Eleven second-year MBA students traveled to Singapore to present a yearlong USC Marshall School of Business study on temporary migratory labor to world business leaders at the 17th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit held Nov. 14-15.
The USC Marshall report addresses one of the thorniest issues facing the 21 economies in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which includes the United States, Mexico and Canada as well as parts of Asia and South America: the 21 economies’ inability to remedy serious shortages in temporary foreign workers.
The study by the 11 students and their professor, Carl Voigt, represents the most ambitious research undertaken by USC Marshall for the group’s Business Advisory Council.
The Asia-Pacific group is regarded as a potential model for global free trade because it includes the three largest economies – U.S., Canada and Japan – and accounts for 45 percent of the world’s population and 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.
The USC report was presented to 63 of the most influential business leaders in the 21 economies, including billionaire Carlos Slim of Mexico, who was expected to meet later with heads of state, including President Barack Obama.
The study’s conclusions – that economies could be hurt if they don’t resolve deep flaws in temporary worker policies – traveled from the ears of the international business leaders to the ears of Obama and other presidents.
“We’re just two degrees away from the leaders,” said Chris Masefield, a second-year MBA student from Toronto. The team includes students from five of the 21 economies.
After business leaders heard the USC report and were scheduled to meet with Obama and other leaders or their delegates, the White House and other heads of state issued a statement endorsing improvements to migratory labor policies:
“We will facilitate the retraining, skills upgrading and mobility of our workers so that they can secure jobs, especially in new and growing industries,” Obama and the leaders said on Nov. 15.
Over the past year, the 11 USC Marshall students spent 2,000 hours – a full work year – assembling their study, which included 157 interviews with key business executives and thought leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. Each student visited at least one of the foreign economies.
“It’s one course worth of credit – and five courses’ worth of work,” said team leader Mark Wilson of Lexington, Mass.
“It’s been very intense,” added MBA student Stephen Smoot of San Diego.
The study bluntly assesses controversies over temporary workers, who travel often from lesser-developed countries to work in the more advanced ones, such as the United States.
“The level of policy among the 21 economies is at best uneven and patchy,” said Voigt, a USC Marshall associate professor of clinical management and organization. “There needs to be circular motion. And economies need to work together: I send my Peruvian shepherds to work in the U.S. Midwest as farmers, and when their time is up, they need to go home.
“The basic argument is that there has been no fundamental improvement in the standard of living [in an economy] without the movement of people,” Voigt added.
The report recommended that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation:
� must put labor mobility in its agenda of “progress through inclusive growth.” Otherwise, parochial interests and differing perspectives will derail efforts to find solutions.
� must initiate a task force to collect data and best practices for temporary worker movement.
� should come up with a policy framework model to address such key problems as excessive placement fees; inconsistent worker training standards and certifications; high transactions costs for transportation and documentation; and repatriation difficulties.
Second-year MBA students who prepared the study were Margarita Flores, Lucy Melvin, Man-Ting Law, Jacob Schutz, Alexander Jochai, Pavitra Krishnaswamy, Chris Masefield, Anshu Sawhney, Tiffany Sanberg, Stephen Smoot and Mark Wilson.
USC Marshall faculty advisers were Richard Drobnick, Dennis Schorr, Doug Joines and K. Ravi Kumar.