Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Talents back home or six economic reasons for not emigrating

Recently, there came another small positive news from Estonia. Initiated by some proactive people there, a new project has been started some weeks ago. It's called "Talendid koju" (its slogan in English sounds as following: "Let's bring talents back to Estonia"). Its purpose is to facilitate exchange of information between the most outwards-oriented Estonian companies and organisations on one hand, and the talented young people of Estonian origin studying and/or working abroad. The objective is obvious: to make sure that many young people would actually come back to Estonia - those who are uncertain about the future in connection to their homeland.

A very good initiative in any case!

I don't know if I am really qualified to be called a "talent", but I am not yet going back to my homeland. The reason is... love :) My dear reason has come to Norway to study for two years in the Master programme at the very business school which I am graduating from. So, we have decided to stay for another two years in Norway.

Interestingly, many - both in Norway as well as in Estonia - find it so natural that people like me want to stay in Norway for a longer period of time (or even emigrate here)... Well, I love Norway - I am a total fan of this society - it's by far one of the best countries in the world to live. The overall standard of living is without any doubt higher here, the society is on the higher level of development, but...

...here are my six economic reasons why I don't plan to stay much longer in Norway (you never know though):

1) It's nice that there are high salaries in Norway. However, it's somewhat misleading without taking a look at the level of prices. They are prohibitively high in many cases. The average salary might be six times higher in Norway than in Estonia. At the same time, the food prices are 2-3 times, the apartment rents in the capital are 3-4 times, and the beer prices 4-5 times higher in Norway.

2) Well, someone can argue that the difference is still large. Yes, it is. It's especially nice to travel and shop around abroad when having incomes in Norway. But I wrote about the average prices here. As a foreigner, without previous connections and profound understanding of the society, with relatively poor command of the language, you are always naturally limited in (a) what you can achieve and (b) how fast you can achieve it. I have much more natural advantages in Estonia, not abroad. Thus, the probability that I will get higher than average incomes is also higher in Estonia - be it through the paid job or the venture revenues.

3) People don't usually take into consideration additional direct costs involved in the life abroad - costs of travelling home and back, long-distance calls, the need to buy some things you already have back home (which might be more expensive to bring).

4) Norway is a stable well-developed society. What is there to change? What is there to really contribute to? If I was to be happy with an average level of salary and bourgeois everyday security, that would be a good option. My ambitions are definitely higher. I want to feel that I can make THE difference. And it's much higher probability to make this difference in the country like Estonia or Kazakhstan. Thus, there is an opportunity cost translating into lowering personal ambitions when living abroad.

5) Perhaps most importantly, Estonia is the country that I feel the strong mental connection with. My parents and grand-grandparents were born there. I love to be there. I love Estonian nature and Estonian food. That's my place. No further explanation is needed. Thus, there are additional social and emotional costs involved in living abroad for an extensive period of time.

6) It's quite rare I can hear young people from different countries speaking about the responsibility towards their homeland. I feel that I bare this responsibility towards both the nation as a whole as well as my parents. Both have invested in me - with the financial means and otherwise. I feel the moral obligation to pay back - with my efforts, dedication and care.

Thus, taking into account all these costs and the moral reasoning, it's not at all so obvious that you are better off in another country which has higher standard of living than the one you were born to.

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