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Europe’s labour shortage is growing faster than weeds. As populist voices get louder and louder and national borders are erected like castle walls – causing further problems for countries’ economies – we look at a very different scenario in this column. Down with national borders. We set up a global exchange system of workers, causing innovation to peak.

Why you need to know this:

Globally, populism is gaining ground. We increasingly hear political parties calling for the closure of national borders. However, this could have major consequences for the economy. In this story, we zoom in on a scenario where we actually open borders.

‘America first’. It is a common, nationalistic statement that was shouted a lot when Trump was in power. Even now, with Biden as president, it is a common slogan. It is clear: America, once a champion of globalisation, is changing tack. However, nationalist sentiment is not limited to US borders. In Europe too, far-right leaders of many countries are closing the borders to expatriates and migrant workers.

And that is a problem. Because while populism is growing at a rapid pace, we are facing a dire labour shortage, including in the healthcare and high-tech sectors. The Netherlands needs a total of three million additional migrant workers in the coming years to keep the economy running. Closed borders could seriously hinder this much-needed flow of workers.

What if we just turned it around. What if countries banded together to solve the problem. What would the world look like, if the concept of national labour gave way to a pool of workers, where skills and talent are exchanged borderless?

Global Workers Pool

In our future scenario, we have created a global system where jobs are offered without the constraints of national borders. The platform, called Global Workers Pool, functions as a kind of mega-sized job site. Workers find jobs there that match their skills and ambitions. Whether it’s tech jobs in Silicon Valley, the local carpenter in Paris, or sustainable projects in the Netherlands, the possibilities are endless.

The great thing is: if you are selected, as soon as the documents are signed, you can start working directly for your new employer. You cross the border without the usual hurdles of immigration procedures.

Worldwide, many countries have joined the system, and the number is growing rapidly. Although there was resistance at first, world leaders are quickly realising that staying behind is not an option. Indeed, countries that join the Global Workers Pool are seeing a significant increase in innovation and economic growth.

Automotive gets a boost

In Germany, thanks in part to the Global Workers Pool, the automotive industry has received a huge boost in the field of electric vehicles. By drawing on international expertise in battery technology and software development, German carmakers have succeeded in developing electric vehicles for tomorrow that are not only more efficient in terms of energy consumption, but also have longer range and faster charging. German automotive now leads the world.

Advanced wind turbines

In the Netherlands, the economy is also anything but stagnant. Here, access to the international talent pool has mainly led to pioneering developments in renewable energy, especially in the wind energy sector. Dutch companies are building state-of-the-art wind turbine designs that are more efficient in converting wind energy into electricity, which has increased the production of clean energy. Moreover, the Netherlands has become a major player in hydrogen technology.

Agricultural technology 2.0

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Dan vliegen we naar de andere kant van de wereld. In Nigeria heeft de agrarische sector een opmerkelijke impuls gekregen. Door samen te werken met internationale specialisten op het gebied van landbouwtechnologie, hebben bedrijven vooruitgang geboekt in de ontwikkeling van geavanceerde landbouwmethoden, zoals de implementatie van drones voor gewasmonitoring en -beheer.

In andere woorden: bedrijven die voorheen worstelden met personeelstekorten en daardoor noodgedwongen belangrijke taken moesten laten liggen, bevinden zich nu plotseling bovenaan de voedselketen van innovatie. Wat een verademing.

Travelling the world

Workers who join the Global Workers Pool inevitably travel all over the world. In times before the pool, of course, this was not a positive thing. After all, lots of travel meant lots of emissions. Fortunately, the global network has actually also promoted projects around sustainable transport. In the US, hydrogen-powered aircraft are already so advanced that the first flights by sea are planned within a few years. Flight shame has been banished from the world once and for all. At the same time, Europe is building advanced hyperloops for superfast, energy-efficient train journeys.

Rational voices

In contemporary politics, it sometimes seems as if the voice that shouts the loudest wins. For instance, an effective strategy of (far-right) parties in the Netherlands is to make voters believe that the problems they face are caused by the influx of migrants. After all, by doing so, they play on emotions. But the volume with which views are proclaimed is still no measure of truth.

So I would say, let’s listen more often to the voices that may be less emotionally charged, but that do focus on long-term solutions. That way, we will see that populism will soon lose ground.