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Skill Flow: A Fundamental Reconsideration of Skilled-Worker Mobility and Development

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  • Clemens, Michael A.

Abstract

Large numbers of doctors, engineers, and other skilled workers from developing counties choose to move to other countries. Do their choices threaten development? The answer appears so obvious that their movement is most commonly known by the pejorative term “brain drain”. This paper reconsiders the question starting from the most mainstream, explicit definitions of “development”. Under these definitions, it is only possible to advance development by regulating skilled workers’ choices if that regulation greatly expands the substantive freedoms of others to meet their basic needs and live the lives they wish. Much existing evidence and some new evidence suggests that regulating skilled-worker mobility itself does nothing to address the underlying causes of skilled migrants’ choices, generally brings few benefits to others, and instead brings diverse unintended harm. The paper concludes with examples of effective ways that developing countries can build a skill base for development without regulating human movement. The mental shift required to take these policies seriously would be aided by dropping the sententious term “brain drain” in favor of the neutral, accurate, and concise term “skill flow”.

Suggested Citation

  • Clemens, Michael A., 2009. "Skill Flow: A Fundamental Reconsideration of Skilled-Worker Mobility and Development," MPRA Paper 19186, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:19186
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Clemens, 2010. "A Labor Mobility Agenda for Development," Working Papers 201, Center for Global Development.
    2. Michael A. Clemens, 2014. "Does development reduce migration?," Chapters,in: International Handbook on Migration and Economic Development, chapter 6, pages 152-185 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    3. John Gibson & David McKenzie, 2011. "Eight Questions about Brain Drain," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 107-128, Summer.
    4. Michael A. Clemens & Colum Graham & Stephen Howes, 2015. "Skill Development and Regional Mobility: Lessons from the Australia-Pacific Technical College," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(11), pages 1502-1517, November.
    5. Adriana Jaramillo & Alan Ruby & Fabrice Henard & Hafedh Zaafrane, 2011. "Internationalization of Higher Education in MENA : Policy Issues Associated with Skills Formation and Mobility," World Bank Other Operational Studies 19461, The World Bank.
    6. C. Fritz Foley & William R. Kerr, 2013. "Ethnic Innovation and U.S. Multinational Firm Activity," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 59(7), pages 1529-1544, July.
    7. Ibrahim Sirkeci & Jeffrey H. Cohen & Dilip Ratha, 2012. "Migration and Remittances during the Global Financial Crisis and Beyond," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 13092, June.
    8. Ted Davis & David M. Hart, 2010. "International Cooperation to Manage High-Skill Migration: The Case of India-U.S. Relations," Review of Policy Research, Policy Studies Organization, vol. 27(4), pages 509-526, July.
    9. Michael Clemens, 2014. "Does Development Reduce Migration? - Working Paper 359," Working Papers 359, Center for Global Development.
    10. Alessandra Venturini, 2012. "Methodological Aspects of Research on Flows Human Capital Flows: A survey," RSCAS Working Papers carim2012/01, European University Institute.
    11. Okeke, Edward N., 2013. "Brain drain: Do economic conditions “push” doctors out of developing countries?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 169-178.
    12. Ratha, Dilip & Mohapatra, Sanket & Scheja, Elina, 2011. "Impact of migration on economic and social development : a review of evidence and emerging issues," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5558, The World Bank.
    13. Anda David & Mohamed Ali Marouani, 2013. "International Labor Mobility and Employment Interactions in Tunisia," Working Papers 804, Economic Research Forum, revised Nov 2013.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    skill; talent; professional; educated; graduate; degree; labor; global;

    JEL classification:

    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General

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