Tuesday, January 22, 2008

World Bank on brain drain

The World Bank's latest Global Economic Prospects (2008) has a section of emigration of highly skilled professionals from developing countries and its impact. Page 124 in this section has two graphs. One shows the percentage of Ph D students from various countries still living in the US after graduation. China tops with over 90%, followed by India (over 80%). Iran and Argentina also have a share of more than 50%. But a number of other countries including Brazil, Chile, Indonesia and South Korea have a share of under 50%- their doctorates prefer to return home.

Another graph alongside shows that the higher the percentage of Phds returning home, the higher is the per capita national income. But correlation, we know, does mean causality. We cannot conclude that because more Phds come back, a country will be more prosperous. It could well be that when a country become prosperous, its nationals would like to return home after studies.

I say this because the growing brain drain in recent years has gone hand in hand with an accleration in economic growth in both India and China (just as it has gone hand in hand with the decline in the quality of economists in government!). The loss of highly skilled professionals may be notional because the home country is not in a position to utilise talent of a certain order.

Moreover, once highly skilled professionals succeed abroad, they may be in a position to contribute to their parent country- remittances are an obvious way but the creation of knowledge networks and initiation of investments from MNCs abroad are other ways in which non-residents can contribute. In other words, brain drain may less of a loss than is commonly supposed.

No comments: