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Brain rotation or brain drain?

The world as a workplace - expatriate views of the global economy


The world as a workplace – expatriate views of the global economy Press release 22 April 2004 The global economy does not just concern the movement of capital, goods and labour from one country to another. It also affects the experts and their families. Minna Ruckenstein’s book Työpaikkana maailma addresses the global economy from the perspective of an expatriate worker. Top Finnish experts living in major cities of the world discuss their impressions in the book’s interviews. The book is published by Edita. The book tells the story of the everyday life of top experts in the finance markets of the City of London. It leads on to how Finns spend their evenings in Shanghai and the work of Eurocrats in Brussels. How does a Finnish father cope with his children in Tokyo when his career wife has to work overtime? How does a Finnish manager grapple with Russian bureaucracy in Moscow? The people interviewed in the book describe their skills, their everyday life and their work. At the same time they also explain what it was that attracted them to work abroad – and what they can bring back to Finland. The research material shows that in the present situation many highly educated Finnish expatriates do actually return to Finland. The movement of educated Finns from one country to another can be described as brain rotation rather than brain drain. In the future it will be important to ensure that Finland does not lose the know-how and skills of its expatriates to the world at large. Finland lies on the periphery of the market for international experts. Finnish jobs are not particularly attractive to highly educated foreigners. Consequently, it is clear that Finnish society cannot compete on the same terms as the United States or Britain. Gleaming new technological centres are springing up in more and more towns and cities in Finland but they will do little to benefit Finland if it isolates itself from the rest of the world despite becoming more multicultural and tolerant. Not even the Finnish climate supports the Finnish know-how economy. The writers of the articles show that it is not worthwhile for Finland to try to attract the best-paid elite of top international experts. For employees wanting something more out of life than just work Finland offers an attractive alternative. Therefore Finland’s competitiveness on the market for experts has to be understood from a much wider perspective than that of simply corporate competitiveness. Only by ensuring the well-being of experts can the market for experts be guaranteed. This will not succeed only with the help of tax breaks. The views of expatriate experts have to be taken into account on a broader scale when developing the Finnish welfare society. On the other hand, Finland is looked upon as a safe place in which to bring up young children. Education is also respected. Support for education and occupational careers – and more widely a Finnish identity – is an economically practical solution because it ties people into the community. Being Finnish should not, however, be regarded from a narrow perspective as something separate from the rest of the world. For many of those interviewed in the book internationalism is a natural part of their Finnish identity. The logic of the global economy affects more and more fields. Companies are looking for more efficient and cheap ways of organising their operations. Finnish employees have been laid off while the work previously carried out in Finland has been transferred to new plants in China, Brazil or Estonia. Also corporate management and core operations, the analysis of data, technological research and product development are being transferred abroad. The movement of experts and know-how has become increasingly complex and consequently much more difficult to control socially. In order to assess the movement of work and know-how realistically, wide-ranging understanding is needed of how the functions of Finnish society constitute part of international trends. The views expressed by the interviewees in Työpaikkana maailma reveal the complex and multiple nature of the phenomena connected with the global economy. They challenge the reader to consider local interpretations of globalisation even in Finland. Background Sitra’s project The Concrete Effects of Globalisation, which was started in 2003, addresses the impact of globalisation at the grass-roots level, in other words, on ordinary people in their everyday lives. It continues the far-reaching research programme Globalisation, Welfare and Employment project that ran from 1997 to 1999, which produced several explanations of a general nature for the existence of globalisation and its effects on Finland. The book Työpaikkana maailma (The World as a Workplace) reports the first part of the results from the project begun early last year. A second book, Globalisaation portinvartijat (The Gatekeepers of Globalisation), to be published in October, will report the latter part. Further details Vesa-Matti Lahti, Sitra, tel. +358-9-6189 9446 Minna Ruckenstein, University of Helsinki, tel. +358-50-521 5828 Publication The World as a Workplace (in Finnish: Työpaikkana maailma – lähtijöiden näkökulmia globaaliin talouteen). Minna Ruckenstein (ed.). Sitra 263. ISBN 951-37-4175-3, ISSN 0785-8388 (Sitra). Price 27 €. Edita Publishing Oy. Helsinki 2004. Available through Edita Book Store (Annankatu 44, FIN-00100 Helsinki), tel. +358-20-450 2566 and book stores in Finland.