Brain drain can also be brain gain for some source countries – UN report
The so-called brain drain of migrants taking their skills and initiative to their new countries of residence can also serve as an engine of growth in their homelands, according to a study released today by the United Nations University (UNU).
“The idea that the mobility of bright, qualified people represents a permanent loss of scarce human capital for the source country is becoming rapidly outdated,” study director Andrés Solimano said. “Talent mobility can bring benefits both to host and source countries.”
But although this is the case in high-tech and other fields, it is not the case in the health sector, particularly in the case of migrating African, Asian and Caribbean health professionals.
“Here the old worries about brain drain are in general fully warranted,” Mr. Solimano, regional adviser at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, told a news conference in New York.
Among positive examples cited by the study, Mobilizing Talent for Global Developments, figure several successful Indians and Taiwanese in the high-tech industry in the United States who also set up hardware and software companies in their home countries, contributing to growth.
Other examples include a successful mobile telephone company founded by a Bolivian entrepreneur in the US which has already opened several plants in Latin American capitals.
“So you see a pattern of circulation, part of the investments is done in the first world, part of the investments is done in the third world,” Mr. Solimano said. “So this notion of one-way mobility, that people leave their country, take whatever abroad and are completely lost for the whole country should be reassessed. It’s more realistic to think there’s a movement of people in both directions.”
But in the health sector the study, produced by the university’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), cautions that emigration hurts source countries.
As doctors, nurses and medical specialists continue to leave African, Asian and Caribbean countries, the health services they leave behind become depressed and inadequate, especially in Africa, which is already suffering the toll of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases that kill and impair economic development.
The studies also recommends that countries that are losing talent should set up more liberal and open regimes that create a positive climate for business and the well-educated, leading to an improvement in the economy and society at large.