Exploring The Phenomenon Of Brain Drain Economics Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Globalization, which is in short: The world without borders, has contributed not only in the movement of information, technology, capital, goods but also human capital. It is very important for any company, whether international or domestic, to chose the right people who can contribute to achieving the goals of the organization and keeping the competitive edge of their company. The employer is concerned about the labor quality (the skills, knowledge and attitudes) as well as the labor quantity (the number of available qualified workforce). The economic conditions are as well a concern for the employer. If there are too many available qualified employees out there, the employer would have the advantage in hiring the best candidate with relatively minimum costs. However, high unemployment rates can cause disturbance (political and social) that would affect the business sectors.
On the international level, the employer should examine the worldwide labor conditions and trends as well as must understand the forces affecting the labor force. Forces such as social, cultural, religious, attitudinal, political and legal can have an impact on the labor force. The labor trends that are going to be covered in this paper are: Aging of populations, labor migrations, unemployment, brain drain, child labor and forced labor.
This research paper was conducted by gathering information from a variety of resources such as books, articles, electronic resources, case studies and research papers.
Brain Drain is the phenomenon of immigrating minds outside their countries such as skilled workers, professionals, medical doctors, IT specialists, engineers, and more importantly scientists. The term was initiated by the Royal Society ( in London) to describe the movement of highly skilled scientists and technologists to North America from Europe after the world war II. Immigrants leave their home country in order to find better opportunities economically and socially. Brain drain is mostly viewed as a lost economic cost and as an economic threat, since the government has spent resources training, sponsoring or supporting these immigrants. (Wikipedia, 2010; Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002). Brain Drain usually migrates from the developing countries to the developed countries. Figure (1) below shows the top ten countries with the largest number of international migrants.
Figure (1) top ten countries
Source: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Trends in International Migrant Stock: The 2008 Revision, UN database, (New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, 2009).
According to OneWorld.net (2009), the major countries that are sending immigrants are Indonesia, Philippines, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The Philippines has about 10% of its population (total of 8 million), are working away from their country.
The brain drain among women is much more than among men according to a study by F. Docquier, B. Lindsay Lowell and A. Marfouk (2007), who found that women have higher brain drain rates (17% ) than men in the OECD countries. The results of such trend may be due to the rising demand of women in the healthcare, childcare and other services, the raise in the skills and education of women unlike in the past, and the changing attitude towards working women in many societies. (Docquier et al., 2007).
The women’s brain drain is crucial and affects the sending countries. Many studies have shown that highly educated women are an asset for the home and society. They provide the house with an additional income hence raising the economic level of the household. A well educated female means an investment in the future generation as women tend to care much about their children’s education by choosing better schooling options, and they are a powerful teachers at home hence generating a highly educated future workforce generation. In the long term, better educated women would lead to a better labor productivity, social and economical growth. Societies who have opted not to educate their female generation or those who are facing the problem of highly skilled women brain drain, would be affected in the future by this loss and would face slow growth and income. (Docquier et al., 2007).
The figure (2) below summarizes the percentage of women and men migration rate (2007).
Source: Adapted from F. Docquier, B. Lindsay Lowell and A. Marfouk (2007). A gendered assessment of the brain drain. National Fund for Scientific Research, IRES, Cath. Univ. of Louvain and World Bank , Georgetown University Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
Brain drain is also happened when students who have gone outside their countries to study, refuses to return back home.
Causes of Brain Drain
For the past few years, and with the help of the globalization, the Brain Drain phenomenon has been increasing. According to the latest statistics by the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of international migrants around the world is estimated at 214 million. (International Organization for Migration, 2010).
There are several reasons that influence the movement of minds from the developing countries to the developed countries. They are referred to as “push”- “pull” factors. The Push factors are the reasons that force the immigrants to leave their home country. While the Pull factors are the ones attracting the immigrants to the host country.
The Push Factors
In the past, the Antisemitic feelings and laws in Europe after the WWII have caused the emigration of many scientists to the US and other countries. Among these scientists are Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, and Niels Bohr. Furthermore, The Nazi political discrimination against liberals and socialists in Germany has also helped in the brain drain process. For example, the famous art school that combined crafts and the fine arts (Bauhaus) was forced to close by the Nazi regime forcing the three pioneers of Modern architecture, Mies Van Der Rohe , Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier to leave Germany. (Dzvimbo, 2003).
In the current time, brain immigration is caused mostly by economic reasons. That is the wages and the financial incentives in the host country are much better than those in the home country. In some universities, the incentives for researchers such as grants and research assistance and funds are not available in these universities hence forcing professors and researchers to look for a better university that would provide them with the necessary funds to continue their research.
Other unfavorable push factors such as inadequate standard of education, human rights violations, wars, ethnic conflicts, corruption, lack of career opportunities, religious, political, unemployment, health risk, violence, lack of technical/scientific support, harsh living conditions, and discrimination all have helped in the brain drain process. (Dzvimbo, 2003; Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002).
Other favorable push factors are such as personal preferences, moving the plant or the production line into a foreign country or opening an international subsidiary and using the Ethnocentric approach in recruiting.
Decreasing economic levels are the reason for the brain drain in South Africa. While for the white South African, the cause is the dissatisfaction about the political situation that does not want to improve the living of the white people in South Africa. (Bhorat et al., 2002; Dzvimbo, 2003; Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2010).
The Pull Factors
Immigrants head for the countries where they can find a better lifestyle, job opportunities, career advances, available funds for research, scholarships and educational support, and where the wages are appreciating their educational level and their extensive technical experience. As an example of that, Professors or Medical physicians (who are keeping their Canadian/US residency back home and are paying taxes) are accepting offers outside their home country that give them an annual net income more than what they are getting in their home countries after deducting the tax amounts.
The US has been a target for the immigrants due to the availability of the top rated universities, dynamic innovative companies, open merit based economic system, social and standard of living in addition to high salaries for highly skilled scientists, engineers and technicians. (Ball, Geringer, Minor & McNett, 2010).
The Benefits of Brain Drain
For the country that the immigrants are leaving to (the host country), due to the larger market size and new opportunities the immigrants produce and transfer a higher quality of knowledge and outputs, leading to a better improved nation and economic conditions. (Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002). They can also make valuable social and cultural contributions to the host country. Women can have better freedom in the host country than they had in their home country which allows them to contribute to the society and be a positive role model to others. (UN news Center, 2010). Among the countries that try to attract a high number of foreign knowledgeable-workers is the United States to use the benefits of the rain drain (brain gain) such as fulfilling their shortage of skilled labor and increasing their innovative economic growth.
On the other hand, Brain Drain can be beneficial to the sending countries “Beneficial Brain Drain”. The immigrants send back home their funds and money. According to the latest statistics by the International Organization of Immigrants (IOM), the estimated remittances sent by migrants in 2009 is $414 Billions. The government finds it as an incentive to spend more money to educate and invest in the human capital to cover the loss of migrated minds in the home country, the process in which improves the growth and economic performance. (Schiff, Maurice ; Ã-zden, Çaglar, 2005). The immigrants, if returned home, would transfer their knowledge, skills, information and technology back home or through their network of business connections with their home country which would lead to the country’s development. (Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002).
Brain Drain by Regions
According to a study by the European Union (EU), between 2015 and 2030 the number of estimated Turks migrations is between 500,000 to 4.4 million (Migration news, 2006). . In Turkey, the two types of immigration of minds take a place; internal and external. Immigration varies between urban to urban, rural to urban and international migrations. Turkey is ranked by the UN the 24th of the top sending countries. (Güngör & Tansel (2010).
The first brain drain started in 1960s where doctors and engineers leaving the country to Europe. While in the recent era, young graduate students have started to look their way out of Turkey through post graduate scholarships and for a future stay abroad especially under the hard economic situation in Turkey. Another group who has left Turkey is the sponsored by the government research assistants who were sent as an investment to develop the current level of university education in Turkey. (Kaya, 2002; Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002).
The general reasons for this movement is mainly political instability, lower wages, unavailability of career opportunities, personal preference to live abroad, the lack of development and national research strategies, the education system distortion, and foreign language instructions at the schools. (Nil Güngör & Tansel, 2002). This situation has lead to both internal unskilled labor migration and international brain drain.
According to the survey study by Güngör & Tansel (2002) on the reasons for the students to chose to study abroad rather than in Turkey, the main reasons were due to the variety of options to chose among for their field of study, the reputation of the university, better level of education, the social prestige, the available financial scholarships for study and research from these universities, recommendations from their academic advisors or professors, and the possibility of a career growth abroad. Other reasons were having a Turkish contract abroad and being near the family who resides abroad. Figure (x) shows according to the survey results, why students prefer to study abroad of Turkey.
Figure (x): Why Turkish students prefer to study abroad
Source: Adapted from Nil Demet Güngör & Aysit Tansel, 2002. Brain Drain from Turkey: Survey evidence of student non-return. Emerald Research Paper.
The high schools do not have an adequate system to help the students through the next stage of their lives, that’s it helping them to find jobs and have the necessary skills and knowledge to enter the workforce. In addition, there are no proper in-firms training for the graduate students. The increased demand for a better higher education level has caused a dramatic increase in the number of universities inside Turkey. Turkey now (2010) has 146 universities in total (private and state). 102 are state universities four of which are at Ankara and seven are in Istanbul. The academic brain drain has caused staffing problems for the increasing number of newly established universities. The immigrant researchers and academicians fear from returning back home so they would not be stuck in teaching undergraduate levels in these newly established universities and having no time for further personal development and researches.
The survey as also evaluated the intentions for the students to return back to Turkey after their study. The majority has indicated that they prefer to return after completing their study. The main reasons for their return is summarized in figure (x) below.
Figure(x): Reasons for the return back to Turkey
Source: Adapted from Nil Demet Güngör & Aysit Tansel, 2002. Brain Drain from Turkey: Survey evidence of student non-return. Emerald Research Paper.
Turkish females are less likely to come back home, (Güngör & Tansel, 2010). Females have indicated that they face a better freedom outside Turkey which is a main reason for their preference not to return back home.
The Turkish Media and the Government have started to look seriously for the issue of the Turkish Brain Drain especially after the economic crisis in 2000 and 2001 and have viewed its threat on the social and economic sides. A top investigating taskforce were created by the government containing experts from the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency, the Scientific and Technical Research Council and The Turkish Academy of Science.
In order for Turkey to get over the brain drain problem, they need to emphasis more on the high school level of education and should work on a future-workforce development strategy that leads to a highly skilled young graduate labor force. They should as well put more efforts in the research and development support for the university professors and researches and to retain the highly skilled labor force by providing them with incentives and proper salary compensation as well as providing them with a better career development opportunities. They should focus more on internal academic development instead of sending students and researchers abroad, a focus on the current research and teaching facilities would help to attract, maintain researchers and attract the students. The government should put more strict rules for the investment on people abroad and guarantee their return after the successful completion of their mission. Finally, the political situation inside Turkey should be adjusted.
Examples from Turkey
A recent example of brilliant minds who have left Turkey is Orhan Pamuk, a novelist whose writings has been sold in more than fifty languages and over seven million books as well as was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. He is currently a visiting professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.
Another potential flee is the brilliant composer and pianist Fazil Say, who indicated that due to the political situation in Turkey he would like to leave for good although that the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan has said to him “an artist who is born here should stay here”. Stephen Kinzer (2007).
Other sample names are shown in the table below and the list does not end. (Wikipedia: Turkish Americans/French/Germans, 2010).
Iran is ranked the first in Brain Drain of 91 developing and developed countries, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2006. (Shirin Hakimzadeh, 2006). About 150,000 educated Iranians on yearly basis leave the country for better hopes in other countries. (Golnaz Esfandiari, 2004). The reasons for Iranian’s migration are similar to those in Turkey: religious, lack of intellectual and social security, better educational and job opportunities, social, economical, unemployment, better research and equipment facilities and political reasons. The government has put an estimation for the brain drain loss of about $40bn a year according to the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. (Shirin Hakimzadeh, 2006; Frances Harrison, 2007; Iran’s brain drain, 2010; CIA world factbook “Iran”, 2010). For Iranians the United States, Germany, Canada, Israel, Sweden, United Kingdom, Netherlands, France, Australia, and Austria are the main destination for immigration. (World bank organization “Iran”, 2005). as well as they exist in Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and other East Asian countries. Dubai alone attracts about 9,000 Iranian students. (Shirin Hakimzadeh, 2006) ; Parvizian, Khademolqorani, & Tabatabaei, 2009).
Some PhD new professors say about their reason for leaving that in Iran they do not have high speed internet connections and there are many restrictions by the government on many websites including educational ones, no decent libraries, no new books or technical ones, and even professional technical Iranians can’t submit research papers to conferences such as the IEEE due to restrictions from the US.
High school graduates find it very difficult to acquire seats in universities. Only about 11% of 1.5 million students who have applied for the exams get accepted. (Iran’s brain drain, 2010). Even if they have graduated, it is very difficult for the fresh graduates to find jobs that match their fields of study. Yearly about 75,000 graduates can find jobs from a total of 270,000 graduates.
Other political reasons such as University graduates in general and Engineers in particular have little authority of power, wealth, and effect on the future. Scientists and Engineers are not heard in Iran in order to participate in any growth of wealth authorities. The government gives the voice only to elite of sectors such as the business people, politicians, and physicians. (Parvizian et al., 2009). This is why the majority of Iranian immigrants are engineers.
There is a claim that the CIA is running a covert operation coded ” BrainDrain Project” which aims to attract away Iranian nuclear scientists in order to weaken the Iranian nuclear program infrastructure. (Iran’s brain drain, 2010).
Examples from Iran
Hazhir Rahmandad, is an example of Iranian migrated minds. He has left Iran in 2002 after winning an international award in chemistry, to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Other sample famous Iranian figures that have left Iran and became successful are shown in the table below. The list does not stop here! (Wikipedia: Iranian Americans, 2010).
Anousheh Ansari, is an Iranian telecommunications tycoon who became the first female space tourist in 2006. She has emigrated to the US while she was 16 and has earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University and a masters degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University. In her 30th, she was listed in Fortune Magazine in the America’s 40 most successful business figures under the age of 40 and was named the boldest newcomer. (BBC News. Anousheh Ansari, 2006).
Another successful figure is Dr. Firouz Naderi, who is an associate director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He got his PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California , USA. He has received number of awards, such as Space Technology Hall of Fame Medal, NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal and NASA’s highest award-the Distinguished Service Medal. Also he has received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for outstanding contributions that have enriched American society. (Jet Propulsion Laboratory “Dr Naderi Firouz”, 2010).
Alia Sabur, (21 years old born in NY) is materials scientist and the youngest professor in the world who was appointed at the age of 19 as professor in Mathematics. She was accepted at the university graduate level at the age of 14 and left school at the age of 4 while enrolled into the undergraduate level of the university of New York at the age of 10.
The previous list is frightening to the reader when he thinks about the idea how would they end up if they have stayed in Iran without perusing other options outside, or in some cases, if their parents did not take the chance of immigration. In addition it is frightening to think about the loss that Iran had by losing these valuable minds. The previously listed female figures would have never gone beyond their homes backyard if they have stayed in Iran. It is a harsh truth that Iran should face and work hard in order to prevent any additional loss of valuable minds.
In order for Iran to get over the brain drain problem, they should place a better trust into the engineering professionals and academic people. They should be given the privileges of other sectors who have voices in the government in order to prevent their brain loss and allow them to add value and create wealth in the country. Better salaries and benefits as well can have an effect in retaining the skilled labor as well as providing work and research facilities for academicians and scientists. The rules to accept students into universities should be eased up to accommodate the influx of high school graduates and to prevent the talented students to seek other alternatives abroad. The government with collaboration with recruitment agencies and universities should try to provide the fresh graduates with job opportunities. The other factors such as political, religious, economical or social freedom should not be overlooked and should be worked on.
In Iraq, the situation is quite different. After the US invasion in Iraq in 2003, estimations about the Iraqi civilian casualties exceeded 600,000. (Deborah White, 2010). People escape from the country as the death ghost is in every corner. Those who have managed to get out alive are lucky. The brain drain is deteriorating as well. Since the invasion in 2003, about 40% of Iraqi professionals have left Iraq. (Deborah White, 2006). The most targeted group to be killed is the scientists, professionals and academicians, in an attempt to demolish any intellectual capital of Iraq so it won’t rise again. As a result of the war, about 2,000 researchers have evacuated the country to save their lives, and about 18,000 medical physicians fled as well. (Bender & Stockman, 2006). The effect of this brain drain in Iraq is devastating. No country can rise without its human capital and hence there would be no economy, no technology, no future human capital, no education system, no intellectual capital, no institutions, and no society leading to the collapse of the country and so has happened. Not to mention that Iraq can not stay alive without the assistance of other countries, which means more intrusions into their system and the never independent state of Iraq. (Sumedha Senanayake, 2006).
According to a research by Dr Najm Al Dulaimi (2008), The brain drain in Iraq has passed three stages. The first was between 1963-1970. The brain drain causes in this stage was purely political. Cruel exercised ruling political regimes in Iraq, different methods of persecution, torture and abuse, murder and even an exercise in projection of the political best of the Iraqi scientific and particularly those of national direction and the left, forcing some of these competencies, which had the opportunity to leave Iraq.
The second stage was from the mid 70ths to 2002. This phase is characterized with rising political conflict between the ruling party on the one hand, and between Iraqi political parties that opposed the regime on the other hand. During this difficult stage the Iraqi people have suffered in general and the scientific elite in particular from bitterness, oppression and suffering of humanitarian and economic conditions, which led to their flee.
The last stage was from 2003 until 2007. Which was after the invasion of Iraq. The political, social, security, sectarian, economical situations have helped to increase the flow of people outside the country. Dr Najm Al Dulaimi (2008).
It would be very hard for Iraq to come over its brain drain problem, especially in the current time under the harsh political situation. But in order to do so and help bring back the professional elite and prevent further loss, the country should overcome their internal political conflict and depend more on their own not the external help. A suitable secured lifestyle should be guaranteed to the fled elite such as providing suitable housing, as most fled people have sold or abandoned their houses, provide competitive salaries, research facilities, academic promotion policies, and so on.
Examples from Iraq
Sample Iraqi figures that have left Iraq and became successful are shown in the table below. (Wikipedia: List of Iraqi People, 2010).
There is a huge influx of people coming to the US to live there. The major destinations for people from the US are to Canada, Germany, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. (US Census Bureau, 2005). The collection of powerful brains flooding to the US has helped in the development of both scientific and technological innovations leading the US to the top of the world. The United States is a preferred target for students, academicians, professionals, IT people and scientists due to its state of the art research facilities and high education system the thing that the can not find in their homeland. The foreign students who chose US to complete their study are enrolling in the fields of engineering, technology , Mathematics and science.
Reverse Brain Drain: Returning to India & China
The United States is not immune from the Brain Drain phenomenon. The US it is a major dream workplace and target for many people, however a percentage of those people would prefer to go back home after their study or due to certain political or social situations. The Chinese students for example, after completing their study in the US, they believe that the best job opportunities are back home not in the US. Their Indians counterparts think the same idea. (Wadhwa, V., Saxenian, A., Freeman, R., Salkever, A., 2009). Some surveys have estimated that about 60,000 Indians ( mostly IT Professionals) have returned back home during 2009. (Zubair Ahmed, 2010). The silicon Valley in the US was opened thanks to the Indians, now the Indians have their own innovative Silicon Valley that has attracted back the innovative Indian minds from the US. The talented US- Experienced Indians are the target for many Indian companies nowadays, in addition the salary difference between India and the US is decreasing.
The main reasons why these students and professionals to go back home is their believe that the economical situation in their home country is better and brings them a better quality of life, and eventually the US economy would fall. They want to stay near their families and allow their kids to grow up in their homeland culture, in addition it is harder to bring their parents and care for them in the US nowadays than it used to be in the past. The lack of job opportunities and discrimination were among the reasons. (Wadhwa, et al., 2009). Other countries are improving quickly and the recent recession has affected the decision of many people to leave the US and return home. The economy of the United States is estimated to decline almost 3% in 2011, while it is expected that the economy of India will grow by more than 5%. (RT, 2010). Another reason to leave is the hard immigration and visa process that stops the flood of highly skilled and powerful brains to the US and becoming US citizens. The ones who return home can find an excellent career paths specially that they hold a US based experience or a degree from there. Figure () below shows the main reasons for students to go back home according to Wadhwa’s study in 2009.
Figure() : Reasons for leaving the US
Source: Adapted from Wadhwa, V., Saxenian, A., Freeman, R., Salkever, A., (2009). Losing the World’s Best and Brightest: America’s New Immigrant Entrepreneurs, Part V.
This reverse brain drain situation in the US could affect the economy and innovation as well as could give the competitive edge to compactors, since the majority of these returned-home students are in the science and engineering fields. However, it is not a total loss as these students and professionals after their return to home would certainly connect with their colleagues and business partners in the US and might as well visit while they are working on their personal business.
The US should focus on stopping this massive reverse brain drain in order to maintain its competitive global situation and in order to stay an attractive place for the global talents. They could ease the immigration and US citizenship process or treat the highly skilled immigrants special cases, they should focus even more on the current educational system to develop a future workforce and not to depend on the borrowed talents. The relationship with the returned-to-home talents should not be ignored but rather should be kept active, as future collaboration opportunities might arise as well as the sharing of information and ideas would be beneficial to both countries.
Egypt is one of the Arabian countries that suffer from the Brain Drain problem. A study issued by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics in collaboration with academic research that there are 54 thousand Egyptian scientists and experts abroad, working in various disciplines, including 11 thousand in the unique services and 94 scientists in nuclear engineering, 36 in atomic physics, 98 in microbiology and 193 electronics, computers and communications. (Amlalommah.net, 2009).
The reasons for their leave are typical. Unemployment, social, political, government interference in the affairs of the universities and the lack of freedom and budget for the scientific research, low salaries, inadequate education system, poor healthcare services, lack of career advances all are main motivation for the migration.
Among the social reasons, in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, favoritism plays a great deal in the society. It does not matter what type of a degree the employee holds but rather “who” he knows. The career advancement or getting a job is largely dependent on favoritism. Hence many people were forced to seek other alternatives abroad where their academic knowledge really matters.
Another social reason is that the immigrants, specially the born away ones, are more attached to their country of residence instead of their homeland, they have lived their most of their lives and hence more attached to its culture and they face a difficulty returning back home and coping with the new culture.
Statistics show that the United States have a large numbe
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