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Sensemaker: The Great Migration

Sensemaker: The Great Migration

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Joe Biden authorised the release of 50 million barrels of oil “over the coming months” to drive down petrol prices in a plan coordinated with China, India, Japan, South Korea and the UK.
  • Germany and France advised their citizens to leave Ethiopia, following similar advisories from the UK and US, as Tigrayan fighters advanced on the capital Addis Ababa.
  • Christie’s auction house in Paris sold a manuscript of Albert Einstein’s workings on his theory of relativity for £9.7 million.

The Great Migration

Covid pandemic restrictions kept the surplus of young people in poor countries from moving to wealthy and ageing nations. But as rich economies now recover from the pandemic, they’re demanding a range of skilled immigrants from across the world.

Some examples:

  • Germany passed a new Immigration Act that offers accelerated work visas and half a year to visit and find a job, as officials warned the country needs 400,000 new immigrants a year to fill jobs in sectors from academia to electronic repairs.
  • Canada’s latest Immigration Levels Plan aims to attract around 411,000 new immigrants a year until 2023. 
  • Australia, whose border has been closed for almost two years, wants to double the number of immigrants it allows into the country over the next year to fill labour shortages in hospitals, mines and pubs.
  • Belgium, Finland and Greece granted work permits to foreigners who had arrived on student or other visas.
  • Israel just signed a deal to bring healthcare workers from Nepal. There are already 56,000 mostly Asian immigrants working in the country’s nursing sector.

While Covid pushed many workers to retire or resign – see the Sensemaker’s Great Resignation – the deeper reason why rich countries are fighting over young and able workers is a long-running one: an uneven global distribution of people and money. The World Economic Forum estimates that, in response to this imbalance, 270 million people or 3.5 per cent of the global population are on the move as economic migrants.

In Britain, where immigration from relatively poorer EU member states was a central issue in the Brexit referendum, and where there are now acute labour shortages, a survey conducted in January found the proportion of people who wanted to see immigration reduced was at its lowest level since 2015.

Debates over how much immigration rich countries should allow are usually toxic and almost always unresolved. But Covid may force a recalibration.

belonging identity, society, beliefs, countries

Scholz in
After two months of negotiations, a coalition agreement has been reached in Germany and finance minister Olaf Scholz is confirmed as Germany’s next chancellor. The coalition – a “traffic light” of red Social Democrats, yellow Free Democrats and the Greens – will end 16 years of Christian Democrat rule under Angela Merkel. One of the sticking points in the negotiations has been how to finance the green transition. Expect tussles between the Greens and FDP on that. But Reuters reports they have already agreed to phase out coal by 2030, eight years earlier than previously planned. Ministerial appointments will be finalised later. Predictions are the finance ministry will be run by the fiscally conservative FDP leader Christian Lindner – a big win for the smallest party in the triad. The Greens’ Robert Habeck is set to get a “super-minister” portfolio overseeing the economy and climate and energy policy. His co-leader Annalena Baerbock is tipped to be Germany’s first female foreign minister. Merkel stays on as caretaker until a swearing in on 6 December. 

New things technology, science, engineering

Asteroid nudge
Nasa likes nothing better than a hypeable mission to cut through the strange public ennui that set in around space exploration so soon after Armstrong walked the moon. It has one with DART, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test, which lifted off yesterday from Vandenburg air force base in California on a SpaceX Falcon rocket to see if it can nudge an asteroid off course. The idea is to prevent asteroids hitting Earth. The target asteroid, Dimorphos, is a 160 metre-wide rock that orbits the sun with a bigger cousin called Didymos. DART will crash into it in about a year’s time, when it’ll be 6.8 million miles away. This is a proof-of-concept mission: unlike the asteroid on which Bruce Willis sacrifices himself in Armageddon, Dimophos is not actually heading for Earth. It would be unfortunate if that changed after the collision, but great for a sequel.

The 100-year life health, education, living, public poliCY

NHS reform
The UK’s long-anticipated Health and Care Bill passed its final hurdle in the Commons yesterday. Expect big changes in how the NHS is run. The bill spells the end of the unloved Clinical Commissioning Groups set up in 2012 by Andrew Lansley, to be replaced by 42 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). A change in acronym aside, the reforms mean a shakeup in procurement towards collaboration over competition and a move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to health and care provision. Labour is unhappy with the scope it says the bill gives private companies to involve themselves in decision-making. The King’s Fund and other health think tanks are less bothered on that front, pointing to other priorities including a staffing crisis that needs to be addressed if waiting times are going to be brought under control. And regional health managers are worried that health secretary Sajid Javid will be left with too much power at the local level. 

Our planet environment, natural resources, geopolitics

Fusion fad 10.0
It’s happening (yet) again. A handful of charming physicists near Oxford, plus a big investment half-way round the world in California, have prompted an effusion of new stories about the only technology that can truly power the world without destroying it or depending on the wind and sun. We’ve been here before so many times that the journalists and investors newly enlathered by the subject should know better. They say new ways of controlling the power of an H-bomb and converting it to electricity herald a brave new fusion dawn. They see parallels between fusion now and space travel before Elon Musk got involved, forgetting Nasa had cracked space travel before Musk was born. For the record, no one has cracked controlled fusion. The closest anyone has got to extracting more energy from a fusion device than they put in is at the National Ignition Facility in California, which is about as remote from commercial power generation as we are from the sun. For the record, Sam Altman, the former head of Y Combinator, has invested $375 million in Helion, which claims to have a new plasma accelerator design that can produce power from fusion without steam turbines. We shall see. 

Wealth investment, fairness, prosperity

Expensive joke?
Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan, just got back from a flying visit to Hong Kong, where he took the name of the Chinese Communist Party in vain. The CCP is celebrating its 100th anniversary, he noted. “So is JP Morgan. I’d make you a bet we last longer.” In the humour-free empire of Xi, that counts as punchy. 

Thanks for reading, and do share this around.

Paul Caruana Galizia

Giles Whittell

Phoebe Davis

Edited and produced by Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images, NASA/John Hopkins