W hen we think of emigration, the image that comes to mind is of retirees fleeing to the sun lounger after a lifetime of labor. But, this has long been an illusion. In fact, the vast majority of Britons who choose to pack their bags are in the prime of their lives — and are taking with them the skills that this country so badly needs.
Of course, worries about brain drain have been with us for almost as long as mass travel. In fact, it is greatly to Britain's credit that its people have long possessed the wanderlust, the entrepreneurial spirit, to seek their fortunes elsewhere. Moreover, in a highly globalized age, when leading companies recruit and deploy their personnel irrespective of borders, it is hardly surprising that the numbers on the move have crept steadily upward.
At the same time, however, there is reason to be concerned both by the scale of the exodus and its composition. The fact that so many people of working age are departing has created gaps in the labor market that have had to be filled by arrivals from outside — accounting in part for the wave of newcomers that has done so much, in the years since 1997, to make immigration one of the public's most pressing concerns. With global competition for the best brains growing ever sharper, we will only keep those we have — let alone attract new ones — if we make Britain a more pleasant place to be based.
The Telegraph, London