Developing Lands Hit Hardest by 'Brain Drain'
New York Times, Oct 25, 2005
By CELIA W. DUGGER
Poor countries across Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are losing sometimes staggering portions of their college-educated workers to wealthy democracies, according to a World Bank study released yesterday.
The study's findings document a troubling pattern of "brain drain," the flight of skilled middle-class workers who could help lift their countries out of poverty, some analysts say. And while the exact effects are still little understood, there is a growing sense among economists that such migration plays a crucial role in a country's development.
The findings are based on an extensive survey of census and other data from the 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world's richest nations.
The study found that from a quarter to almost half of the collegeeducated citizens of poor countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and El Salvador lived abroad in an O.E.C.D. country - a fraction that rises to more than 80 percent for Haiti and Jamaica.
In contrast, less than 5 percent of the skilled citizens of the powerhouses of the developing world, like India, China, Indonesia and Brazil, live abroad in an O.E.C.D. country.
These patterns suggest that an extensive flight of educated people is damaging many small to medium-size poor countries, while the largest developing countries are better able to weather relatively smaller losses of talent, and even benefit from them when their skilled workers return or invest in their native lands, said Frédéric Docquier, a lead researcher for the bank and an economist at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
"For a country with a third of its graduates missing, one has to worry," said Alan Winters, director of the World Bank's development research group.
The World Bank study, published yesterdayin a book, "International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain," also presents an analysis of the effect of the money that migrants from Guatemala, Mexico and the Philippines sent home, typically to their families.
Those payments, known as remittances, helped reduce poverty in those countries and were a major source of foreign exchange, but the broader implications were complex.
In Guatemala, for example, rural families receiving the money spent more on education and less on consumption. But in Mexico, children in migrant families actually got less education than those of nonmigrants, possibly because their families believed that they would eventually migrate to the United States for unskilled jobs that did not reward higher levels of learning.
Some of the bank's data on brain drain have brought debate. Mark Rosenzweig, a Yale University economist, argues that the bank's measurement is inflated because it does not exclude immigrants who moved to a rich country as children, or who got their college educations there.
Survey data on immigrants from Jamaica, for example, show that almost 4 of 10 came to the United States before the age of 20, he said.
Bank researchers say they are now gathering such information, though it is not available for many countries, and acknowledge that it would be useful to know where migrants were educated. But they and some experts outside the bank say its latest report still offers the most comprehensive sense yet of the magnitude of the brain drain from poor countries, though that knowledge is admittedly rough and incomplete.
Most experts agree that the exodus of skilled workers from poor countries is a symptom of deep economic, social and political problems in their homelands and can prove particularly crippling in much needed professions in health care and education.
Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist at Columbia University who migrated from India in the late 1960's, said immigrants were often voting with their feet when they departed from countries that were badly run and economically dysfunctional. They get their government's attention by the act of leaving.
"If you stay you don't have any bargaining power at all," he said.
But some scholars are asking whether the brain drain may also fuel a vicious downward cycle of underdevelopment - and cost poor countries the feisty people with the spark and the ability to resist corruption and incompetent governance.
Devesh Kapur and John McHale argue in their book, "Give Us Your Best and Brightest," published last week by the Center for Global Development, a research group in Washington, that the loss of institution builders - hospital managers, university department heads and political reformers, among others - can help trap countries in poverty.
"It's not just the loss of professionals," said Mr. Kapur, an associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. "It's also the loss of a middle class."
The question of what can be done to lessen the damage is vexing and gets into difficult questions of whether to limit the migration of skilled workers. The immigration policies of rich nations, including the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia, have sought to attract highly educated professionals, to bolster their competitiveness and to fill gaps in domestic skills.
Many experts say they oppose efforts to curtail the movement of migrants, but they are debating possible ways to help poor countries cope. An idea that Professor Bhagwati first proposed in the 1970's - that developing countries should tax their expatriate workers - is getting a fresh look.
Editors of the World Bank's book say policies may be needed to raise the incomes of professionals in their home countries.
Others, including Professor Kapur and Professor McHale, who is an economist at the business school of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, suggest that new ways be found to compensate the hardest-hit countries for their losses. They also say rich countries should consider setting up time-limited visas that would allow professionals to work for a few years before taking their expertise, and savings, back home.
Professor Kapur likened a skilled immigrant's getting a visa to work in a rich country to winning a lottery, because the income gains from moving are so great. Whatever the approach, he said, the benefits to the few who are lucky enough to leave need to be weighed against the costs to their countrymen left behind.
Africa at large: Exodus of skilled workers on the rise
The East African Standard (Kenya), by Benson Kathuri October 26, 2005
One out of every three highly skilled Kenyans leaves the country annually to seek better opportunities abroad, a new World Bank study reveals. The study commissioned in Washington on Monday says 38.4 per cent of highly educated Kenyans leave to look for better opportunities in Europe and the US.
The study shows skilled labour force in Africa to developed countries, led by the United States and Canada. Though the workers generate $150 to the developing countries annually, the study shows the movement hurts the economies of their countries.
"Although the share of skilled workers in the total labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa is only 4 per cent, these workers comprise more than 40 per cent of migrants," says International Migration Remittance and Brain Drain report launched yesterday.
"For example, many Central American and island nations in the Caribbean had more than 50 per cent of their university-educated citizens living abroad in 2000," says the report.
The rate of skilled migration in five African counties exceeds 50 per cent. These are Cape Verde, (67.5 per cent) The Gambia (63.3), Seychelles (55.9), Mauritius (56.2) and Sierra Leone (52.5).
On the western and eastern coasts of Africa, tremendous rates of emigration are found in Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda, Angola, and Somalia. The study says some of the numbers are truly staggering, especially for small and isolated countries.
However, the study reveals that migration was not restricted to Africa but rather was a widespread phenomenon worldwide. Rich countries, led by Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, are the greatest beneficiaries of migration with migrants forming 20 per cent of the labour force.
In the United States, the figures are 11.7 per cent and 6.7 per cent for the EU. However, millions of people from EU countries live abroad, mostly within other EU countries.
For the first time, the study introduces a new term, brain waste to refer to skilled labour that ends up doing manual jobs in the receiving countries.
"The placement of educated immigrants in unskilled jobs is referred to as the brain waste," says the study by leading scholars and senior economists at the World Bank.
"Specifically, immigrants from Latin America and Eastern Europe are more likely to end up in unskilled jobs in the United States compared with immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa," the report reveals.
It says a large part of the variation in the brain waste can be explained by variables that influence human capital in the home country of the immigrants, such as education, migration policies and proximity to the United States.
The study says migration to Western Europe tends to be easier for Africans and Eastern Europeans.
However, only highly qualified, those who can obtain skilled jobs in the United States-from distant countries, will find it in their interest to migrate because skilled wages and upward mobility are typically higher than in other western Europe countries.
There is, however, reductions in the inflow of foreign graduate students and skilled migrants to the United States, partly because of increased security concerns following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The study says the restriction is most likely to have negative effects on the future of America's innovative activities that have been boosted by the inflow of foreigners.
The study recommends that both the rich recipient countries and the poor countries hit by migration seek ways to address the problem.
"Given the extent of the brain drain in a number of developing countries and the negative impact that the departure of highly skilled labour may generate, destination countries that are concerned with these issues should cooperate with these source countries to find solutions," says the study.
"Once the migrants arrive in the destination country, it is important that their human capital be properly employed for both sending and destination countries, as well as for the migrants themselves," it adds.
Some of the contributors to the study include Richard Adams, and Gnanaraj Chellaraji both of the World Bank. Others are Abdeslam Marfouk of free University of Brussels and Claudia Martinez of the University of Michigan.