The role of business in a world on the move

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Are we running out of people?

In some sense, yes. “When we think about who’s going to fill our labor shortages, even with 150 million young people in the United States, it’s still not enough,” noted Parag Khanna, entrepreneur and author of the new book Move, in Episode 11 of our Take on Tomorrow podcast.

Labor shortages are one of the key drivers of the high levels of human mobility. Every year, millions of people leave their homes in search of stable habitats, protection from violence, greater freedom, and better economic prospects. Khanna and his fellow podcast guest, PwC’s Dion Shango, who is territory senior partner for Africa Central and Southern Africa, weighed in on who’s doing the moving—and why—and how businesses should respond.

Despite the fact that goods, services, and information flow to where people are, economic demand also attracts a magnetic pull. With huge numbers of people in Asia and in developing regions with populations who are young and healthy enough to relocate, “there is going to be mass migration on the basis of just the economic demand and labor shortages alone, to say nothing of the climate crisis and political violence and other drivers,” Khanna added.

And don’t rule out less obvious factors—like a downgraded currency. “Any kind of reduced buying power may prompt a young person to say, ‘Hang on, I have the type of skills that are marketable enough and useful enough to make me eligible to find work in another country,’ be it the UK, the US, or another part of Europe,” Shango cautioned.

Though companies in developed economies may employ the legions of skilled laborers that migrate, that means a large number of people are left behind—either because they lack the necessary skills or don’t know where to apply them. “What we need to do,” Khanna said, “is expand connectivity, expand opportunity. And that’s done through investments in infrastructure, in education, in digitization, supply chains, markets, all of those things that public and private investment have brought about.”

There is going to be mass migration on the basis of just the economic demand and labor shortages alone, to say nothing of the climate crisis and political violence and other drivers.”

It’s also important to not simply leave the question of mobility up to market forces. “There needs to be a concerted effort…of countries seeking opportunities and exploring ways of working together to try and match and marry their challenges to their opportunities,” Shango noted.

Listen to the podcast in its entirety here.



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