Economist 7/12/16

  1. Canada created the world’s first points system, in 1967. Would-be immigrants who scored highest on youth, education, experience and fluency in English or French were offered permanent residency. In 1979 Australia created a similar system. Both countries were abandoning racist schemes that had favoured whites.The new systems soon attracted admirers. New Zealand built a points-based immigration system in 1991; Britain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Singapore began to experiment. But it gradually became clear that Australia and Canada were much better at attracting accomplished immigrants than at using their skills.In Australia, 13.5% of recently arrived immigrants who had applied from overseas under the points system were unemployed in late 2013, compared with just 1% of those who had come in with a job offer.Another problem in Canada was that the number of applicants exceeded the number allowed in each year.To deal with these flaws Australia and Canada have transformed their immigration systems. Both now weigh local work experience and job offers more heavily.
  2. Migrants between Britain and the 27 countries that will make up the post-Brexit EU fear losing not only the right to move freely, but to stay put.The luckiest will be eligible for a useful second passport. About a tenth of Britons, for example, qualify for Irish citizenship through a parent or grandparent. Anyone already married to a native, and those who have had children in the country where they live, will presumably be able to get permanent residence relatively easily.All rich countries try to stop “marriages of convenience”—unions whose sole purpose is to get a visa. In America, visa overstayers are banned from applying for a green card for up to ten years—except for fiancés of American citizens. A 2008 report by the Centre for Immigration Studies suggested that Americans willing to pose as a bride or groom charged $5,000-20,000.The past few years have seen a big increase in applications for British spousal visas by EU citizens, mostly from the continent’s poorer countries, married to non-EU nationals.It has spotted a trend for young women from eastern or southern Europe being lured to Britain to marry men.
  3. Trouble lurks for the giants in consumer packaged goods (CPG), which also include firms such as General Mills, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and Unilever.Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, has missed its target of 5-6% sales growth for three years running.For a time, size gave CPG companies a staggering advantage. Centralising decisions and consolidating manufacturing helped firms expand margins. Deep pockets meant companies could spend millions on a flashy television advertisement, then see sales rise.Yet these advantages are not what they once were.The impact of television adverts is fading, as consumers learn about products on social media and from online reviews. At the same time, barriers to entry are falling for small firms. They can outsource production and advertise online. Distribution is getting easier, too: a young brand may prove itself with online sales, then move into big stores.
  4. In America and Europe, the world’s biggest consumer markets, many firms have been similarly leaden-footed. If a shopper wants a basic product, he can choose from cheap, store-brand goods from the likes of Aldi and Walmart. But if a customer wants to pay more for a product, it may not be for a traditional big brand. This may be because shoppers trust little brands more than established ones. One-third of American consumers surveyed by Deloitte, a consultancy, said they would pay at least 10% more for the “craft” version of a good, a greater share than would pay extra for convenience or innovation.Big companies have been trying to respond. One answer is to focus more. In 2014 Procter & Gamble said it would sell off or consolidate about 100 brands.
  5. Big firms are also acquiring or backing smaller rivals. In 2013 two American food companies and a French one—Campbell Soup, Hain Celestial and Danone—each snapped up a maker of organic baby food.Such strategies may eventually make CPG firms even more like big pharmaceutical companies. They may invent few products themselves and instead either acquire small firms or join up with them, then handle marketing, distribution and regulation.

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