Show Me the Money (and Opportunity): Why Skilled People Leave Home — and Why They Sometimes Return


By Laura Chappell and Alex Glennie
Institute for Public Policy Research

April 2010

The classic example of "brain drain" is well known: an overworked doctor from an impoverished country that does not have enough people with medical skills migrates to a developed country in search of better pay and conditions. The result: the origin country has lost one of its most valued people.

This article describes our recent work to better understand both brain drain — the departure of skilled migrants from their place of origin to another country — and brain circulation, defined here as skilled people returning to their home countries.

The work uses a fairly broad definition of "skilled migrant," which refers to people who have either tertiary education or work experience that provides them with equivalent skills. This means we examine all categories of professionals, not only the doctors and nurses who are sometimes most associated with the term brain drain.

We have examined a range of evidence that finds that five factors — wages, employment, professional development, networks, and socioeconomic and political conditions — drive skilled people to migrate.

We also identify three reasons that motivate the highly skilled to return: improvement of the situation at home, the feeling of belonging to one's culture and society, and the achievement of a specific goal.

Our final typology looks not only at the broad trends but also explores how motivations vary across different contexts and groups of migrants. For example, a potential migrant fresh out of university will be more willing to migrate for a reason that is less important to a potential migrant who is midway through his career.

It should be noted that the studies we examined were produced prior to the recent financial crisis and onset of recession in most countries, meaning that little insight is provided into how trends might have changed. Where possible, however, potential implications of the recession are drawn out.

This research does not take a particular view on the circumstances under which brain drain damages development — or indeed if brain drain should be a policy priority at all. Our research is not intended to contribute directly to the vigorous debate on brain drain's impacts. Rather, we seek to better understand what drives skilled people to move, leaving the assessment of when and how governments might try to intervene to other analyses.

Please click on the below pdf to read the full study

Thanks for sharing this report.

Hibiscus Jamaica is working with deported migrants who have limited skills and income generating capacities.

Your report is an eye opener--seeing that developed countries are just as alluring for skilled professionals and semi-skilled women, for similar reasons.

Other factors responsible for migration of skilled workers in addition to wages, socioeconomic and political include the desire for professional satisfaction. Professionals who are not able to actualise their skills and knowledge would likely seek the opportunity to become more universally relevant in their chosen fields. These sort of migration has a large capacity for driving the brain circulation as they would easily contribute to their home countries. Our charity the london Focus sickle cell africa / medical association of nigerian specialist has contributed to medical missions to remote areas in Nigeria and we are now actively seeking to introcude effective diagnosis of sickle cell disease from birth. This has the capacity for national management guideline for sickle cell disease in a countruy with the largest number of patients.

This report is highly educative and should make one ''shine his eyes'' in the Nigerian language. It is nice sharing the report of regular migrants apart from the experiences of irregular migrants. The subject of brain circulation is particularly fascinating but I believe good governance at all levels can reverse this ugly trend. Best Regards

Dr Olugbenga Bejide (Iwo)