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Impact of emigration

Brain drain

Emigration can cost poor countries some of their most valuable people. The thousands of dollars spend on educating a doctor or an engineer disappear when they take their skills abroad

One of the of the main beneficiaries is the United States. But professionals from developing countries have been going all over the world. For a number of countries the proportion of graduates working overseas is quite high — Iran 25%, the Philippines 10%, and South Korea 6%. Of the African countries one of the highest proportions is for Ghana at 26%. But probably the most dramatic exodus has been from Jamaica. Some of the greatest losses have been in science and technology.

These departures are partly a result of people wanting to earn more and broaden their experience. But they are also a response to deliberate recruitment by richer countries. In some cases they achieve this by attracting foreign students who subsequently stay. In the United States only half of the foreign students receiving a doctorate or a postdoctoral qualification return to their native country within two years. The UK and France also actively seek foreign students.

How damaging is this for the sending countries? One major issue is the loss of skills, particularly in medicine. Then there is the loss in educational investment: currently around $60 billion-worth of developing country investment in tertiary education has been 'drained' to the OECD countries.

Nevertheless, some developing countries, such as India, have more graduates in certain subjects than they need. So it may make sense for them to go overseas. Moreover, some people invest in their own education specifically to qualify for overseas employment. Many private medical schools in the Philippines, for example, advertise for students, doctors and nurses, guaranteeing them a job in the United States once they graduate. This process now extend to teachers, for who can expect to earn $30,000 a year, compared to $5,000 in the Philippines.

Student in Canada

Students in Canada. Many foreign from developing countries stay on to work.
Photo: Dennis S. Hurd