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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Migration Index Reveals a Country's Magnetism

World leaders often judge themselves on their job approval ratings, their ability to govern, and whether they are re-elected. While those views are important, they're rooted in the assumption that the citizens who judge them are exactly that . . . rooted. That is, that they won't altogether pick up and leave to live somewhere else.

Gallup's Potential Net Migration measures exactly that. Specifically, we ask citizens in as many countries as we can whether they would move permanently to another country if given the chance. The if part is important as we know many of the world's population will never have that chance. But it's still valuable intelligence for leaders, as it measures the potential push or pull of their nation on a global scale.

Our migration experts Neli Esipova and Julie Ray take the estimated number of adults who say they would move permanently from their country if given the chance and subtract the estimated number who would like to move in, as a proportion of the total adult population, to estimate the potential implications for the country's overall population. What they find is that the adult population of some nations would double or even triple, while others' would be cut by as much as half.

As Foreign Policy magazine put it, the findings show where people would live "in a borderless world." Foreign Policy rightly notes that China and India, despite their economic gains, still would lose more citizens than they attract, though that is in large part due to their huge populations.

At the same time, the popularity of small countries such as Singapore, New Zealand, and Switzerland suggest not only that immigration will always be a significant issue, but that leaders should be ready to capitalize on the potential for brain gain in highly-sought-after destinations. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are among the most popular destinations, a noteworthy finding for leaders in and outside of that region.

The optimal goal for leaders, of course, would be to retain their country's best talent while attracting some of the world's best as well. Our global dataset reveal much more about who wants to stay, who wants to leave, and for where; interested readers can e-mail for more information.

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