Poor nations drained of brains; India loses 5% : World Bank

Geneva: A World Bank study released yesterday says that poor countries across Africa, Central America and the Caribbean are losing, quite often, staggering portions of their college-educated workers to wealthy democracies.

The study's findings document a troubling pattern of "brain drain," the flight of skilled middle-class workers who have the potential to lift the countries out of poverty. The findings are based on an extensive survey of census and other data from the 30 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world's richest nations.

The study found that from a quarter to almost half of the college educated citizens of poor countries like Ghana, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and El Salvador lived abroad in an OECD country — a fraction that rises to more than 80 per cent for Haiti and Jamaica.

In contrast, less than 5 per cent of the skilled citizens of the powerhouses of the developing world, like India, China, Indonesia and Brazil, live abroad in an OECD country.

These patterns suggest that an extensive flight of educated people is damaging many small to medium-size poor countries, while the largest developing countries are better able to weather relatively smaller losses of talent, and even benefit from them when their skilled workers return or invest in their native lands, according to analysts.

The World Bank study, published yesterday in a book, International Migration, Remittances and the Brain Drain, also presents an analysis of the effect of the money that migrants from Guatemala, Mexico and the Philippines sent home, typically to their families.

Those payments, known as remittances, helped reduce poverty in those countries and were a major source of foreign exchange, but the broader implications were complex.

Most experts agree that the exodus of skilled workers from poor countries is a symptom of deep economic, social and political problems in their homelands and can prove particularly crippling in much needed professions in health care and education.

Devesh Kapur and John McHale argue in their book, Give Us Your Best and Brightest, published last week by the Center for Global Development, a research group in Washington, that the loss of institution builders, hospital managers, university department heads and political reformers, among others — can help trap countries in poverty.