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Sorry, Satchel, But We Should Look Back

Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you. That aphorism from baseball Hall of Famer and sage Satchel Paige might be sound advice in baseball, but not necessarily for our economic future.
"Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." That aphorism from baseball Hall of Famer and sage Satchel Paige might be sound advice in baseball, but not necessarily for our economic future.An upsurge in the quantity and quality of college graduates--especially in math, sciences, and engineering, all fields related to IT--is emerging from developing nations, spawning a shift in the relative education advantage that advanced countries have benefited from for centuries, according to an analysis released this week by The Conference Board, a global business group.

The fact that developing countries are experiencing gains in education is good news for Planet Earth, but raises concerns here as competition intensifies for the almighty dollar, and euro, and yen, and yuan.

Conference Board chief economist Gail Fosle says the world economy may achieve near universal literacy within a generation given recent trends in primary education. Within decades, she says, emerging markets will generate increasingly large number of college graduates in all fields.

Writing in her monthly newsletter, StraightTalk, Fosle says improvements in education in developing nations bode well for the development process and these countries' ability to initiate institutional change consistent with their own cultures and economic values. But, she says it also suggests that the competition workers feel in advanced countries today from the unleashing of this new economic energy will likely increase exponentially.

"The gradual, but striking, convergence in educational access around the globe indicates that the huge gaps in the quality of the workforce between advanced economies and emerging markets are beginning to close," Fosler says. "What has been an enormous advantage in terms of organizational skill, problem solving, technology development, literary expression and creative arts--just to mention a few key area--is fading. Not only can work be done in all parts of the world through the use of information and communication technology, but during the next 10 to 20 years it is as likely that it will be initiated in the developing world as it is in advanced economies."

Sorry, Satchel, but we need to look over our shoulders to compete economically in the coming decades.