Reassessing the Impact of Brain Drain on Developing Countries

This article explores the effects and implications of brain drain on developing countries. Recognising that brain drain is not always negative, the author advocates that reducing migration may not end the challenge of brain drain. Instead, what is needed are better methodologies to assess the net impacts of migration — including but not limited to the impacts of brain drain — as well as more nuanced policies that target particular problems where and when they arise.

Two research priorities are required – devising methodologies for differentiating between brain drain per se and a subset of cases that might best be termed “brain strain”, and devising a more robust methodology for understanding the overall net impacts of migration. Such methodological innovations are a necessary first step in the quest for workable and effective policy interventions that can optimize the impacts of migration for all concerned. Unless such methodologies are devised, policymakers risk doing more harm than good by restricting mobility in the name of countering brain drain, while ignoring the structural causes that are generating the pressures to emigrate.

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