Skilled Migration

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SKilled Labour Migration can impact a country\'s earning and economy

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Skilled Migration

  1. 1. CSD WORKING PAPER SERIES SKILLS, MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT Chris Sims Chris.sims@skillsdevelopment.org Working Paper No.3 www.skillsdevelopment.org December 2009ABSTRACTThe migration of skilled people from developing to developed countries can have significantimplications for the development trajectory of sending countries. For many years analysis of thephenomenon focused on the so-called ‘brain drain’ effect that was seen to rob developingcountries of skills. Later approaches have focused on the role of migration in spreadingknowledge, boosting incomes and incentivising the acquisition of skills. This paper proposes thatthe precise impact of skilled migration from a particular country can only be understood by placingit in the specific context of that country’s development, particularly patterns of internal migrationand unskilled migration. It argues that skilled migration can boost development if properlymanaged, and that developed countries can mitigate the potential harmful effects of skilledmigration by investing in skills development in sending countries and assisting developingcountries in matching their educational systems to domestic and international labour markets.Finally, it proposes that the existing lack of data in this field, the different definitions andmeasurements used by individual countries, and the confusing network of bilateral migrationrelationships argue for a more multilateral approach to migration management than exists today.© 2009 by Chris Sims. All rights reserved. Sections of text may be quoted without explicitpermission provided that full credit is given to the source. 1
  2. 2. 1. INTRODUCTIONThe phenomenon of the migration of skilled people from developing to developed countries hasreceived increasing attention from development researchers in recent years. This has oftentended to focus on the possible negative consequences of such migration: the hypothesis that theemigration of skilled people constrains the capacity of sending countries to implement economicgrowth strategies and to deliver key public services. The term “brain drain”, originally coined in the1950s to refer to the flow scientists from developed countries such as the UK and Canada to theUSA, has since come to be understood more in the context of flows from developing countries.It is important to remember that the vast majority of international skilled migrant flows are stillbetween developed countries, and most international migration takes place between countries ofa similar development level. Evidence also indicates that countries with the lowest levels of humandevelopment also have the lowest rates of emigration. However, skilled migration from developingto developed countries represents a rising proportion of all international migration (IOM, 2008). Asdeveloped countries’ societies grow older while developing world populations continue to rise,the resulting imbalance in workforces are likely to increase the pressure for migration from thedeveloping to the developed world (World Bank, 2009).“Brain drain” has generally been seen as a challenge for developing countries where stocks ofskilled labour are far smaller and the impact of skilled emigration consequently proportionallylarger. In some sectors – such as health care where the loss of skilled personnel is seen as having aparticularly high social cost for developing countries – this has led to concerted efforts to controland restrict migration flows, such as the UK’s policy of not recruiting skilled personnel in the healthfield from a specified list of “vulnerable” countries (Department of Health, 2004).Alternative analyses of international skilled migration flows have focussed on the potential positivecontribution such movements can make to development. There is increasing recognition thatskilled emigrants can be considered a potential asset to their home countries, able to act as agentsof development and to strengthen co-operation between their home countries (i.e. the countryfrom which emigration takes place and where the migrant is assumed to have received most if notall of their education) and host countries (i.e. the country where the migrant is or seeks to be livingand working). This is seen to operate in four main ways: • Through the sending of remittances, which boost home country incomes; 2
  3. 3. • Through return migration, whereby emigrants gain more skills, knowledge and technological expertise overseas which they are then able to re-apply upon return to their home country; • Through network development, whereby emigrants and diaspora communities are able to further the development of their country through gaining new commercial or strategic contacts while overseas; • Through incentivisation, whereby the prospect of being able to emigrate encourages people in developing countries to raise their skill levels and thereby raises the overall skill levels in those countries.It is clear, however, that not all sending countries have been equally able to take advantage ofthese potential benefits of skilled migration. This paper will examine why and how benefits accrueto different developing countries from migration and how these can be maximised and thepotential harm minimised. It will then look at the policy implications of this from the point of viewof both developed and developing countries.Although the focus of this paper is on the impact of skilled migration, it is important to note that itis far from clear or agreed what constitutes a “skilled” migrant, and that patterns of unskilledmigration interact with and affect patterns of skilled migration. For instance, while most migrantswho moved to the UK from Eastern Europe following the expansion of the EU in 2004 wereemployed in positions viewed as unskilled, many were in fact qualified to a much higher level(Saleheen & Shadforth, 2006). If soft skills are included in the equation, the picture becomes evenmore unclear. Evidence indicates that employers not only see migrant workers as offering softskills that are hard to find in the home population (such as punctuality, reliability and courtesy), butthat the very fact of migrating indicates the presence of skills such as financial management andresponsibility (LSC, 2006). While acknowledging these conceptual difficulties, this paper is basedon an understanding of a skilled migrant as an individual with qualifications (academic orvocational) in a subject area and to a level demanded by employers, who is either working in aposition that utilises those qualifications outside their home country or is seeking to do so.2. THE DEVELOPMENTAL BENEFITS OF SKILLED MIGRATION2.1 RemittancesWhile the exact scale of the value of remittance flows to developing countries is impossible toascertain, estimates indicate that it is considerably higher than the amount of official developmentassistance (Addison 2005). As private transfers of funds, the extent to which such flows can be 3
  4. 4. harnessed for developmental purposes is limited, and it has been argued that most are used tofund “conspicuous consumption” – that is, purchases that are seen to enhance social status bydemonstrating wealth, which may be imported goods (Ang, 2007). This overlooks, however, theirsignificant role in economic development at the macro level (through their contribution todeveloping countries’ balance of payments) and at the micro level (by raising the standards ofliving of households), as well as their potential contribution to entrepreneurialism andimprovement of the circulation of capital (Tall, 2005). There is evidence that remittances in Indiaare invested in agriculture, small enterprise, education, health and housing, all of which contributeto improved household wellbeing (Deshingkar, Khandelwal & Farrington, 2008).For policy makers, the main concern around remittances is how to make them work fordevelopment without making the wider economy overly dependent on remittances and whilerespecting the status of remittances as private funds. Carling (2008) suggests that policy makerscan legitimately address seven policy goals in this area: • Increasing the volume of current remittances by, for instance, lowering the barriers to market entry for money transfer service providers. • Stimulating the direct investment of remittances including through small-scale credit schemes. • Stimulating indirect investment of remittances by promoting transfers through financial institutions. • Stimulating development-friendly consumption by promoting local production. • Encouraging sound management of remittances through, for instance, financial education programmes. • Securing future remittances through measures like bilateral labour migration agreements. • Promoting the channelling of remittances directly to development purposes by, for instance, taxing remittance transfers (though it should be noted that this raises questions about the legitimacy of such taxation and the risk of funds being lost to bureaucratic procedures and / or corruption, as well as the potential of such a tax acting as a deterrent to using formal channels to transmit funds).Currently, formal mechanisms for the transfer of remittances are often highly costly andincentivise the use of informal channels which can make migrants vulnerable to being defrauded(Addison 2005). Policy makers should seek to make such transfers cheaper and easier and toensure that they are made through reliable formal channels. There is also a need to understand 4
  5. 5. the link between skill levels and remittance-sending behaviour. Faini (2003), for instance, arguesthat evidence indicates that more highly skilled migrants are less likely to remit over time. This maybe related to the tendency for skilled migrants to stay longer in the country of destination and tobring their dependents with them.Remittances can, therefore, play a role in promoting development, but evidence shows their effectis smaller than for traditional growth engines like exports and foreign direct investment(Jongwanich, 2007). As Portes (2006) points out, the positive effects of remittances are deeplycontingent on other factors: there is no evidence of any country achieving a trajectory of sustaineddevelopment based solely on remittances sent by expatriates. In particular, remittances can onlyencourage sustained economic growth if the policies are put in place to encourage legal transfersand productive investment, to reduce corruption and bureaucracy, and to provide an investment-friendly infrastructure (Castles 2008). In Morocco, for instance, the creation of a network ofconsulates, post offices and bank branches overseas in the 1970s and 1980s aimed to facilitatelegal remittance transfers, but the developmental impact of remittance transfers were limited by agenerally unfavourable investment climate, excessive red tape and corruption, and a lack of trustin government institutions (de Haas 2008).2.2 Return migrationThere is evidence that where migrants can be induced to invest in the economies of their homecountries – either from overseas or by returning – this can have a tremendous impact ondevelopment. A recent example is the burgeoning Indian scientific and technological industries,where the impact of returning emigrants (mainly from the USA) has been crucial in drivingindustrial development and the creation of advanced educational infrastructure in the form of theIndian Institutes of Technology (Khadria, 2008). The factors affecting this process are diverse, andinclude several outside the direct control of policy makers in either sending or host countries – notleast the prevailing global economic conditions that will affect migrants’ choices when it comes toinvestment and settlement. In the Indian example cited above, for instance, at least some of thereturn migration is likely to have been driven by the “dotcom bust” of the early 2000s, which mayhave driven many ICT professionals to reconsider their plans and to look afresh at theopportunities back in India.The challenge for policy makers, then, is to find ways to build incentives to return into themigration process without impinging on migrants’ freedom to choose where they settle. In theory,a system of migration that facilitates return would benefit all concerned: 5
  6. 6. • It would allow skilled individuals to benefit from higher wages and professional development opportunities in a developed country • It would allow host countries to benefit from the economic contribution of skilled professionals and subsequently from the network links to the sending country • It would allow sending countries to benefit from the additional skills and networks generated by their citizens’ experience overseas.Where return migration already occurs, policy makers should consider how they can bestinfluence the extent to which the beneficial impact of return migrants can be maximised. In Egypt,for instance, a European Training Foundation study found that although most return migrants felttheir experiences abroad had helped them to find work in Egypt, less than one percent hadreceived any information on returning migrant schemes seeking to make the most of theirpotential contribution (ETF, 2007). In the wider sense, skilled migrants will only be enticed to return– and will only be able to make a significant contribution to development – if the economic andsocial conditions in the home country are attractive. For this reason, return migration should onlybe seen as one potential element in a wider approach to development.2.3 Network developmentEven if they remain overseas, skilled migrants and diaspora communities can contribute todevelopment in more ways than through sending remittances. Through their professionalnetworks and investment decisions they can act as effective advocates and direct supporters ofdevelopment-related initiatives in their home countries, and serve as “intermediaries, commercialambassadors, role models, mentors, partners, and investors for ventures back home” (Clemens,2009) as well as facilitators of broader transnational links that can benefit the economies of bothsending and host countries. Studies have found a positive correlation between Foreign DirectInvestment (FDI) flows and the number of graduates from the (sender) country receiving FDIpresent in the (host) investing country (UNDP, 2009). The effect of skills levels upon development,therefore, need not depend on keeping the people with those skills in one place, and indeed theimpact of skills development may be multiplied by allowing the diffusion of skilled personnel.Developments in communications technology have allowed governments in developing countriesto seek active engagement of their diaspora communities as part of development strategies. Thishas often been seen as a ‘quick win’ in comparison to encouraging return migration, as it does notdepend on the large scale investment necessary to create an environment that will encouragereturn. It does, however, demand a committed approach from sending country governments anda willingness to reform public and educational institutions at home to ensure they can meet the 6
  7. 7. standards required to forge partnerships with highly skilled emigrants (Germenji & Gedeshi, 2008).In Albania, for instance, a UNDP-supported programme for the engagement of the diaspora inAlbania’s socio-economic development seeks not only to develop official links with skilled overseasAlbanians but also to develop local capacity and to encourage return migration through theopening up of civil service recruitment to overseas graduates (UNDP, 2007). Similarly, the US-based Nigerian computer scientist Philip Emeagwali has proposed that the investment power ofthe African diaspora could be mobilised to bring about the outsourcing of a million high-tech jobsfrom the USA to Africa (Emeagwali, 2003).In contrast to the tendency noted above for more highly skilled migrants to send lowerremittances, there is evidence that higher levels of education and occupational status areassociated with greater participation in economic, political and socio-cultural “transnationalactivism” through these networks, and that this may spring from a sense of obligation on the partof migrant professionals to the country and institutions that educated them. In the case of India,the growth of a significant educated population overseas created a transnational network ofpersonnel, resources and ideas that provided fresh developmental impetus to institutions in India(Portes, 2006).2.4 IncentivisationIn countries where emigration is seen as a route to improved livelihoods, the prospect ofemigrating may act as an incentive to pursue education and training. On the assumption that notall those who intend to migrate will actually do so, this incentivisation effect could result in raisedskill levels in the sending country. This has been shown to have occurred in Fiji, for instance,where, despite very high emigration rates to Australia and an over-representation of skilledworkers among the emigrant population, the absolute number of skilled Fijian workers in Fiji hasincreased (Chand & Clemens, 2008). Similarly, Rapoport (2002) examined data from the 1990 UScensus and various data from other OECD countries along with reliable indicators of emigrationrates for 50 developing countries, and found a positive and highly significant effect of migrationprospects on human capital formation. However, the strength of such effects will vary with thecontext of individual countries.What is arguably lacking in current understandings of this phenomenon is how it fits into widerpsychological effects that the prospect of migration may have on people in developing countries.For instance, Khadria argues that the possibility of migration may have “created a sense ofdesperation amongst the low-income Indian populace to emigrate for the sake of upward socio-economic mobility” (Khadria, 2008: 103). If incentivisation is a factor, it can only be one part of a 7
  8. 8. complex set of psychological responses to migration with a still more complex set of behaviouralresponses, about which little conclusive research has been conducted.3. CONTEXTS: WHY SOME COUNTRIES BENEFIT AND SOME SUFFER FROM SKILLEDMIGRATIONThe impact that skilled migration has on the country of origin will depend to a great extent on thecharacteristics of those who leave and their proclivity to send remittances, develop their networksand/or eventually return. Other factors, however, will also have a significant impact and these canhelp policy makers understand how developmental benefits of skilled migration can be maximisedin specific countries.3.1 Economic conditions and public sector capacityThe degree to which the potential benefits of migration can be reaped in practice depends to alarge extent on the wider economic structure of the sending country (UNDP, 2009). This will have agreat impact on, for instance, the ability of the economy to absorb skilled workers who return fromoverseas or who have been incentivised by the prospect of migration to gain skills but who decideto remain at home. Similarly, the degree to which new industries can spread to developingcountries through networks of skilled emigrants depends heavily on the openness of the politicaland business environment in sending countries. The more open business climates in India, Taiwanand China has been identified as a factor contributing to the ability of the high tech businesssectors in those countries to benefit more from their skilled emigrant populations than, say, thosein Iran, Vietnam or Russia (Saxenian, 2006).Where domestic labour markets are unable to absorb high-skilled individuals, emigration canfunction as an economic safety-valve. However, this inability to utilise high skill labour may alsoreflect education systems that do not tend to produce workers with the skills and knowledgedemanded by employers, either domestically or internationally, as has been argued in the case ofEgypt (ETF, 2007). In this situation, skilled migration cannot operate as an effective safety valve asmany skilled workers will find themselves unable to meet the requirements of employers indeveloped countries. This has been reflected in Egypt’s high levels of unemployment for tertiarygraduates. In this case, investment in the capacity and quality of the educational system isnecessary both to absorb skilled labour at home and to facilitate skilled migration.In terms of public sector capacity, it is worth noting the increasing evidence that emigrants canspur the improvement of political institutions (and by implication governance) in their home 8
  9. 9. countries. Moroccan emigrants to France, for instance, have been found to shape basicinfrastructure investments by the government in their home region after returning (UNDP, 2009).There may be potential for a virtuous circle of skilled migrants who bring knowledge, expertise andskills back to their home countries which they can use to enhance governance and in turn facilitategreater utilisation of their fellow citizens’ skills. This may, in turn, have the potential to enhance theincentivisation effect outlined above.3.2 PopulationEmigration rates tend to have an inverse relationship to population size. The 48 countries aroundthe world with populations below 1.5 million have an average emigration rate of 18.4%, comparedto the global average of 3%. Three of these – all small Caribbean states – have emigration ratesover 40% (UNDP, 2009). It has been argued that smaller countries are especially vulnerable tonegative repercussions from skilled migration, as the loss of each skilled worker represents aproportionally larger loss of their total stock of skills – even before these higher emigration ratesare factored in. Adams (2003), for instance, found that Jamaica, El Salvador and Tunisia lostespecially high proportions of their tertiary-educated population, while a large labour exporter likeChina did not.3.3 ProximityPatterns of migration tend to favour routes between countries that share close proximity –geographically, culturally, linguistically and in terms of religion (UNDP, 2009). Countries that shareclose proximity with a large developed economy where job prospects are good tend to experiencehigher levels of emigration, to the extent that serious skills shortages can result. Jamaica is a clearexample of this, where a significant proportion of the skilled population is known to emigrate tothe United States – a country that is geographically and linguistically close to Jamaica, as well assharing common elements of culture and religion. A 2009 study found that a third of Jamaicanuniversity graduates were currently living abroad or had previously done so. However, the samestudy found that over 16% of returned migrants in Jamaica had possessed a degree before they leftthe country, showing that even in small countries with high rates of emigration the skilled do notnecessarily always stay abroad (Lucas & Chappell, 2009).3.4 Unskilled migration patternsMigration is a complex phenomenon and movements cannot easily be separated out into differentforms. Patterns of skilled migration – and therefore their impact – interact with and blur withunskilled migration, and the prevalence of unskilled migration in any one country can affect thepotential of skilled migration to work for development. This particularly applies to the 9
  10. 10. “incentivisation” effect outlined above in section 2.4. In countries where there are large,established flows of unskilled migration, any incentivisation effect boosting take-up of educationand training in the sending country is likely to be weak. This has been shown, for instance, inMexico, where boys are more likely to drop out of school to pursue low-skilled (often irregular)migration to the United States rather than pursue longer term high skill migration goals (McKenzie& Rapoport, 2006).3.5 Internal migration patternsIt has been argued that the “brain drain” is as much internal within any country affected as it isinternational (Skeldon, 2005). The phenomenon of internal migration has received comparativelylittle attention, yet it dwarfs international movements: according to UNDP estimates, 740 millionpeople were internal migrants in 2009, four times as many as those who have movedinternationally (UNDP 2009). This sometimes neglected fact has particular repercussions forquestions of skilled migration and developmental impact, as the majority of those who movewithin their own countries go from rural to urban areas. This is particularly true of skilled people,who frequently move to urban areas where they can expect more in terms of earning potential,supporting infrastructure and networking opportunities (Clemens, 2009). In countries whoseeconomies are still largely dependent on rural and agrarian sectors, this has profound implicationsfor the level and type of skills present in the labour force and the degree to which these skills canbe utilised in the economy, and therefore for our understanding of the impact of internationalmigration.The migration of skilled personnel from rural to urban areas has implications, for instance, forpolicies that seek to prevent “brain drain” by restricting the international migration of suchindividuals. Such restrictions can do nothing to incentivise such skilled people to serve in ruralareas within their countries where need is frequently greatest. It is unclear, for instance, how itwould benefit the development needs of the most deprived areas of Kenya to restrict theemigration of medical personnel when 65.8% of Kenyan doctors choose to reside in Nairobi,serving 8.3% of the population (Clemens, 2009).Internal migration and international migration can also be complementary. In the 1970s and 1980sin Malaysia, for example, industrialisation led to rapid urbanisation and acute skills shortages inrural areas. At the same time, population growth and industrial changes led to a surplus ofagricultural labour in neighbouring Indonesia. In this case, international migration from Indonesiato Malaysia was able to fill the gaps left by internal migration in the host country (UNDP, 2009). 10
  11. 11. 3.6 Social changes and genderThe impact of migration on gender relations in the home country, and the implications for skilllevels that this has, is not well understood, and evidence is highly mixed as to whether it is largelybeneficial or harmful. This applies regardless of whether those migrating are predominantly maleor predominantly female. Where men migrate, particularly from rural areas, women can beempowered in their absence and increase participation in community decision making (Deshingkar& Grimm, 2005), something which is linked in turn to greater participation in training (Collett &Gale, 2009). Male migration has also been linked to increased labour market participation bywomen (Mendola & Carletto, 2009), though this has also been interpreted as working to women’sdetriment by raising their workloads (Dodson 1998). It is also not clear how permanent positivesocial changes tend to be after male migrants return to their home communities.The experience of women who themselves migrate may be more significant, given that emigrationrates for skilled workers are substantially higher for women than men in most developingcountries and that barriers to professional achievement at home seem likely to at least partlyexplain this (UNDP, 2009). Where women migrate, norms adopted in host countries – includinggreater educational and career expectations for girls – can filter back to the place of origin(Fargues, 2006). In Miraflores in the Dominican Republic, for instance, large-scale migration toBoston in the 1990s led to changes in gender roles in their home country, including a more equaldistribution of household tasks and greater empowerment (UNDP, 2009). Again, however, womenwho migrate may be particularly vulnerable: a study of female migrant domestic workers in Cairofound that a third had been called abusive names by their employers, 27% had experience physicalabuse and 10% had suffered sexual harassment (Development Research Centre on Migration,Globalisation and Poverty, 2009).4. POLICIES FOR DEVELOPMENT-FRIENDLY SKILLED MIGRATIONWhile there appear to be good reasons to think that skilled migration can be made to work fordevelopment, more research is needed to better understand these processes, the magnitude ofthe effects on development and the conditions under which they operate best. It is also clear that,when poorly managed, migration can have damaging effects on economic and social prosperity(Commander, 2003). The policy suggestions outlined below are therefore contingent on thedevelopment of a clearer evidence base and a better understanding of the implications fordevelopmental processes of the specific contexts in individual countries and regions. 11
  12. 12. 4.1 Policies in developed countriesAs the UN’s 2009 Development Report, Overcoming barriers: human mobility and developmentpoints out, policy responses to migration in developed countries can still be unhelpful. This reflectsthe peculiar political sensitivities around migration in host countries: often the issue becomesfocused on domestic fears around jobs and social integration, which can lead to repressive entryregimes and a failure to prioritise the developmental needs of sending countries. 1 However, in thecontext of international migration, it has been pointed out that “countries of destination shouldrecognise that the demand for migrant workers is a significant driver of migration from poorercountries, and that they therefore have a responsibility to avoid policies that can lead to adversesocial consequences or negative effects on development” (Castles & Delgado Wise, 2008: 310).Recent years have seen increasing awareness of this responsibility and arguably some genuineefforts to mitigate harm. In the health sector, for instance, the UK has developed a list of countries,viewed as particularly vulnerable to skills shortages in their health systems, from which it will notactively recruit for medical staff. In practice, however, this approach has been criticised as it iseasily circumvented (Barber, Black & Tenaglia, 2005). While active recruitment is discouraged,individuals from the countries concerned are still able to come to work in the UK if they apply ontheir own behalf rather than through an agency. Even if it were totally successful, the policy wouldhave little impact on developing countries in terms of raising standards of medical care: in manyAfrican countries, staffing of the health system would be extremely inadequate even if outflows ofhealth professionals were to stop completely (Kinfu, Dal Poz, Mercer & Evans, 2009). At the time ofwriting, the Home Office was consulting on whether this approach can be extended to othereconomic sectors, but there is little evidence that it would be any more effective than it is in thehealth sector.Some analysts (e.g. Gent & Skeldon, 2006) have argued that this approach focuses on the wrongside of the equation, and that rather than trying to prevent brain drains by restricting entry,developed countries would be better advised to concentrate on boosting capacity in developingcountries to supply the skilled personnel demanded in the developed world. In other words, sincedeveloped countries stand to benefit from the output of developing countries’ education and skillsdevelopment systems, they should use their resources to invest in those systems and so boost thesupply of skilled personnel who can be deployed both at home and overseas through migration.This is a rational argument about boosting supply in response to demand, but it is also a question1 It should be noted that these sensitivities often apply equally to internal migration, where a powerful, middleclass urban elite can effectively prevent an objective political discussion of migration: see for example Deshingkaret al., 2008. 12
  13. 13. of justice and fairness: currently, rich countries can be seen as benefiting from the often meagreresources developing countries have available for skills development.Gent and Skeldon (2006) argue that developed countries should seek to build, fund and monitorproviders of advanced training at “key centres” in the developing world, providing occupationaltraining to developed world standards and helping both to meet demand for skills in othercountries and to raise skills levels at home (since there is an underlying assumption that not allgraduates of such centres would in fact migrate). While this is an attractive idea, it does raise twocrucial questions: • What are “developed world standards”, and how can quality across different countries be standardised to meet them? Given the huge diversity in education and training systems around the world and the different ways of defining and assessing quality in training provision, how could such training centres be sure of matching their output to the skills gaps prevalent in the world at any one time? • Are international skills gaps the same as those at home? If graduates who do not migrate have been trained with foreign labour markets in mind, will they be able to find jobs at home? If not, can the centres function both as a supply centre for the international market and as an opportunity for people to develop skilled and satisfying careers in their home countries? If they cannot, would such an approach risk the development of a two-tier system within developing countries? Again, the case of Egypt highlights that a country with high levels of labour surplus will need to develop its skills systems to meet both domestic and international demand if it is to make the best use of its available human resources (ETF, 2007).The case for developed countries (or, indeed, multi-national businesses working in co-operationwith governments) to play a role in building skills development in the developing world hangs ontheir interest in promoting prosperity and peace globally as well as on filling their own skills needs.In the context of domestic concerns around immigration, it has also been argued that helping tocreate an enabling economic and political environment in countries of origin is a better way ofcontrolling immigrant flows and encouraging return than the repressive policies sometimespursued (Castles & Delgado Wise, 2008). Capacity building initiatives and skills developmentassistance in sending countries are therefore in the interests of both sending and receivingcountries. It is vital that any such projects should be implemented jointly, drawing on localexpertise and leadership to ensure that the needs of the developing country are placed ascentrally as the needs of any potential host countries in the developed world. 13
  14. 14. Finally, it has been noted that a striking feature of UK schemes to encourage temporary migration,like the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme and the Sectors Based Scheme, is the apparent lack ofparticipation by migrant workers themselves, and that addressing this would help improvetransparency and reduce the potential for abuses of the system such as visa overstaying bytemporary migrants. It is also likely that encouraging input by migrants themselves into policyprocesses would allow for a more comprehensive basis for analysing the impact on migrants andon their home communities (Barber et al., 2005).4.2 Policies in developing countriesPartly because of the lack of reliable data, policy makers in developing countries have also beenseen to neglect migration as a factor affecting their decisions (e.g. Srivastava & Sasikumar, 2003,Deshingkar et al., 2008). Most national development and poverty reduction strategies do notrecognise the potential of migration or integrate its dynamics into planning. In some developingcountries, however, skilled emigration has been embraced as a policy tool for development, withgovernments specifically encouraging citizens to gain skills in order to deploy these abroad. ThePhilippines is the best known example of this, and has successfully increased incomes through thesending of remittances while preventing negative “brain drain” effects. Despite the large numbersof trained Filipino nurses departing for richer countries, for instance, there are more nurses perhead in the Philippines than in far richer countries such as Austria (WHO, 2005). This seems tosupport the theory of incentivisation outlined above, and indicates that through enhancing theircitizens’ freedom to migrate as skilled workers, developing countries can both raise skill levels athome and raise incomes through remittances. The case of the Philippines, however, raises thepossibility that the effect can work too well: there is a real chance that the country will have asurplus of nurses in years to come who may well end up unemployed (Asis, 2008).If the highly skilled cannot be productively employed locally, emigration may be left as their onlyrational decision (Skeldon, 2005). Training can therefore only be an effective route to good localemployment if it is designed to meet local needs. In many cases, developing countries have soughtto create professional talent by importing training practices and content from abroad, when theinfrastructure, conditions and capital needed to put the resulting skills into practice are scarce orentirely absent. In this way, “less developed nations end up spending scarce resources ineducating personnel whose future potential for career development is situated abroad” (Portes,2006:27). Curricula in developing countries need to reflect this: focusing engineering studies, forinstance, on the development and maintenance of core infrastructure that may be lacking locally,or adapting medical training to take account of conditions of scarcity (Clemens, 2009). An 14
  15. 15. alternative to this supply-side approach would be to create the demand for skilled employmentthrough the creation of public sector positions in those areas most in need. In Senegal, forinstance, access to education has been improved by shifting resources towards the training andemployment of “community teachers” from under-served communities. They receive more limitedtraining and pay than regular teachers and have succeeded in re-opening hundreds of schools at alow cost (ibid).Even where emigration has been shown to have undermined a country’s transition to a developedeconomy, there is increasingly recognition that the policy priority should not be to try to prevent itbut to optimise its benefits and tap into the skills of the country’s citizens both at home andoverseas. In the Albanian context, Germenji and Gedeshi (2008) argue precisely this, proposing thecountry focus on the three policy objectives of reforming education at home, encouraging returnmigration, and mobilising the Albanian diaspora as strategies to turn the “brain drain” of the 1990sinto a tool for development. However, such efforts will have limited success if they are notaccompanied by general political reform and economic progress in sending countries that createattractive environments to return to and a positive investment climate (de Haas, 2008).5. THE GLOBAL MANAGEMENT OF SKILLED MIGRATION IN THE FUTUREIt is clear that no individual country can expect to respond to and manage international migrationunilaterally. Apart from the inherent transnational nature of international migration, theeffectiveness of any one country’s policies will depend to a large extent on those of othercountries. As migration routes increase and diversify, and inter-linkages with other global issuessuch as trade, development and human rights become clearer, the need for international co-operation in migration management is increasingly accepted. A number of internationalinstruments do cover specific aspects of cross-border mobility, but more comprehensiveagreements have been elusive due to widely diverging views on the desirability of restricting orliberalising migration flows, the proper role for the state in migration management, and a desire onthe part of many states to retain a high degree of flexibility in determining migration policy (IOM,2008).A key problem concerns data management. Although data on migration and development isavailable from a variety of sources, the international nature of the phenomenon and the diverserange of actors and parties involved can lead to a confusing picture. In particular, there are nouniversally agreed definitions of what constitutes a “migrant”, and individual countries varyenormously in terms of the quality and extent of their labour market and population surveys.Information on the basic geography of migration flows is also lacking (Black & Sward, 2008). 15
  16. 16. As Laczko (2005) argues, the challenge of making migration work for the benefit of all concernedmilitates for the development of multilateral, as well as national and regional, frameworks for themanagement of migration. Although the work of organisations such as the InternationalOrganisation for Migration (IOM) has helped greatly to enhance our shared understanding ofmigration-related phenomena, the world lacks a body with the capacity to develop multilateralagreements or establish common definitions and measuring tools in this area. Given the hugeimpact of migration patterns on economic development in both sending and receiving countries, itseems incongruous that a body of this nature exists to regulate and monitor global trade, but notfor migration (with the exception of refugees). This in itself reflects the disproportionately lowpriority placed on migration by the development community in general, particularly in comparisonwith other phenomena such as international trade or macroeconomic policies (UNDP, 2009).It has been proposed that such an organisation could be developed through expanding the role ofthe International Labour Organisation to include the definition of a multilateral framework formigration, expanding its surveillance role, and by providing it with additional resources (Faini,2003). Giving such an organisation greater powers of enforcement and the ability to brokermultilateral agreements would offer a real opportunity to provide global management for an issuethat, by its nature, cannot be managed by individual countries or through bilateral arrangementsonly. It would facilitate: • The development of genuinely global datasets to improve understanding of migration patterns (migrants’ origins, their destinations, their motivations and their subsequent trajectories after migration) • The development of standardised definitions and data collection standards to allow accurate comparisons across countries • The identification of countries, regions or sectors where special measures may be justified to minimise negative impacts of migration • The development of innovative solutions to address such negative impacts.6. CONCLUSIONSAnalyses that seek to cast skilled migration simplistically as either a driver of or an obstacle todevelopment miss the fundamental point that the term “migration” covers a complex set ofindividual and collective responses to inexorable processes of globalisation and the restructuringof relationships in the post-colonial era. As such, the challenge lies not in preventing or 16
  17. 17. encouraging migration but in understanding those conditions under which it can have the mostbeneficial impact and the points at which policy levers are effective at fostering these conditions.This can only be successfully achieved if the phenomenon is understood within a broaderdevelopmental context that links its potential benefits to wider approaches to economicinfrastructure, political governance and social welfare: that is, if migration is treated as one part ofdevelopment strategy rather than as a vehicle for development in and of itself. In an increasinglymobile world, policy makers in developed and developing countries and on a global scale aresome way from having access to the sophisticated data and resources that would allow themanagement of migration to play this kind of role within development strategies. 17
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