3.1 Comparative Education: What does Brain Drain Mean? What does it entail?

CHAPTER  3                                                    

3.1 Give a working definition of what brain drain entails


Brain drain is a new phenomenon of the 20th  century.   It can be defined as the migration of highly skilled individuals who are trained in one country and take up residence and work in another.  In this circumstance, professionals, in whom a nation has invested a considerable amount of educational resources, leave their native land and seek employment opportunities elsewhere.  Secondly, it can be defined as the migration of “human capital” across international borders inform of migrant.  The migrants move to countries, which they    are not nationals for the purpose of employment.  These migrants are persons not possessing the citizenship of their country of employment. More over brain drain or human capital flight is an emigration of trained and talented individuals (human capital) to other nations or jurisdiction, due to conflicts, lack of opportunity, health hazards where they are living or other reasons. It parallels the term capital flight, which refers to financial capital that is no longer invested in the country where its owners lived and earned it. Investment in higher education is lost when a trained individual leaves and does not return. Also, whatever social capital the individual has been a part of is reduced by his or her departure. Scientist, engineers, academics and physicians who have been trained with scarcely available resources at social cost in their homes countries for the benefits and growth of their  nations.  However  this  has  simply  left  helplessness  to  the  concerned  institutions  and countries of the south that have been loosing thousands of their highly educated workers for the benefit of the rich countries and individuals themselves. This phenomenon can occur either when individuals who study abroad and complete their education do not return to their home country, or when individuals educated in their home country emigrate for higher wages or better opportunities. The second form is arguably worse, because it drains more resources from the home country. The phenomenon is perhaps most problematic for developing nations, where it is widespread. In these countries, higher education and professional certification are often viewed as the surest path to escape from a troubled economy or difficult political situation.

The history of massive brain drain started in USA in 1960s, when scientists were encouraged to go there in order to challenge the launching of sputnik (1957) by the former Soviet Union.  They provided  increased  expenditure  for  highly  skilled  personnel  that  were  met  by  immigration. During this period both the developed and less developed were launching efforts to industrialize and wanted to catch up with the technical and scientific standards of the United States.  The loss of manpower was believed to affect developing countries efforts to industrialize.


The major causes of brain drain can be looked into as pull and push factors.  The push factors are those aspects, which force people to think about leaving his normal place of abode or move from their native country to neighbouring countries or for more distant places like United Kingdom or USA. While the pull factors are the attractions those that draw people to particular destinations, which lure the immigrants to the country of destination.

This phenomenon can occur in countries where education has not been commensurate with national needs and where talents and abilities to perform have gone unrecognized or unrewarded. It emergences when people have been terminated for professions where jobs don’t exist and where advancement has more often been based on family income or social status than on professional ability.

Push factors

It can take place when people are discriminated on the basis of sex, social class, race or entrenched economic and political interest. This can be attributed to weaknesses of the school system in training people for science and mathematics based occupations and the dominance of secondary and higher education system by foreign-based curricula, which locks countries into occupational arrays not well, suited to their particular needs. In some cases those who train in foreign countries could not return since they had no places to practice their professions. For example, until a few years ago, Gambia did not have a university and had to spend a significant portion of state funds to train and educate its professionals abroad. Those who became professors could not return, as they had nowhere to ply their trade. Poorly funded and resourced institutions further affect this while there are few private sector jobs.

The migrants compare those conditions between the native land and foreign countries. Personal taste and circumstances as well as costs of transactions and time affect the individual decisions as migrants. Some are after real income and professional opportunities, which were not available in their county for example the wages of civil servants in Brazil, has been very low.  It has remained around $40 to $60 per month.  If the monthly wages equals $50, 42% of Brazilians makes up to just $1,800 per year and only 20% make more than $4,200 per year.  These figures are not encouraging given that civil servants include schoolteachers, police force, and doctoral and health care personnel.

The political instability in the home countries may force the migrant to loose confidence with their governments and future prospects for a better life. These are individuals who may have difficulties because of their ethnic, cultural, and religious belonging or being a member of opposition grouping in their home countries. Migration takes place in response to wars and political and social turmoil.

Students from less developed countries are expected to go back and provide manpower in such areas as medicine, education, engineering and military.  Most of them do not return home but are left behind. Those who sought to remain behind site prestige of degrees obtained abroad and the good academic facilities as reasons for staying behind.  Others study abroad because their countries have small but selected universities and they were not admitted because government scholarships are not available, for example, in Kenya, Uganda, Israel and Iranians.

Those students who were educated abroad do acquire international marketable skills and information concerning job opportunities abroad. This would help them to decide and search for better paying jobs than what is in their home country.  The low pay and lack of moral will force them to leave their jobs and home and search for international jobs.

If the home government has an excess of professionals, a limited job hierarchy with prospects for improvement, professionals will consider permanent residence in their new countries’ of destination, for example, in Spain there is a problem with promotion process in that often ten to fifteen years of service, every member of a high corps has reached the highest grade of his or her professional career.  This erodes motivation and distorts the organizational chart. Consequently there can be lack of political will, where by employment procedures are full of corruption and anomalies.  These can force the professionals to seek employment elsewhere, for example, in Brazil  2.3  millions  civil  servants  were  employed  under  the  private  laws.    These  private employees may be fired without cause and are not covered by civil service pension scheme. Thus when they retire, do not burden local government budgets.

In   Bolivia   the   ineffective   macroeconomics   measures   and   political   instability   lead   to hyperinflation  in  the  mid  1985.  The  measures,  which  were  instituted,  included  leasing  of restrains on labour force mobility that allowed people to migrate to other countries and offer their expertise. Political turmoil is linked to the failure of economic development. As pressure of poverty, rapid population growth, diseases and illiteracy and environmental degradation mounts they produce a volatile cocktail of insecurity. Resulting wars, civil strife, state sponsored terrorism, riots and other forms of political violence can lead to the displacement of large numbers of people as migrants, refugees or asylees. In the twentieth century, more wars are taking place and they are longer and causing more devastation. Both internal and regional conflicts  based  on  religion  and  ethnicity  is  precipitating  unprecedented  high  levels  of international migration. It can be pointed that over the last 40 years nearly 20 African countries have experienced at least one period of civil war. It is estimated that 20% of Sub-Saharan population now live in countries, which are formally at war, and low intensity conflict has become endemic to many other states. Deep political and economic development failures are the root causes of African problems.

As some statistics indicate concerning the current intellectual migration, it is Africa that suffers most from this unfortunate phenomenon. In 1998 an estimated 700 Ghanaian physicians are said to have been practicing in the USA alone, which makes a considerable percentage of the population of doctors in that country. It is estimated that 20,000 Nigerian academics are now employed in USA alone and more than 300 Ethiopian physicians are working in Chicago, USA alone. According to research reports presented on an international conference concerning the issue of Brain drain, Africa generally looses over 20,000 intellectuals yearly. A new report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) says Africa has lost a third of its professionals in recent decades and it is costing the continent $4 billion a year to replace them with expatriates from the west. Where as rich countries like the United States of America have saved a total sum of $26 billions dollars which otherwise should have spent to train 130,000 highly qualified physicians. The consequences are worse for poor countries like Ethiopia. This already poor and unfortunate country has been loosing its meager professionals continuously since the previous regime. The country has a long history of external provocations and internal conflicts that has been driving out its limited medical doctors in particular and other professionals in general. Thousands of them have been trained in home institutions with considerable social cost and debt from the richest nations. In the past decade between 1980-1990, a total of less than 6000 students have returned from studies abroad out of nearly 23000 students who left for Europe and the United states in that same period of time. These are either tempted by significantly higher wages and better future prospects or give the blame to the political situation, which they say is a threat even for their lives. In most cases the later is likely to be the main reason that makes Ethiopians on their way from the country. South Africa and Nigeria seem to have the biggest portion in loosing their professionals from Africa, which consumes professionals from other African states on their part. This is undoubtfully one of the main constrains of underdevelopment in the continent.

Pull factors

The second factors are the pull factors. They  are factors that entice a person to leave their home or cause them to be pulled towards another place.  These include the following in case of brain drain.

Some of the rich powerful countries that have not yet trained enough citizens with essential skills often import talents by offering higher pay and better working conditions.  Many professionals from Western Europe have moved to “countries of opportunity” particularly the United States, Canada and Australia. There are circumstances within Europe where France attracted some professional from Latin Europe, Spain, Greece, Sweden and Norway.

There were Europeans professionals who migrated to North America due to newer facilities, higher pay and more flexible opportunities compared to the home country.  In most former colonies, professionals moved to their former colonial masters countries.  Those from British Commonwealth went to the United Kingdom and those from francophone countries went to France.

The booming economy and expanding universities of USA have been attracting everyone. Increasing numbers of Indians, Chinese and Koreans migrated there rather than to Europe. The USA relaxation of immigration Act in 1965 eased professional restriction, which gave entry of professionals from non-European countries. Most doctors however arrived after completing their education entirely at home.  The flexible structure of organizations and the vigorous leadership of the USA, which attracted most professionals, further expanded the above scenario.

There has been demand for professionals or skilled people of certain characteristics, for example Turkish authority’s net loss of engineers with six or more years of experience jumped from six in 1977 to 54 in 1980.  The number of engineers in the state Hydraulic Works Dam Design and construction similarly declined from more than one hundred to 55 in recent years and most qualified senior exploration and drilling staff of Turkish Petroleum Company left at an alarming rate in 1980 and 1981.   Similar trends have been observed in Guyana’s bauxite and electricity and in Egypt nationals’ urban planning offices. Most of the above professionals have moved due to  high  remunerations  and  fridge  benefits.  This  is  the  reason  why  most  people  have  been targeting USA where certain professional are well paid compared to the home government.  For example a doctor can be paid ten times the amount he can be paid in less developing countries like Kenya.

The high salaries are further accompanied by high standards of living in industrialized countries compared  with  adventurism.  Those  from  Kenya  are  able  to  drive  within  the  shortest  time possible in USA compared to when they were in their mother country. The post second world war expansion of the industrial economies of western Europe and North America has lead to immigration policies in these countries designed to meet a burgeoning demand for cheap labour. Globalization has made possible a massive transfer of resources like technology and capital; labour has become another form of large-scale resource transfer. The developed countries are a magnet for the world’s migrant is evident from statistics. In 1990, half of the worlds migrants were in industrial countries: 15-20 million were in western Europe, 15-20 million were in North America and 2-3 million were in industrial nations of Asia in countries such as Japan and Taiwan.











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