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Brain Drain

František Novotný František Novotný / Ed. 2. 5. 2016

Imagine a small village, relatively isolated from the outside world. A few hundred people live there and just several of them have a medical education. However, one doctor, let’s call him Brian, decides to leave the village on his own and move to a different, more prosperous town.

Stories like this happen all the time, everywhere. The most educated and skilled workers leaving their developing countries for the more developed ones. It actually happens so much that there is a specific term for it – brain drain. Or brain gain, if your country is on the lucky side. Now, it is obviously a complication if Mr Brian leaves. The other doctors will suddenly have to take care of all of his patients, potentially creating a very risky health environment. In other words, we have seen a loss of intellectual capital and resource of the country. This phenomenon has some bad implications especially for the poorest parts of the world, such as many countries in Africa. For example, there are now more African engineers working in the USA than in Africa itself. Naturally, the United States is the most favourite destination. That is especially thanks to high salaries, low taxes, fewer language barriers and the consequent prestige. It is not only the developing countries losing their “best and brightest” to the US, though. Even France has been estimated to be losing billions of dollars through this process.


Back to the story, though. It is crucial to notice that Mr Brian left his family at home. On one hand, that is pretty sad. But from the economic point of view, he will now be able to send a part of his higher salary back home, thus supporting the local economy of the village. Such flow of money is called a remittance and in terms of numbers, it is a big deal. After India’s 72.2 billion and China’s 63.9, the Philippines is third on the list of top remittance-receiving countries, having received 29.7 billion USD from abroad only last year. That equals about 9 % of their GDP. Hence no wonder the Philippine government actively pursues a policy of labour export. Losing the most skilled then cannot be seen only as a drawback. It is also possible that after some time, Brian will come back to his family. This reverse movement is also beneficial to the community. Apart from the capital flow, the migrants come back enriched with skills and possible innovative ideas.


During the course of the year, we have advised you on how to get to a university abroad or how to have your language abilities certified. When moving abroad for this reason, you are essentially becoming a part of the process outlined here as well. The thing is that there is a reason so many developed countries try to attract university students from other countries. The chance that a particular “brain” will be keen on staying in a particular country is much higher when the brain had been nurtured there. So when contemplating whether to study abroad and what to do next, remember that impacts of such decision on the society should be a part of the equation too.

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