to riff repeatedly on the emigration theme, but I am increasingly conscious of the disastrous impact a return to mass migration will have on the medium to long term outlook for the economy. Take a recent EIU report for Invest in Ontario on the theme of Cultivating a Talent for Innovation. Sure it contains the usual bromides about talent and outsourcing etc, but the one that got my attention was the importance of face-to-face contact as a driver of innovation:
In spite of major advances in networked information technology (IT), innovation still requires face-to-face contact in order to be successful, especially in its earliest stages. Survey respondents say brainstorming is the most popular innovation technique, while interviewees emphasise the value of face-to-face contact to build trust between potential collaborators, maintain the momentum of innovation efforts and invest each project with the passion necessary to bring it to fruition.
The same point was made by Paul Graham, founder of y-combinator, in this fascinating interview about his experiences of launching tech start-ups in California (read his funding application criteria here, one condition is that you move your company to the Bay Area). The problem, of course, is that emigration means less opportunities for 'face time' with the key parties necessary to build collaborative trust for enterpreneurs and innovators based in Ireland. Virtual solutions help - to a degree. And maybe the McWilliams/Farmleigh Diaspora networking strategy can play a part too (in shortening the 'trust building' process - as noted in this excellent Ireland Fund report on diaspora strategies).

But the challenge is enormous. As we look ahead to 2016 and the centenary of the Easter Rising then we must avoid the loss off another generation to emigration. The chart below shows the change in the forecast numbers in each age group between 2009 and 2016. I've simply applied the CSO's M0F2 projections to the latest 2009 population estimates (taking my cue from Kevin Denny's comment on my last post). This shows what will happen if there is zero net migration - with immigrant numbers matching emigrant numbers. A switch to net emigration would make a bad situation (falling numbers of 20-somethings due to falling birth rates in the 1980s and 1990s) even worse.

The 2016 Generation deserves better.


  1. Immigration is such a complex issue and people's views on it may be quite informative about the person's particular perspective. We have a long history of emigration but faced with an unusually sudden influx of immigrants I don't think we really know what to do. Now all's changed..
    Given all the fuss about NAMA (which is important) immigrants may be seen as people who will prop up the housing market. But there is more to it that. From an economists point of view, immigrants are "instant adults" : a flow of human capital arrives and we didn't have to pay for their education. Not a bad deal? But there are other effects such as competition with domestic labour pushing wages down : I am pretty sure this happened but it was not PC to mention it.
    It also brings home to me how it difficult it will be for policy makers to make projections about education, housing and indeed banking because we are vulnerable to decisions made in Warsaw and many other places. One price of globalisation I am afraid.

  2. As the author of Face to Face:How To Reclaim the PERSONAL Touch in a Digital, I collected research on the topic. But this is the first time, I've seen it linked to innovation.
    THANK YOU. You've given me new insights into the importance of in-person interactions!


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