Saturday, July 19, 2008

Immigration - not necessary?

As the population of Europe and Estonia is growing older and there will be lot more pensioners and lot less working age people there are more and more talks about immigration as necessary means of coping with that. I think that is wrong. Let me explain!

As an IT specialist and a member of the IT incubator team in MicroLink I know that there are thousands of ways we can automate our work, eliminate useless work, make self-service systems and machines, offshore work to countries where there are working age people. We have started to use these methods but are still in the beginning of the road.

Here are a few examples:
- A super-market. With RFID tags you can almost totally eliminate the need for cashiers. Salespeople can be offshored to a far away country and you could have a TV-screen and an online Video conference with the off-shore sales person. (OK sounds a bit crazy, but the alternative is that the same far away country person talking to you over video should have to move to your neigbourhood....) And in the end buying through internet will be the main way of doing shoping. Imagine a huge fully automated logistics centre that gets all the orders through internet, automatically collects the goods for each purchase and people just insert their bank cards to the "big logistics centre machine" which then in turn opens the door where their goods are ready and packed .... well it actually does not differ from IKEA does it. Only that in IKEA you yourself are the automated machine doing all the collecting.
- Medical tourism. For some procedures it already makes sense to go abroad. Go to dentist to Thailand for example.
- Construction work. Construction demands a lot of workforce. But as it is project based it makes a lot of sense to get the men from abroad. And after the building is done they can go back home.
- Engineering. A lot of high-skill technical work can be outsource-d and it already makes sense to outsource and even off-shore it. For example in our company we are trying out Belarus programmers, but besides IT Belarus can offer a lot of highly skilled technical specialists on other fields as it has very many big universities.
- .....and there are loads of other possibilities.

Of course there are some activities that cannot be automated or offshored and still need people working on-site. Cleaners, healthcare, actors, politicians are some of them. But those jobs can be done by our children.

One more point I want to make is that nobody wants to be an economic immigrate if he can live well off in his homeland. Therefore offshoring is the answer for many problems - the aging of population in Europe and it also brings wealth to the countries doing the work and coping with the problems of enormous population growth.

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