Thursday, December 3, 2009

Brain Drain Policies

Given the high rates of unemployment across the nation, now would seem to be a strange time to worry about brain drain. But that's exactly what California is doing. The alarm isn't about what most would expect. The issue is a looming talent shortage. There won't be enough qualified people to fill all the expected job openings and businesses are willing to move wherever they can to find an ample labor pool.

I don't think Ohio's leadership is making the problem clear enough for residents. I'm sure the latest proposed policy to plug this state's brain drain won't work:

Ohio college graduates who stay in the state would be eligible for 10 years of income-tax breaks under legislation introduced in the Ohio Senate.

Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Canfield, D-33rd, offered Senate Bill 198 with hopes of keeping more science, technology, engineering and math degree holders in Ohio, to whom the incentive would be directed.

“We all know that brain drain is a major problem facing our state today,” Schiavoni told members of the Senate’s ways and means committee. “I’ve seen it firsthand as many of my friends, neighbors and former classmates decided to pursue careers in other states. Some of our best and brightest leave Ohio and never come back.”

I won't bore you with my usual sermon about the folly of trying to keep graduates from leaving. The idea is to provide incentive to stay. Look at the legislation from a cost-benefit angle. All the qualifying students who would have stayed regardless of the tax break will cash in on the opportunity. The numbers of those who stick around often surprise the casual observer. Typically, more stay than go and state is proposing to pay all those people in hopes of getting more to seek employment in Ohio.

The proposed policy amounts to nothing more than a tax cut for a fiscally strapped Ohio. It won't generate or attract new business and jobs. And graduates will continue to leave the state at roughly the same rate. In fact, the exodus might get worse before it improves.

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