TOPICS: Coping with brain drain

Demographic trends in both developed and developing countries point to significant potential gains from migration. In many developed countries the population is aging fast, while in many developing countries the population is young and growing rapidly. This imbalance is likely to create a high demand for labour in developed countries’ markets. The share of immigrants in the population of high-income countries increased to 11 per cent in 2005, up from 7 per cent two decades ago. The demand for skilled manpower is estimated to go up even more in 2006. Millions of educated migrants from developing countries move to developed countries. The flight of human capital from Nepal has been increasing in the last few years. “Brain drain” may simply be stated as the loss of intellectual or knowledgeable people from the country. Despite being a developing country, Nepal is rich in different kinds of manpower but this advantage is lost to a great extent by this brain drain. People move abroad for a host of “push” factors such as unemployment, low wages, poverty, limited social and economic opportunities and the desire to expand their horizons. When they go abroad, either for a job or education, they tend to settle down there.

Brain drain has both positive and negative aspects. Migration to developed countries can generate a significant amout of wealth. The flow of remittances has brought in a lot of foreign capital. Besides bolstering national economy, they also play an important role in cross-cultural exchange and development of e-commerce. Similarly, an able person abroad can boost the country’s image. His innovations and other achievements might be taken as Nepal’s achievement. For example, a Nepali student topped a telemedicine course in the UK last year. But most of the educated people who go to Europe, Australia, Japan and Northern America never return. These countries are regarded as the ‘green pastures’ in terms of money, education, research work, among other facilities. People are able to get good scholarships, residency and insurance facilities. Not only do they not return to their homeland, some of them even sell their land and property in Nepal to settle abroad.

Recently, a group of scientists working on the agricultural sector left the country, never to return. Reportedly, Rs. 2 million was spent on developing their technical skills. Many more examples of the misuse of government funds exist in the sectors of health, local development, forestry and education. Both the migration of skilled workers and their return are imperative for the country’s development.

The government should hence make it mandatory for the public jobholders to return and serve the government. Similarly, the government should create more high-paying jobs and a conducive environment for more investment so as to retain the skilful workers. Otherwise, Nepal will continue to sow the seeds while some other country will reap the harvest.