Category Archives: Demography

Trend-Setter: Thilo Sarrazin?

“Coolhunting for the World’s Thought Leaders” is an actual academic paper by actual academics (Peter Gloor at MIT; Karin Frick and Detlef Guertler at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute in Switzerland). Its purpose: To create “a novel ‘Thought Leader Map’ [that] shows the select group of people with real influence who are setting the trends in the market.

from “Are These The Most Influential And Trend-Setting Thought Leaders?”

Today, inbetween the identification of operational risks and internal controls (my daily job nowadays), I came across this article about the biggest ‘thinkfluencers’ of 2012.

For my surprise, one of the trend setters happened to be this guy named Thilo Sarrazin, described as someone who wrote a “bestselling book arguing that genetically inferior Kurds and Turks were dumbing down Germany”.

I was surprised not because of the apparent popularity of such arguments in Europe but instead because of the lack of refinement, the rawness, of his discursive practice.

Sarrazin, a trend setter in 2012, is a good old-fashioned, no non-sense, straight shooter racist, using classic xenophobic language in public in ways that few germans have since the Holocaust.

That explains, in big part, his success: he’s breaking the taboo and trying to capitalize from being a frontrunner.

And that’s about it, mostly because his arguments are total shit.

Sarrazin defends two main stands of view: he’s “anti-euro” (“Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro”) and “anti-immigrant” (“Germany Does Itsfelf In”). His book “Germany Abolishes Itsfelf” sold over 1.3 million copies, proving that unconvincing books can convince quite a few readers (here in Portugal such books tend to be read by people who have yet to meet an immigrant).

He’s anti-euro because the southern economies of the euro zone are not ready and have culture and mentality issues that lead to lack of discipline. Because corruption, mismanagement, and indolence are endemic to southern European culture and Germany is being “black-mailed” to bail them out because it perpetrated the Holocaust.

Sarrazin defines himself as a man of numbers; but also as a man of poor sensibility. He believes that human life follows strict rules such as “hereditary factors”. Muslims and southern Europeans are hopeless because there are relevant genetic differences among ethnic groups working against them.

Some, like him, still (choose to) believe that some born smart and some born stupid. Traditionally, those belonging to the elite tend to think they born superior as a mean to justify their priviledges.

I don’t know if intelligence (or economic performance, for that matter) is hereditary.

I think one may have all the potential in the world but he’ll need the right conditions to make it grow. Inteligence (another arguable concept by itself) can be a difference maker in a world in which we all share equal opportunities; but it plays a minor role when we compare individuals in different contexts.

The real magic happens when people have the creativity and the ability to transcend the rules and prove reductionist theorists like Thilo Sarrazin wrong.

Let’s hope to get inspired by more open-minded, forward-thinking  trend-setters in the future. Let’s get inspired by those who approximate people, instead of separating them; by those who work to find solutions, not to agravate the problems (normally promoting their own personal agenda).

As for us Europeans, an isolated Germany serves no one.

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Even if demography guarantees nothing…

But even if demography guarantees nothing, it can make growth harder or easier. National demographic inheritances therefore matter. And they differ a lot.

«A tale of three islands» in The Economist,

October 22nd-28th 2011

French government blocks jobs for non-EU immigrants

Apparently I saw this one coming when I posted my  short Comment on the report «As migrações num mundo interligado: Novas linhas de acção», CMSMI (2005) thursday night. These are conturbated times; the French government just announced a drastic reduction on the list of professional occupations available for non-EU foreigners in a bid to reduce legal immigration. According to the Frech press «trade unions criticised the plan and employers said that it was not a priority but President Nicolas Sarkozy’s government, which is under electoral threat from the anti-immigration Front National, pressed on with changes».

Following my comment’s argumentation, I insist that there is a great gap between reality and political practice on this particular subject. This sort of measures serve only one purpose: to feed the uninformed masses while pursuing electoral advantages. As expected, we’re experiencing mixed reactions here in Portugal as the nationalist arguments are now revigorated by the crisis and the ever increasing unemployment. Although some claim that national low-income unqualified labor  is severely hurt by the incoming immigrants the reality may not follow such statement. Instead of a total labor supply expansion that would push wages down and increase national unemployment (mostly associated to unqualified jobs), the reality suggests the existence of a highly segmented labor market, where immigrants and nationals compete in different markets for completly different jobs and positions. Obviously, there are exceptions (sectors where immigrants and nations actualy compete for jobs) but overall the effects of an immigrant labor supply increase will affect the rest of the immigrant community more than anyone else; there are empirical studies that take this segmentation theory even further and suggest the existence of different labor markets for different subgroups of immigrants (click here for a great academic paper on labor market segmentation and migrations). Moreover, we Europeans are getting old and we have a bankrupt social state to save; who do you think can pay for it? Who do you think will take care of us when we’re all getting old? Our sons and daughters? Yeah, right.

In order to solve the immigration problem we citizens and the public opinion of developed countries have first of all to realize the benefits of such reality and identify clearly the associated challenges. It’s all about honesty; developed countries have shrinking populations and a great need for labor (mostly qualified labor), developing countries are in great demographic expansion and have too much labor to deal with, labor which their economies are unable to absorb. Young labor. Come on, how can it be that difficult? A suggestion? Well, I do believe that honest temporary work permits would do well for both north and south countries. Assuming of course that developing countries are able to create good conditions to receive back their emmigrants (typicaly the greatest entrepreneurs of their societies) and take advantage of the boost they can provide for their economies. Because there’s both supply and demand of migrant labor, a cut on legal immigration will always lead to an increase on illegal immigration and that serves none.

Take a minute to think about it by yourself. And I still hate Sarkozy and what he represents for Europe.

Read my comment in portuguese here.

Comment on the report «As migrações num mundo interligado: Novas linhas de acção», CMSMI (2005)

First post of the blog on wordpress, no more tumblr for me so you can simply erase it from your favs. Very grateful for the praise received from Francisco Miguel Sousa – the man behind tuganomics – about this particular essay. Never really had the opportunity to say it so there you go: thank you Francisco, it felt good to hear such kind words. I’ll be open to translate the essay to english if there’s someone interested in reading it. Despite its simplicity, I hope this words can add something to the debate about international migrations. You can expect a clear text about the reality of international migrations and the associated challenges and opportunities; you’ll probably find here more accurate input than in conventional media or mainstream political debate. It’s important to provide information about some of the real pros and the cons of such phenomenon to the real people, allowing them to take part in the political debate and democratic decisions in a responsible way.

The essay follows a simple structure: the first part consists on a simple analysis of both supply and demand of migrant labour and some of its determinants and the construction of a global labour market; the second part focuses on the potential of human mobility. In the end as usual you’ll find some concluding remarks.

If you’re able to read portuguese download it here; if you’re not but you would like to read it anyway please contact me.