Our New Migratory World: Where Will You Move?

In a recent online discussion hosted by the real estate innovation platform CRETech, geographer, world traveler, and globalization expert Parag Khanna explored the rapidly shifting forces impacting today’s global landscape, encouraging listeners to “be mobile and embrace nomadism” in response. 

The Founder & Managing Partner of FutureMap, a data, and scenario-based strategic advisory firm, Khanna has written a new book entitled MOVE: The Forces Uprooting Us (2021). Calling it “fundamentally a book about geography,”  He traces the return of our nomadic roots as a species. In it, Khanna takes us on a wandering trek into the post-pandemic future where humanity becomes migratory again.

The book explores how humanity responds to complexity amid a massive collision of global risks and challenges, such as geopolitical competition, political unrest, demographic disruption, climatic change, economic dislocation, and technological disruption. 

In am excerpt from his book Khanna in highlighting what he sees as one of the most consequential juggernauts of the 21st Century notes: 

“Instead of migration and travel surging ahead, the lockdowns provoked a sudden reset of the world’s population. From every corner of the world, tourists, students, and ex-pats returned to their country of birth or nationality. European countries dispatched planes to Africa and Latin America to repatriate their citizens. Asian students bought one-way tickets back home from the US, UK, and Australia. More than two hundred thousand Indian laborers were flown back from Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

He asserts that unprecedented demographic repatriation has artificially reshaped the dynamics of location and citizenship.

“For the first time, anyone could remember, nearly the entire world population was “home.” But for how long? A staggering share of our personal and professional lives hinges on mobility: the movement of people, goods, money and data within cities and countries as well as internationally. Society only functions normally if we can move. Once you stop pedaling a bicycle, it quickly falls over. Our civilization is that bicycle. And move we will.” 

As these migratory patterns continue to emerge, Khanna believes that the new model of financial transactions, particularly for young people, will be predicated on e-wallets and cryptocurrencies, rather than a single national financial system.

Throughout his book he lays out a roadmap of bold, essential, and practical prescriptions that are designed, he says, to address four powerful factors impacting our world today

  • Forest Fires
  • Sea Level Rise
  • Covid 19
  • Economic Depression

In his presentation to CRETech, he offered his thoughts on a core patchwork of trends to remain vigilant on: 

  1. The location of the most valuable real estate switching from coastal to inland/elevated regions.
  1. The emergence of “Circular Cities” that are environmentally robust and provide greater mobility for its citizens —- “Be prepared for more mobility.” 
  1. A global war for the next generation of young talent that is fueled by the growing demographic imbalances taking place in the world
  1. The growing importance of Urban Wealth Fund models where a greater emphasis is placed in repurposing built environment assets in cities. In the U.S. he cited Salt Lake City as one such model

Particularly striking were Khanna’s remarks about America’s 150 million youth, which he views as the nation’s future. His sentiments are best captured on his website where he states that these youth shouldn’t be “stuck in dead-end retail gigs but circulating in electric RVs, remotely learning coding and engineering, and following “Tinder for jobs” apps that match skills to work.

He asserts in the book that the post-pandemic world represents a massive reset for the global economy in terms of the war for worker talent. Khanna believes that as the escalation of trade tensions pushes North America, Europe, and Asia towards greater regionalism, many workers are simultaneously shifting in an opposite direction, amid their desire to relocate and work for growing firms across the planet.  

In a similar manner as taxes and technology, Khanna believes that talent must become a major strategic priority for companies. Factors like compensation, internal job rotations, upskilling opportunities, crafting a purpose-driven company mission, and offering new kinds of flexibility to workers he believes will be critical if businesses and enterprises desire to retain workers while attracting new ones.

He also gives a nod to the nearly 2 billion location independent workers throughout the world, digital nomads in search of lower taxes, great weather, and highly flexible workweeks. Companies, he says, will need to take heed of the new rules of the game in order to stay ahead of the talent curve. 

Throughout the book, Parag Khanna demonstrates a passionate desire to remap America and the rest of the world. He believes this shift towards a new equilibrium will require nothing less than a Manifest Destiny where global citizens embrace the benefits of physical mobility as the most sustainable path to socio-economic expansion. This new narrative, he says, will be defined not by homes and degrees but by mobility and skills.

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