Brain drain, brain gain or brain circulation? Critically discuss the migration flows of highly skilled migrants across the globe and the impact of this movement on host and origin countries According to a report published by the CSO in September 2012 net outward migration for Irish nationals increased to 26,000 in the year to April 2012, from 22,400 in the previous year. It is a necessity to discover if this mass exodus of skilled migrants will be detrimental to Irish society in the coming years, or if there are significant advantages stemming from our best and brightest abandoning the country. Interest in the topic is growing and there have been dramatic increases in empirical evidence and research on this subject. Over the past decade, Factiva (a business information and research tool owned by Dow Jones & Company) shows an average of 5,000 news articles in English per year about the impact of brain drain, a testament to just how relevant this subject is (Gibson and Mckenzi 2011).In this essay I will define and discuss the three concepts brain drain, brain gain and brain circulation using specific examples from all over the world, in an effort to determine which of the three is most prevalent. It is important to define the term 'highly skilled migrant' to understand the impact they have on the economies of a country. There is no agreed international definition of ‘highly-skilled workers’, thus the concept varies, and is highly dependent on the eligibility requirements for the nation in question. However, highly-skilled migrants are commonly defined as having a 'university degree or extensive/equivalent experience in a given field.’(Iredale 2001: Salt, 1997) These migrants can typically be found in economic sectors including high-technology, information technology (IT), biotechnology, engineering and health care (Cerna, 2010). Considering that immigration policies in receiving countries are increasingly tilted in favour of skilled migrants, (Beine et all. 2003) identifying what constitutes a highly skilled migrant is vital.
With 'quality selective' immigration policies (Docquier and Abdeslam 2006) operated by many developed countries (Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) endeavouring to attract the most highly skilled individuals, poorer countries are struggling to retain their workforce. McKenzie, (2011) conducted a study of the top academic students from five countries, and documented increases in income of $40,000–$60,000 per year when the highly skilled emigrate from developing countries. Higher salaries, safer environment and endless opportunities are just some of the multiple ‘pros’ that attract migrants to more developed countries. The huge outflow of highly skilled workers from a country gives rise to brain drain, a term coined by the British Royal Society to refer to the exodus of scientists and technologists from the United Kingdom to the United States and Canada in the 1950s and 1960s (Cervantes and Gaelic, 2002|). At present it is not limited to solely scientists and technologist as the Oxford Dictionary defines brain drain as ‘the emigration of highly trained or qualified people from a particular country’. Structural and economic problems arise from this phenomenon such as the depletion of the tax base and a shift in the demographics of the country, meaning larger number of members of the older generation to support. It puts a huge strain on resources and employment as professionals take their skills elsewhere, along with their innovative new ideas. Early literature published claimed that skilled migrants leaving a country produced dramatic negative effects for those left behind (Grubel and Scott 1966, Johnson 1967, Bhagwati and Hamada 1995) Before the emergence of the theory of brain drain’s counterpart ‘brain gain’, the emigration of highly skilled workers was generally accepted as a problem for the country with minor, if any, positive results. There are many who still consider it a serious threat to...
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