|Arfah Ziah and Ammara Kalsoom
When the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 introduced the world with a Nation-State system, an integral part of the treaty was the sovereignty of every state irrespective of its geography or demography. However, the world is segregated into the concept of superiors and inferiors since day one.
The name kept on changing throughout history; the idea of suppression and discrimination remained constant. The course of history proves that the world has always been trapped in a vicious cycle of power politics. Economic development is the most important aspect of this realpolitik.
Human capital is considered an efficient resource for the economic development of a country. It attracts the attention of the graduates, in particular, the highly skilled labour- from the less developed countries through bright career opportunities, better infrastructural development, and better education opportunities.
Mass migration from the Global South to the Global North in search of monetary values is considered to play a significant role in the underdevelopment of the small states or developing nations. The process of human capital flow from its respective country is known as brain drain. This cross-border human capital flow is usually popular amongst the highly skilled labour of a country.
Brain drain: bane or boon?
In the globalized world where the economies are open, brain drain is believed to be a boon; whereas, leaving one’s native country, merely for better opportunities or lifestyle- has proved to be a bane for the Global South. Here the word, ‘Global South’ is used metaphorically for low- or middle-income countries; in other words, the countries that are either underdeveloped or developing.
Brain drain seems to have pros for the Global South in terms of remittance flows and positive image portrayal by the diaspora living abroad. According to Frederic Docquier, brain drain due to factors like political instability, poverty, low economic growth and racial discrimination serves as a push factor for increased migration.
As opposed to Global South, Global North invests in its economic development rather than focusing only on its economic growth. This is one of the reasons that skilled migrants from the non-OECD countries move to a host country that provides them with better incentives, has more opportunities, is technologically superior, has effective policies and most importantly, invests in researches.
On one hand, the issue of brain drain results in the loss of efficient human resource for the country; it leads to a loss of funds spent on professional training or skill development by the government. That is why for Global North the issue of brain drain is not as grave as it is for the Global South.
Remittances and economic growth
If the country is impoverished, a mild level of brain drain has positive connotations as it brings an influx of remittances and puts less strain on the available resources. Take the example of Pakistan for instance, 6.5 per cent of its total GDP is comprised of remittances, which shows that overseas nationals of a country can be a catalyst for its economic growth.
However, the increase in remittance does not always have a positive effect on the economy. It gives assistance to the rise in the black market for sending and receiving money, as individuals try to avoid the fees being charged by banks and other institutions such as the Western Union.
Added to the list is the psychological impact the children at home may be suffering. Also, mostly families that do not need the remittances, occupy ten per cent of income brackets in the country. Thus, asserting that remittances are not always considered compensation for the brain drain.
What needs to be done?
Contrarily, in the world of sustainable development, this phenomenon has long term negative effects. If the brain drain is high, it leads to global inequalities. The world system that is already categorized in periphery and core states, global inequalities due to brain drain can be catastrophic for the emigrant and immigrant countries.
Apart from the absence of skilled labour from the country, the process of brain drain undermines a state’s ability to develop. So, to reify sustainable development in a country, a favourable equilibrium between low poverty levels and low brain drain is required.
In a nutshell, the economic and political pull factors for human capital have undermined the development of the Global South, inversely benefitting the Global North; by further enhancing its mass production and escalating its economic processes.
A critical analysis of the world system reveals that states should invest heavily in the development of the human resource. Investment in human resource in terms of health, education and skill development, paired with effective policies for improving the socio-economic and political conditions of the country- can contribute to less brain drain and an increase in a net gain.
Thus, by strengthening collaboration between the two, and also adopting the initiatives taken by the Global North, Global South can shift from transforming brain drain to brain gain.
Hence, inferring that without providing bright career opportunities to the young professionals, the issue of brain drain can never be resolved and it will continue to be an Achilles’ heel for the less developed world.
Arfah Zia and Ammara Kalsoom are doing MS in Development Studies from the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. Arfah can be reached at email@example.com and Ammara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.The views expressed in the article are the writers’ own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.