How Can Developing Countries Deal With The Brain Drain

Several Approaches and their Critical Reflection

Term Paper 2008 10 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Globalization, Political Economics



1. Introduction

2. Methods to lure emigrants back

3. Gaining benefit from emigrants

4. Critical reflection of the approaches


1. Introduction

2.9 per cent of the world population have been migrants in the year 2000. In numbers this means, that 175 million people have redistributed. As the World Migration Report points out “(…) the most significant changes in recent years have been an increased concentration of migrants in the developed world and in a small number of countries.” (International Organization of Migration, 2005, p. 379). Of special interest for the developed countries is the immigration of high skilled professionals, for example scientists and engineers. Countries like Germany are facing two problems. The fertility rate is low and therefore the population is shrinking. Moreover the demand to skilled professionals cannot be responded from the native population. At the same time well educated people from developing countries are leaving their homes to work as specialists in high-tech industries like biotechnology, nanotechnology or information technology (IT). In developing countries the emigration rate of skilled people in the year 2000 was much higher (7.3%), than the whole emigration rate (1.5%). Although the rate of skilled workers has decreased from 7.7% since 1990, some countries still face a huge loss of brains (Docquier; Marfouk, 2007, p. 198).

Coherently and legitimately many fear, that this flow of talents from the developing to the already developed, will have lasting negative economic impact on the developing countries. This kind of people leaving means a drain of skills and a decrease of their influence on the productivity on others. The loss of these skilled workers is nowadays even worse as Devan and Tewari are pointing out: “Now more than ever, intangible capital (such as intellectual property and brands) rather than physical capital separates the winners from the rest.” (Devan; Tewari, 2001, p. 52). The number of skilled workers entering industrialized countries has increased in the last years. Countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden or United Kingdom are gaining more and more professionals. In 2001 175.000 as ‘skilled’ categorized immigrants have entered the United States. This number is more than three times higher than that of the year 1999. Accordingly it is the country which attracts most of the highly skilled immigrants (International Organization of Migration, 2005, p. 400).

Immigrants receiving countries need this kind of workers, because they compensate the missing native workers and play an important role in the further development of their industries. Because of this and many other reasons, which will be mentioned in the following text, this trend will not be reversed in the near future. Therefore developing and emerging countries have to manage the brain drain which tackles their economies. Of course it is not appropriate to build up restrictions or even prohibit skilled workers traveling or emigration, because this would clearly harm the human rights. Accordingly affected countries need to look after methods to lure their emigrants back and, because this is likely not an option for every country, how to at least gain benefit from their expatriates.

This paper tries to analyze critically if there are approaches and options for developing countries to deal effective and successful with the brain drain.

2. Methods to lure emigrants back

It will take years to solve the reasons that lead to the brain drain. Several of these reasons are connected to the economic market. Therefore reforms to increase the competition are also needed, as a level playing field. Countries have to strengthen their financial systems and should streamline regulatory requirements (Devan; Tewari, 2001, p. 53). Taiwan for example has a long commitment to build up a market-oriented economy. They created a venture capital industry and forced investments in research and education. In answer to that, many emigrants turn home to take part in the economic rise of their home country. In the Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park for instance, Silicon Valley returnees started more than 50% of the companies and generate about 10% of Taiwan’s gross national product (GNP) (Devan; Tewari, 2001, p. 53).

But not only the economic market plays a role. Personal and non-material factors are also important. Song has noted that the major factors for returning home are better career opportunities, the challenge of participating in the home country’s development, family matters, cultural identity and a feeling of obligation (Song, 2003). Though many incentives, which were provided by the government of the homeland to encourage skilled workers to come home, are ineffective and inefficient. Taiwan and Korea, for instance, tried to lure their people back in the 1980s by providing them a reimbursement of moving or the costs of settlement. Therefore Song points out, that policies who should achieve repatriation, have to address personal and professional factors of the emigrants. He says that “it is almost impossible to prevent brain circulation in a free society – the best that nations can hope for is to manage the circulation to their advantage.” (Song, 2003, p. 3). They have to find ways to keep the professionals feel close to their home country. Furthermore they should feel that they have a role to play in its development. After analyzing their own talent migrations and the motivating factors, affected countries should design their policies accordingly. Of course the methods should being evaluated regularly if they are effective. Also they have to be balanced with national R&D and technology policies. Other topics which have impact on emigrants, like tax and education should be harmonized.





Title: How Can Developing Countries Deal With The Brain Drain