‘Reverse brain drain’ in the U.S.

In a State of the Union address that may now seem like it was delivered years ago, President Obama addressed the nation’s need to “win the future” through encouraging America’s dominance in entrepreneurship and technological innovation. And yet, the country’s economic downturn and the American immigration system seem to be driving away many of the very innovators needed to accomplish this.

A recent report released by the Kauffman Foundation, a research and policy center focused on entrepreneurship, delves into some of the reasons that Chinese and Indian professionals who become educated in the U.S. are increasingly being drawn back to their home countries to start businesses there. The report, entitled “The Grass Is Indeed Greener in India and China for Returnee Entrepreneurs,” surveyed U.S.-educated professionals from both India and China on the reasons why they decided to make the return to their home countries to start up businesses there instead of in the U.S.

In the past, underdevelopment and a dearth of business opportunities for highly skilled workers provided the “push” factors that encouraged professionals to bring entrepreneurial ventures to the U.S.  But the economic downturn, rising business opportunities elsewhere, and the difficulty of obtaining a U.S. visa are hampering these workers from setting up startups and business ventures in the U.S. Of more than 1,000 respondents surveyed in the Kauffman report, 60 percent of Indian respondents and 90 percent of Chinese respondents said that rising economic opportunities in their home countries was a very important factor in encouraging their return home. Lower costs of operations as well as access to local markets were other significant factors drawing these professionals back to their home countries.
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iPad worker suicides, revisited

Protesters outside an Apple Inc. reseller in Hong Kong last year. Foxconn's annual general meeting was also targeted by protesters accusing both companies of poor corporate ethics after a recent spate of suicides at Foxconn factories. Photo: AP/Vincent Yu

One year after a rash of highly publicized worker suicides at its Shenzhen factory complex, Foxconn, the world’s largest manufacturer of electronic gadgets, is in the news again.

In the past year and a half, 14 Foxconn workers have committed suicide. Stressful work conditions – with overtime averages once as high as 120 hours per month per worker – and strict management, coupled with high consumer demands for products like iPads, may be to blame. The company’s clients include Apple, Hewlett Packard, Dell and Motorola, and its  workers are responsible for the production of iPods, iPhones and iPads.

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A tale of two union disputes

If it weren’t for a bunch of renegade state senators, a pugnacious governor, ongoing protests and the fates of thousands of public employees, the biggest labor story in the country would certainly be the NFL’s lapsing collective bargaining agreement and the possibility of football-less fall (pro football, anyway). Far away from the political theater in Wisconsin (and Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania), the NFL and the NFL Players Association are negotiating with a federal mediator in Washington, D.C., and are in the middle of a one-week extension of their agreement.

At stake is the more than $9 billion in revenue the league annually earns and how much of that total the owners will be able to keep. Also being debated is the possibility of a lengthened season, more roster spots, how much rookies are paid, and better post-career benefits for players.

But while the nation’s football fans hold their breath, the showdown between owners “worth close to a billion dollars” and “players making millions dollars” has undoubtedly been overshadowed by public sector unions and state budget deficits across the country.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, arrives for negotiations with the NFL involving a federal mediator in Washington on Wednesday, March 9, 2011 Photo: AP/Alex Brandon

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