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Are Countries Turning Away Business as They Close Their Doors to Immigrants?

November 6, 2015 10:52:30 AM EST | By: Michelle Dopps

The news has been full of stories lately on the topic of immigration, particularly in Europe. One aspect that may deserve a little more attention is the effect that tightened immigration policies could have on international business.

Migrant crisis and global mobilityAn article on Training Journal titled “Tight immigration laws making countries less competitive, says think tank” addresses just this. According to the article’s authors Arturo Bris and José Caballero, immigration laws affect both the attractiveness of that country to businesses as well as perceived workforce productivity. They reference the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook and draw conclusions based on the impressions and opinions of the surveyed decision makers.

The article states:  “Competitiveness greatly depends on the extent to which governments facilitate an environment conducive to business. One key indicator is the impact of immigration laws; that is, whether or not immigration laws curtail the ability of enterprises to conduct their activities effectively.” Immigration laws are a huge factor when conducting global mobility activity, so it makes sense that tightened rules could lead to difficulties for companies relocating employees internationally, whether intentional or not.

So what does all of this mean?

Interestingly, while countries that are enforcing stricter rules are seen as having fewer skilled laborers and senior managers, only some of these countries actually appear less attractive, and others seem immune. Germany and Malaysia are on the less attractive side, and the attractiveness of the United Kingdom and Switzerland appears to be unaffected, according to the Yearbook.

Attracting talent with tightened immigration lawsPerhaps international business is already so ingrained in the culture of these countries that the immigration issues have less of an impact. Or maybe they are in fact losing attractiveness, particularly to highly-skilled foreigners who can contribute to boosting company performance, but it’s happening more slowly and thus wasn’t reflected in this particular study.

The other perception the article addresses is that of workforce productivity and how it has been affected by changing immigration laws. Those countries that are tightening up are seen as having less productive workers compared to previous years. While the tie between immigration and productivity isn’t as obvious as it is between immigration and attractiveness, what matters here are not the facts but the perceptions. As Bris and Caballero write, “…if decision makers at a company favour a location over another, there can be implications for job creation and other factors which impact local populations and prosperity.”

Have you been affected?

Does your company or those you do business with share these perceptions? Have you seen any movement toward or away from certain countries as their stances on immigration shift? Having a global mobility partner with immigration experts at the ready is even more important at a time like this. Lexicon can guide our clients through complicated, changing laws and advise whether or not it’s worth it to send your employees to certain parts of the world. The bottom line is that world events can always affect global business in ways we don’t immediately see, and it pays to be in the know.

Topics: global mobility, immigration, international assignments, emea global mobility

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