The 21st century will be the most “global” in history. In fact, being international and global in perspective is the de facto requirement of the 21st century.
If you are professionally employed and lack global experience, your 21st century career is already over with.
Which leads to the question – how many people have global experience, skills and knowledge?
The answer is – A LOT.
I created this single post to summarize the topic – and the importance of global skills and thinking. All of this is sourced to my original posts on my Travel blog or my Business and Tech blog – and in some cases, I have copied portions of the original posts to this one.
Travel Throughout World History
Throughout world history, travel has been essential to the advancement of human societies. Going back thousands of years, early societies engaged in travel – and by doing so, shared experiences, ideas, culture, inventions, religious ideas. These shared experiences led to further advances as ideas were brought together from different regions.
Earlier travels were connected with trade, religion promotion, even military operations and sometimes, even scholars traveling to teach and to learn.
They led to advances in ship making, navigation, metal work, trade and scholarly advances and discoveries.
You’ve likely heard of the ancient “Silk Road” that wound from today’s China through India and delivered goods to Europe. That is one of many examples of how travel improved lives, over time.
Travel has been critical to continuous human advancement and continuous improvement in the quality of life for all.
Without travel, our societies would stagnate and likely die off or succumb to other more advanced societies.
- 60% of American’s have traveled internationally (includes Canada and Mexico).
- Over 50% have a current passport (the 60% figure above includes people who traveled earlier in life and may have let their passport expire). Another estimate says 71% of US adults have traveled internationally. Another says 70% of “knowledge workers” have a current, valid passport.
- 42% of Americans traveled to at least one international destination in 2018 (includes Canada and Mexico but excludes day trips across the border). 3x more Americans visit Mexico than Canada, which is a surprise.
- 50% of Americans have traveled to at least one of their ancestral countries.
- 1 in 4 U.S. families with children will travel internationally each year (as of 2019).
- In 2018, 1.4 billion people in the world traveled to at least one other country that was not their own country. (Have since seen an estimate up to 1.8 billion and this number seemed to be better supported)
- Over 50% of Gonzaga University students will study abroad, and more will do summer programs or summer travel abroad.
- Willow Glen Middle School offers a “travel study” program in Spain and France – for middle school students!
From the above we see that a majority of Americans have international experience. When split into subgroups, such as college grads, this climbs to an astounding 93%!
- 93% of ADULTS with a college degree have traveled internationally, and about 70% of that group have visited 3+ countries.
- Another estimate says 49% of US adults have been to 3+ countries.
- Pew found that 90% of American adults whose household income is greater than $80,000/year have traveled internationally.
- About 72% of those with incomes between $30,000 and $80,000 have traveled.
- International travel falls to 48% of those with less than $30,000. (Keep in mind that incomes vary over time – a person may today be retired on a limited income but had a greater income in the past when they traveled.)
- In 2018 (pre-pandemic) between about 7 and 11 million Americans traveled abroad every month (depends on month, more in the summer, for example).
- Possibly up to 40% have lived in another country by virtue of being born there, studied abroad or worked abroad. The percentage is shockingly high.
- 1 in 4 US workers in STEM occupations were born abroad, meaning that it is very likely that 40-50% of US STEM workers have lived in another country through birth, study abroad, lived or worked abroad at some point.
- NSF says 30% of “S&E” workers are foreign born, and over half of those with doctorates are foreign born. It is also common for those who are foreign born to have been educated in more than one country, such as doing an undergrad degree in their birth country, a Masters and/or PhD in another country, and then even a post-doc in yet another country. Nearly 60% of PhD holders in engineering and computer science were foreign born. Per this European online conference video, over 90% of doctoral programs seek out international opportunities for their students – and international experience is considered very important to career success. Of interest, 1 in 5 software developers (20%) has a Masters degree compared to 13% of all workers.
If you are thinking “Well, I have not done (much) international stuff, and I don’t think having global experience is important”, I’d wager that you are looking backwards, not forwards, and that you were unaware of the data I presented above.
20% of US residents speak a language other than English, at home – Coldstreams Travel and Global Thinking – in the 1970s, this was under 5%.
The pool of international immigrants in the U.S. is growing fast because the U.S. fertility rate crashed in the early 1970s (fell below the replacement level of 2.1). Our population has been growing because of immigration (plus life expectancy has increased, and the 2nd generation began to have their own families, albeit much smaller than decades earlier).
Today, the majority of U.S. population growth is from immigration and will soon be the source of 100% of our population growth.
The fertility rate peaked in about 1958 at 3.75 kids per woman. Today it is well below 2.0 (anything below 2.1 is a shrinking population). Since not all women had children, at the peak, many families averaged 5 kids per family. The fertility rate has now regressed to the long-term decline that began 200 years ago. This decline is seen in countries all over the world, with a few exceptions such as Nigeria. The global fertility rate is now 2.3 and dropping rapidly.
Due to shrinking populations, many dozens of countries have announced plans to import immigrants to make up for their own population shortfalls even though there will not be enough immigrants to meet the demand. This is why the 21st century will be the most globalized in history as more and more people are given incentives to migrate.
According to 20-year old Gallup poll of those age 18+:
- 7% of adults surveyed said they were an immigrant
- 18% said one or more parents were immigrants (my wife’s Dad was born in Canada)
- 40% said one or more grandparents were immigrants (one of my wife’s grandparents were born in Canada, several of my great grandparents were born in Europe but all were deceased long before I was born).
Obviously, there is overlap in those groups. But the total suggests up to 65% of the U.S. population may have close immigrant ties. Since the survey did not include those under 18, if children were included, this would be higher.
This is due to ancestry and right of descent immigration rules. Mind blown. Read the story and source at the linked article.
A surprising number of U.S. residents have immigration privilege, referring to U.S. residents who have options to work abroad, a huge privilege in a world that will be more global than ever before during the 21st century, where international experience and connections are treated as a premium value.
Those with immigration privilege will be able to move to where they are treated best – the best education opportunities, the best career opportunities, and possibly lower tax rates. Those without immigration privilege cannot take advantage of these opportunities. To illustrate, I know many who have dual US/EU citizenship. They are free to work in either the EU or the US without applying to obtain visas (which can be hard to get and take many months to obtain). These individuals are actively sought out and have greater employment and career opportunities than those lacking immigration privilege. Several work as consultants both in the US and in Europe, and some in other parts of the world.
Besides right of descent and ancestry-based immigration privilege, others, particularly young adults, have options not available to older adults. In some cases, those over age 35, 45, 50, or 55 are specifically excluded from immigration options even if highly skilled. Obtaining a residency visa can be difficult or impossible for older workers. Thus, we have age-biased immigration privilege as well.
Immigration privilege extends mostly to:
- those with ancestral rights of residency or citizenship
- young adults (via work, study abroad, and residency via marriage options)
- And especially young adults in key fields (typically health care, engineering, and computer science)
The elite have dual or multiple citizenship and have extensive global experience. These are the people who are and will be hired for management track positions, certainly in multi-national companies and any organization planning future international growth.
A surprisingly large group of people have international experience by virtue of having grown up elsewhere.
Global experience is critically important – even if you work in the U.S., you will almost certainly be managing an international workforce both in the U.S., and likely abroad as well.
During the past year I frequently cross checked the backgrounds of people in the news, including tech professionals, writers, reporters, politicians, executives, managers, scientists and many more. Just peeking at their LinkedIn pages revealed near 100% had extensive international experience including being born abroad, studied abroad, entire degree(s) earned abroad, and worked abroad. This is the “norm”. I have a large list of examples here.
Anyone who is ambitious, anyone who is accomplished in their field, anyone in management or leadership is “globalized”. The corollary is if you do not have similar global exposure, you will achieve little, and your career will be limited.
While doing that research, I discovered a huge number of well known people with unexpected global connections, frequently having dual citizenshp.
The list of those who have held citizenship in other countries is surprising (see link for details):
- Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was a U.S. citizen (he was born in the U.S.). He was also a UK citizen but renounced his US citizenship a few years ago due to U.S. taxes owed on his U.K. home. The US is one of only 2 countries in the world that taxes citizens on income earned outside the country.
- Former US President Barrack Obama was born in Hawaii. His Dad was a Kenyan economist, and because of that, as child he received automatic dual Kenyan citizenship, dual UK citizenship and US citizenship (as verified by FactCheck.org). However, he would have had to formally request retaining Kenyan citizenship as he grew up but he did not. Additionally, he lived in Indonesia with his mother, a PhD college professor and attended school there from 1967 to 1971 before returning to Hawaii. The Indonesian school records listed him as having Indonesian citizenship, but that does not seem possible due to Indonesia’s rules on dual citizenship. Regardless, a remarkable and challenging upbringing and global connections!
- U.S. Senator Ted Cruz held dual citizenship with the US and Canada; he was born in Canada.
- Sen. Tammy Duckworth has dual citizenship in the US and Thailand.
- 37 recent U.S. state Governors were born outside the U.S.
- 130 recent U.S. members of Congress were born outside the U.S.
- Current UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has a strong international background.
- Many of our elite and celebrities speak more than one language. Michael Bloomberg and former President George Bush both speak Spanish. Former First Lady Melania Trump is said to speak 5 languages (she was born in and grew up in Europe). Many well-known celebrities speak languages other than English and often have residency in other countries.
- Tom Hanks and his wife are dual citizens of the U.S. and Greece. Scarlett Johansson, born in the U.S., is a dual U.S./Denmark citizen. Uma Thurman applied for Swedish citizenship. Sandra Bullock has both U.S. and German citizenship and has lived in both Germany and Austria (her mother is German). Kirsten Dunst is a dual German/US citizen. Bruce Willis and Nicole Simpson were both born in Germany. This is common among the elite – the overall list is huge.
Numerous well-known CEOs have dual or multiple citizenships/residencies/experience in other countries (partial list):
- Larry Page, Google co-founder – Has permanent residency in New Zealand
- Sergey Brin, Google co-founder – Was a citizen of Russia but renounced his citizenship
- Elon Musk – Born in South Africa, he is a legal citizen of South Africa, Canada and the United States!
- Sir Jonathan Ive – Born in England, became the lead designer at Apple – hugely influential in the tech industry. He is a dual citizen of Britain and the U.S.
- Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta/Facebook – speaks Mandarin Chinese. His wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, M.D.’s parents where from China originally, but news reports say they left Vietnam in the 1970s (it is an amazing emigrant saga too). She grew up speaking both Cantonese and English say media reports.
- Jack Dorsey, recently retired CEO of Twitter – has lived in Africa, India and on a South Pacific Island suggesting he has permanent residency rights elsewhere.
- Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook. Had Brazilian and US dual citizenship but gave those up and now has Singapore citizenship. Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. This was apparently done for tax reasons.
- Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft (from India)
- Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google (from India)
- Parag Agrawal, former CEO of Twitter (from India)
- Tech billionaire Peter Thiel “was born in Germany and holds American and New Zealand passports” and is applying for citizenship in Malta.
- This list could go on for many pages. Some more examples here.
- It is now considered a requirement for the “C-Suite” that candidates have international experience. In fact, this is now completely common among CEO hires and other executive positions. It is said that 80% of the top tech companies in the U.S. now have co-founders, CEOs or senior VPs that were born abroad.
If you are not international in background or education or experience, you will not advance in your career in the 21st century.
You need global experience because even if you are a U.S. born citizen, living in the U.S. – if you are professionally employed you will likely manage a globally diverse workforce.
- 39.7% of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) residents are foreign born (about 50% of those over 25 since most immigrants arrive after that age)
- 35% of San Mateo County (40+% over age 25)
- 34% of San Francisco
- 33% of Alameda
- 24% of King County WA
Agricultural counties are much less!:
- San Joaquin 23%
- Sacramento 21%
- Yakima County, WA 18%
- Yuba County (CA) 11%
This is the opposite of what most immigration discussions seem to be about – think about that.
- A surprising reason to develop global skills: Because your US workforce is global – Coldstreams Travel and Global Thinking
- Demographics: An important reason to develop international skills – Coldstreams
For some, small and local businesses, global skills might not be as important:
Those who work for businesses involved in international trade, including outsourcing services and production to other countries, are more likely to rely on international knowledge than a strictly local business.
A local retail or service business within a city in the U.S. might not see much business advantage to having international knowledge and skills – because their business is strictly local. They might not even purchase or use products or services from abroad, and if they do, they may not realize they are engaged in international trade.
Traveling abroad and interacting with the global community results in greater tolerance of immigrants and immigration.
Is international experience important for everyone? – Coldstreams Travel and Global Thinking: YES (and likely even for those in local businesses-see the above item)
Yet the U.S. is falling behind in developing a global skillset among its citizens: The U.S. is falling behind in international “transversal” skills – Coldstreams
“Boomers” were born when fertility rates were near 4, while “Millennials” (And Gen Z) were born when fertility rates were below 2.0. Boomers grew up in a high competition labor environment, with rapidly escalating home prices as they all grew of age simultaneously, creating excess demand versus supply. Because of this Boomers may view immigrants as job competitors.
Millennials have far more global experience than Boomers – and from the above, those with more global experience are more tolerant, more open to diversity, and more open to immigration. The early wave of millennials is now in their 30s – simultaneous with a long-term labor shortage. Their own career opportunities are likely to be good compared to their predecessor generation (contrary to doom and gloom reporting). With less pressure on job options, more global experience, and more tolerance for international diversity it is likely that Millennials have a different perspective on immigrant workers than do many Boomers.