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brain drain

Collier–Sandefur Debate on Migration – What is the Question Please?

Christian Eigen-Zucchi's picture

Paul Collier and Justin Sandefur are discussing migration with recent postings on the popular From Poverty to Power blog hosted by Duncan Green of OXFAM.  But, can we please first agree on the question?

Collier’s blog-post starts with the question of how emigration affects people in countries of origin, and goes on to emphasize that the pertinent issue is “whether poor countries would be better off with somewhat faster, or somewhat slower emigration than they have currently.” His answer, in a nutshell, is that it depends: on the country of origin (“in small countries that are falling further behind … brain drain predominates” when there is further skilled migration) and the emigrant (students – good, unskilled – fine, skilled worker – may already be excessive). To this, one could also add that it depends on the host country (and the scope for migrants realizing their potential there) and the circumstances of the migration (voluntary or forced).

The impact of studying abroad - and of being made to return home again

David McKenzie's picture

Studying abroad is becoming increasingly common in many countries – with almost 3 million students educated each year at the tertiary level in a country other than their own. For developing countries in particular, studying abroad offers many of the promises and fears of brain drain (both of which I think are overblown).

Worrying Too Much about Brain Drain?

David McKenzie's picture

Brain drain worries policymakers around the world. For example, a search today in Google News gives a host of stories in the past month alone concerning efforts by universities in Vietnam to stop brain drain, demands for wage increases to stop the brain drain of doctors in Pakistan, claims that Malaysia’s brain drain hinders its economic progress, efforts to stem brain drain in Jamaica, a plea to “stop the brain drain” in Cyprus, and even fears of massive brain drain from the state of New York.

But does high-skilled emigration really pose such a threat? The last five years has seen a surge in empirical research on the subject, which John Gibson and I use to answer eight key questions about brain drain in a paper forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Perspectives and now out in the World Bank working paper series.

The 8 key questions addressed are: 1) What is brain drain? 2) Why should economists care about it? 3) Is brain drain increasing? 4) Is there a positive relationship between skilled and unskilled migration? 5) What makes brain drain more likely? 6) Does brain gain exist? 7) Do high-skilled workers remit, invest, and share knowledge back home? and 8) What do we know about the fiscal and production externalities of brain drain?

What are the consequences of the best and brightest emigrating?

David McKenzie's picture

The very name “brain drain” suggests that high-skilled migration can be nothing but bad for developing countries. Indeed, the prospect of a harmful effect of brain drain is often one of the first concerns raised in policy discussions around migration, and every day the news is filled with statements such as “the Philippines is suffering a crippling brain drain”, “brain drain still a big concern” in India;  and that Bangladesh “must stop brain drain to take the country forward”.

However, recently there has been a surge of more optimistic views of highly skilled migration, ranging from theories of “brain gain” in which the prospect of migration in the future induces people (including those who end up not migrating) to get more education; the idea of “brain circulation”, in which migrants are meant to do wonders for their home countries once they return with knowledge and ideas from abroad; and the “create-your-own Silicon Valley” view of diaspora as a source of trade, investment funds, and inspiration.

Why Ghana Should Win the World Cup … At Some Point

Çağlar Özden's picture
   Photo/istockphoto.com

Amidst a cacophony of vuvuzelas, expectations for the African teams in this World Cup had never been higher. For the first time the tournament was held on African soil and many African teams had famous coaches - Sven Goran Erikson for Cote d’Iviore being one example. Most importantly, there have never been so many African players signed to the top European clubs in the world; perhaps none more famously so than Samuel Eto’o of Inter Milan or Didier Drogba of Chelsea. And yet, the African teams were knocked out of the competition in the group stages, one by one. That is, all except Ghana, the team on which all African hopes now rested.

Labor Mobility and Circular Migration: What are the challenges of the Stockholm Program?

Sonia Plaza's picture

I recently gave a presentation and participated in a conference organized by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union(EU) on “Labor Migration and its Development Potential in the Age of Mobility"on October 15-16. The conference focused on two main themes: a) Labor immigration, and b) Circular migration and its development potential.

Speakers and participants discussed the importance of improving labor mobility in Europe given demographic changes. New players such as China and India are competing for global talent. The EU should become an attractive market for immigrants if it wants to remain competitive in the coming decades.  Within this context mutual recognition of skills and accreditation becomes key for developing countries. (See my previous post)

Brain drain, brain gain or brain same? The effect of European accession on human capital formation

With remittances expected to fall in 2009 as the financial crisis unfolds, the primary mechanism through which origin countries recoup the efficiency increases achieved by skilled migration will dissipate.  But is there another mechanism, less direct but with long-term implications, through which migrants can benefit their home country.

The notion of the brain drain from developing to developed countries is not new. What is relatively new in the ’new brain drain’ or ’brain gain’ literature is its positive prognosis regarding the economic implications of labor market liberalization.  Yes there is a brain drain and on the whole it is bad for development.  But the migration of skilled workers need not be a zero sum game.  That is, the gain of the host country need not inevitably translate to the loss of the sending country. 

Is 'brain drain' a thing of the past?

James I Davison's picture

Lately, I’ve noticed several bloggers and news sites have picked up on an interesting trend migration trend that many have dubbed "reverse brain drain" – the return of skilled immigrants to their home countries. With rising unemployment and an often-difficult U.S. immigration process, the notion of looking back at home for work has reportedly appealed to foreign nationals working in the United States for technology, finance and other industries.

World Bank economist Sonia Plaza writes on the People Move blog about the shift in terminology over the years caused by new trends.