Immigration | Learning by Proxy

The Developed economies are grievously dependant on immigration. Though the rich may not admit it, it is how they manage to stay rich.

A bus driver in Sweden is paid on an average of 14500 Swedish Krona; that translates to about USD 1600 a month. A bus driver in India is paid about Rs 15500 a month which translated to about USD 210. The Swedish bus driver would probably jump out of his bus and run in terror if he is asked to drive on Indian roads. He is probably less skilled than the Indian driver who needs to be able to navigate some of the worst traffic, not to mention, children, cows, dogs and most importantly the Indian roads.

Even so, the Swede is paid almost 8 times as much! Why?

Immigration restriction.

Immigration has been at the heart of almost all of the right-wing movements across the western world.

Until about 300 years ago, most countries were not very well defined. Borders and rule were quite malleable and most often it was determined by he who had the greater might. Most places were forts with an agglomeration of buildings around them, whoever occupied the fort ruled the land. Countries changed hands regularly. It is only after the first world war that the contours of stable borders and identities started to emerge even in Europe. The hardening of those borders resulted in the second world war! Then they just decided to let people move about how they pleased and called it the European Union.

For a large part of the 20th century, the population was exploding across the globe. The population of the planet went from a little over 1.6 Billion people in 1900 to close to 8 Billion today.

Source: Our World in Data

There were always more people getting added to the economy, so the economy continued to grow as consumption grew. At the same time, since consumption was growing, more jobs got created and people were needed to fill those jobs. The population of some countries grew faster than others and this ultimately determined the standard of living. In the countries where labour was in short supply, the price of labour was higher - such as in Sweden and vice-versa.

Over the years, as the standard of living increased, the cost of child-rearing also increased. If you take a 3% increase in cost year over year across 50 years since the second world war, what used to cost 100 dollars in 1940, cost USD 438 by 1990.

Salaries have not kept pace with costs and this has resulted in a population implosion in those countries. There are not too many young people available to take up work!

Immigration and Globalisation are two sides of the same coin. The first push back on immigration started in the 1980s and by the Clinton years in the 1990s was already a huge issue in America. For large companies, technology came to their rescue and made outsourcing/offshoring possible. This moved jobs outside of the western economies without the problem of having to deal with immigration.

Outsourcing and increased penetration of both air and shipping routes over the last 30 years moved both knowledge and manufacturing processes out of the western world. China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Taiwan and others absorbed a lot of the manufacturing from across the globe. While a lot of the knowledge processes were shifted to India and Eastern European countries like Poland, Romania, Czech, Bulgaria, etc.

Even so, there is always work in industries such as hospitality that cannot be outsourced. Many of these jobs were performed by immigrants. Those same immigrants would cover exorbitant fees to ensure that their child got educated and did not end up in the kind of jobs that they did. 2020 disrupted life and many of those who were unable to find work or cover for themselves left the western countries. They went back home.

As the global economy heats up and tries to put the pandemic aside, a battle for the young and able has begun. With fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency, many of the wealthy nations driving the recovery are sending a message to skilled immigrants all over the world: Help wanted. Now.

In Germany, where officials recently warned that the country needs 400,000 new immigrants a year to fill jobs in fields ranging from academia to air-conditioning, a new Immigration Act offers accelerated work visas and six months to visit and find a job.

Canada plans to give residency to 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023. Israel recently finalized a deal to bring health care workers from Nepal. And in Australia, where mines, hospitals and pubs are all short-handed after nearly two years with a closed border, the government intends to roughly double the number of immigrants it allows into the country over the next year.

Source: New York Times

They WANT immigrants suddenly!

The poor reproduction rate in western countries has been laid bare. They just don't have enough young people. Further, the pandemic forced many of the old people to retire and they may never join the labour force again. This is forcing these countries to re-assess how they evaluate immigrants.

In advanced economies, the immigration measures being deployed include lowering barriers to entry for qualified immigrants, digitizing visas to reduce paperwork, increasing salary requirements to reduce exploitation and wage suppression, and promising a route to permanent status for workers most in demand.

Portugal’s digital nomads can stay as long as they want. Canada, which experienced its fifth consecutive year of declining births in 2020, has eased language requirements for residency and opened up 20,000 slots for health workers who want to become full residents. New Zealand recently announced that it would grant permanent visas, in a one-time offer, to as many as 165,000 temporary visa holders.

One of the sharpest shifts may be in Japan, where a demographic time bomb has left diapers for adults outselling diapers for babies. After offering pathways to residency for aged-care, agriculture and construction workers two years ago, a Japanese official said last week that the government was also looking to let other workers on five-year visas stay indefinitely and bring their families.

Source: New York Times

The issues are severe when it comes to industries like hospitality and healthcare. Many healthcare professionals have quit out of exhaustion that has been wrought by the pandemic. Working 20 hour days, 7 days a week and not being able to meet their families for fear of infecting them has taken a toll on them whether they are doctors or nurses.

The effects of Brexit are getting more and more obvious to the British.

Net immigration to the United KJingdom fell by almost 90 percent last year to its lowest level since 1993 due to the impact of COVID-19 and Brexit, official figures showed on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics released a first provisional estimate showing that 34,000 more people moved to the UK last year than emigrated, down from 271,000 in 2019.

“Immigration was much lower in 2020 than in previous years, likely caused by a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit,” the ONS said.

Source: AlJazeera

In the western world, the 'Immigrant Crisis' has gone from, too many immigrants trying to enter the country to not enough of them coming in!

While I think, in a matter of another couple of years this situation might be forgotten as things get back to normal. COVID has certainly taken the veil off the lie that immigrants are dependant on rich nations. The truth is that rich nations are very heavily dependant on immigrants to keep their economies running and also to keep themselves rich. Immigrants, irrespective of the kind of work they do are paid far less than citizens. In the US, a family headed by an immigrant would end up earning 33% less than one headed by a US Citizen according to Forbes.

I doubt their need will make this inequity disappear. But if the pandemic situation persists much longer, it may leave these countries starved of immigrants for years to come. Who knows, in the meantime, those very same people might bring about change in their own countries and leave the west behind?

Immigration | Podcast

The Developed economies are grievously dependant on immigration. Though the rich may not admit it, it is how they manage to stay rich.


This is the Learning by Proxy podcast for Edition 88. If you do not enjoy reading long-form, get the gist of it in about 10 minutes (or that was the hope). 

This time in the podcast - 

The wealth of the developed economies is forged on the back of immigrants. Those immigrants went away during 2020 since the West did not require their services anymore in a lockdown economy. Now they are having a hard time inviting them back to their countries!

You can find the whole blog at this link.

Music Courtesy Pixabay


We are all very likely to make mistakes. How many of us acknowledge it and check ourselves?

When you undertake to solve a question in algebra. Once you solve it, you will spend some time checking the steps to make sure that you have not made any mistakes in the solution. Irrespective of how good you are at mathematics, there is always a possibility that you could have made a mistake.

To err is human.

But the very same people, when it comes to their professions would never bother to check the steps that they took to arrive at their conclusion. How many doctors do you think, sit back and analyse if what they are thinking is right or if they have made any mistakes in arriving at their conclusion? How many CEOs go over all the evidence that they have taken into account to arrive at the decision that they have?

We may discuss and offer up evidence, but we rarely double-check ourselves.

Given how often we humans make mistakes, is it right that we are so certain of the decisions that we make?

Fuel | Learning by Proxy

What we mean when we say fuel today may not be the same in a decade. A radical shift is coming forced by the source of our energy.

In the 1870s Edison invented the Tungsten based Incandescent bulb. As soon as he invented it, he saw the potential of the bulb lighting up every household. He had till then been working with Direct Current (DC) and envisaged a network where DC could be supplied to every house and business. The only problem, DC did not transmit well. As you transmitted direct current over long distances, due to losses (heat and other) in the wires, not much would reach the destination. He came up with the idea of stepping up the voltage using transformers which in his network would be placed at every mile. This was unwieldy and expensive.

In the meantime, an apprentice had suggested using Alternating Current (AC). Tesla was scorned by Edison and he finally left Edison to help George Westinghouse create the AC network. By 1890, the world has settled for the AC network.

Despite the horse murders that Edison committed in the middle of New York to show how unsafe AC was, he failed.

A similar tug of war was underway since the 1990s between battery power and hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars. Momentarily, it would seem that battery had won the war thanks to the PR offensive by Elon Musk.

As the world realises that the days of coal are numbered, there is an increasing push towards renewable energy. The trouble with renewables is supply. The sun is not out throughout the day, the wind will not blow when you want it to, and in the winters rivers will not flow with the same force as during the summers.

This implies that there is a need to capture as much of that energy as we can when it is available and use it later. Batteries, well... We are going to run out of Lithium by the end of this decade. While we can hope that Elon will mine it on the moon, there are better alternatives.

Utimately a fuel is a store of energy.

In the olden days, one way of storing human energy was by raising water to an altitude, you could then convert the potential energy of the water into kinetic energy and have energy at your disposal when you wanted. Today, it is possible for us to store energy by splitting water into Hydrogen and Oxygen. The Hydrogen can then be converted into energy through a fuel cell or by combustion.

Suddenly the debate does not seem to be settled!

There are many ways in which you can manufacture hydrogen. each method is colour coded.

Green hydrogen is produced through water electrolysis process by employing renewable electricity. The reason it is called green is that there is no CO2 emission during the production process. Water electrolysis is a process which uses electricity to decompose water into hydrogen gas and oxygen.

Blue hydrogen is sourced from fossil fuel. However, the CO2 is captured and stored underground (carbon sequestration). Companies are also trying to utilise the captured carbon called carbon capture, storage and utilisation (CCSU). Utilisation is not essential to qualify for blue hydrogen. As no CO2 is emitted, so the blue hydrogen production process is categorised as carbon neutral.

Gray hydrogen is produced from fossil fuel and commonly uses steam methane reforming (SMR) method. During this process, CO2 is produced and eventually released to the atmosphere.

Black or brown hydrogen is produced from coal. The black and brown colours refer to the type bituminous (black) and lignite (brown) coal. The gasification of coal is a method used to produce hydrogen. However, it is a very polluting process, and CO2 and carbon monoxide are produced as by-products and released to the atmosphere.

Turquoise hydrogen can be extracted by using the thermal splitting of methane via methane pyrolysis. The process, though at the experimental stage, remove the carbon in a solid form instead of CO2 gas.

Purple hydrogen is made though using nuclear power and heat through combined chemo thermal electrolysis splitting of water.

Pink hydrogen is generated through electrolysis of water by using electricity from a nuclear power plant.

Red hydrogen is produced through the high-temperature catalytic splitting of water using nuclear power thermal as an energy source.

White hydrogen refers to naturally occurring hydrogen.

Source: H2 Bulletin

The two colours of hydrogen that are of most interest today are Green and Blue. India is making a big push towards producing green hydrogen. With the ambitious goal of increasing renewable capacity to 500GW, there is a need to make the most of that energy.

Gail India has launched a tender for what would be India's largest electrolyser as the nation aims to build up its green hydrogen capacity.

Gail chairman Manoj Jain confirmed at the India Energy Forum by CERAWeek that his company had launched a global tender to procure a 10-megawatt electrolyser capable of producing 4.5 tonnes per day of hydrogen.

Source: Upstream Online

Apart from GAIL, IOC and several other Indian giants have made announcements to the effect. The UK based Ineos has announced plants across Norway, Belgium and Germany.

America is getting North America's largest green hydrogen plant in New York State.

It will create 68 jobs, it seems. A parking lot at a mall creates more jobs in India because we can’t follow signboards!

Hydrogen fuel cell-based cars were derided not because the cars themselves were expensive to make, it was the hydrogen that was crazy expensive to make. While the cost of Lithium-Ion batteries was also high, the electricity needed to feed the battery existed and was prevalent across the eco-system.

Elon Musk never made the cost argument, he always stuck to the same argument that Edison used - Hydrogen was unsafe and could explode. Well, so have lithium-ion batteries. And it is this kind of argument that keep research dollars from flowing into finding ways to make hydrogen transportation safer.

Today, the US has very few hydrogen pumping stations and most of them are in California.

Source: Alternate Fuels Data Center

Europe has an order of magnitude more. Germany alone has over 100!

Source: H2 Live

So does Japan.

With these plants being set up and the large scale generation of Hydrogen, the question of using Hydrogen Fuel cells is again back on the table. Probably why the German car manufacturers never stopped manufacturing Fuel Cell cars.

Source: Mercedes Benz

Now imagine, a company with a technology that is using an element that is dwindling and a process that is hazardous to the environment; another company with a technology that uses a fuel that we are going to produce in abundance, that we will not run out of and one that is safe for the environment.

In the long run which one might win out?

Now you know the real reason, Elon Musk is selling his shares. Not twitter poll; not tax payment; he is shorting Tesla.

But he has learnt to control media through his Twitter account and the media breathlessly reports every little word that flows through there.

In the meantime, the real guys who have been fooled by Musk's Twitter account seem to be the Chinese.

Chinese lithium mining and battery companies are splurging big, both at home and abroad.

It’s all part of the country’s race to secure supplies of the battery metals and to expand production capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for which demand is forecast to rocket over the next decade.

One senior industry executive captured the sentiment of the red-hot sector in an interview (link in Chinese) this month with Shanghai Securities Times: “Grab the scale, grab [market] share, profit is not a matter of consideration at this stage.”

Source: Quartz

Another Evergrand in the making.

Fuels | Podcast

What we mean when we say fuel today may not be the same in a decade. A radical shift is coming forced by the source of our energy.


This is the Learning by Proxy podcast for Edition 87. If you do not enjoy reading long-form, get the gist of it in about 10 minutes (or that was the hope). 

This time in the podcast - 

Fuels have played a critical role in the way the world works. There have been wars fought over fuel and alliances created between the strangest partners just because of fuel. We are on the verge of a monumental change. A change that could redefine what we mean when we utter the word, fuel.  Climate is forcing this change on us and so is renewable energy.

You can find the whole blog at this link.

Music Courtesy Pixabay

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