Disruptive migration of trained personnel

Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Brain drain
Attrition of skilled expertise
Loss of human resources to other countries
Skilled labour drain
Non-return of students studying in foreign countries
Excessive emigration of skilled personnel

The migration of highly trained persons has caused concern among nations in recent years. This concern was first generated by the movement of engineers and scientists between a number of developed countries. This flow has since been reduced by a number of factors, and there is a growing awareness that such migration is not of high and continuing concern among the nations involved. However, in recent years the migration of trained persons from developing to developed countries has been attracting more attention. There are several reasons for movement of trained and educated people. Most are choosing to take residence in a country which offers them the best professional and career opportunities. Others use their qualifications as a ticket to leave their country of birth because of their preference for a different political system and standard of living. Personal reasons, such as marriage and family, may also influence the move. Detractions of staying may include lack of bureaucratic and administrative control, lack of high quality facilities, absence of peer appraisal and of social respect.


The migration of highly trained persons is to a relatively few advanced nations having market economies, including particularly USA, UK, Australia, Canada, France and Germany, and provides these nations with a valuable resource for which they pay virtually nothing. Their intellectual life and their research capacity are enriched. They augment at low cost their supply of trained personnel, particularly for critically important positions in the health services. The general availability to these advanced countries of highly-trained immigrants has had a tendency to divert attention from the need to expand their own supplies of highly trained persons. The most recent emigration waves have been from Mediterranean and developing countries, as well as from Central and Eastern Europe. In particular, the re-organization of science academies and universities in Eastern Europe after 1989 was such that a large number of active scientists were no longer employed by their former organizations and were forced to either leave their country or leave their profession. The is also a drain of skilled people from the Latin American countries most advanced in science and technology: Argentina, Brazil and Mexico.



To halt the drain of highly qualified scientists and technologists from third world countries will require (a) an improvement in working conditions, including full involvement in national development programmes on a preferential basis to foreign consultants; (b) the building of appropriate institutions at all levels of scientific education, training and research, including rebuilding the school and university infrastructure; (c) the establishment of world-class research and training institutions in the South in critical areas (food security, energy supply, tropical diseases, soil erosion, deforestation and desertification) which are vital to the survival and credibility of developing nations; (d) international effort to establish local, high-level research and training centres in key areas of frontier science (molecular biology, biotechnology, informatics and new materials); institution of a massive regional scholarship programme; (e) the identification and nurturing of young talented students; and (f) the promotion of strong national linkages between local research institutions, industry and agriculture.

Counter Claim:

The brain drain is largely an imaginary malady. Countries with high emigration rates often have impressive rates of growth. In the 1970's, of the nine countries with the highest levels of emigration, had above average growth rates. Many countries benefit substantially through remittances from unskilled or semi-skilled workers abroad, which makes it difficult for them to put up barriers to movement. The principal motivation for emigration is lack of suitable jobs. Countries with a reasonable balance between the number of professional graduates and jobs available have had little problems with brain drain. Where brain drain does exist, it is primarily in those states where education has out paced infrastructure.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic GrowthGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Date of last update
13.05.2019 – 20:50 CEST