Causes And Cure Of Brain Drain In Developing Countries

Google defines brain drain as the emigration of highly trained or intelligent people from a particular country.  Anyone who has been following the news will be aware of President Donald Trump’s insistence on stricter border protection and his determination to build a wall along the US-Mexico border in a bid to secure America from migrant invasion – immigrants who would do anything to get into the United States in hopes of greener pastures.

It reminds me of how different nationals were repatriated from Libya only a few years back, a rescue mission which was embarked on as a result of the inhumane conditions the illegal migrants were subjected to. These were immigrants who had hoped to cross over to Europe by land or sea, through Libya. Nigeria for one had the highest number of repatriated immigrants.

Now when we hear of illegal immigrants anywhere in the world, we are quick to assume that they are uneducated people who have not been able to meet the conditions for obtaining a visa in the foreign country they wish to reside in. But this is far from the truth.

Developing countries are witnessing an exodus of its intellectuals in what we can term as “human capital flight” or “brain drain”. These people, who are dissatisfied with the economies of their own countries, have taken to not only legal but illegal means of fleeing the country. The lucky ones are absorbed into their original professions in their new countries, perhaps, after a few years of studying and extensive preparation. Others start from menial jobs and are sometimes stagnated in these jobs for years, before they are able to secure white collar jobs.

Two different, yet identical causes of brain drain, which are often considered as top in the list, are unemployment and underemployment.

Unemployment in basic terms being the inability for qualified people to find jobs, while underemployment being the inability to find a job that befits one’s skills and qualifications.

Some people are employed but are not utilizing their full potential. This is a common problem in Nigeria where a first-class graduate of Geology finds himself working as a Teller in a commercial bank.

In some cases, some people major in certain subjects in schools, only to graduate and realize that there are no jobs in those fields. Nobody wants to spend 5 years studying Genetic Engineering, only to graduate and never be able to find a job in his field. It is only a matter of time before the unemployed and underemployed begin to seek for gainful opportunities where their talents and qualifications will be properly utilised, in foreign shores.

Many people on the other hand are not as particular about a choice of occupation as a better standard of living. They therefore immigrate, not minding whatever job they may be required to do overseas, as long as it can pay the bills and afford them a higher standard of living.

When talking about standard of living, indices such as access to good and quality health care, security, economic stability, constant electricity, free education for children and many more come to mind.

Developing countries are witnessing an exodus of its intellectuals in what we can term as “human capital flight” or “brain drain”.

It is common to see families – husband and wife who are reputable professionals in their fields, together with their children, relocating to a foreign land, not minding if they need to start all over, most times at the very bottom.

Insecurity is another serious cause of brain drain especially in third world countries. No expert wants to reside in a region that is unsafe and volatile, regardless of how much he or she may be earning. When as a professional, you either stand the chance of being kidnapped or killed in a war-ridden country, you will do as others who have gone before you and seek asylum in a country where you can peacefully co-exist with fellow humans, without a threat to your life.

Wars and insecurities bring nothing but underdevelopment. So, it is not surprising that intellectuals will always run away from their precarious environments and take solace in safer places.  Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are two practical examples.

 Lastly, we see in a situation like Nigeria that a summary of all the above reasons for brain drain can be termed as a “government that does not work”.  We can find all the reasons for brain drain in Nigeria and consolidate them into one big reason, which is that the government is not working.

Nothing seems to work. Minimum wage is one of the lowest in the world; even the controversial N30,000 is still in limbo, there is high level of unemployment, high level of inflation, the economy is sinking deeper into debts, there are no reasonable fiscal policies, insecurity perpetuated by terrorists is springing up on every geopolitical zone, politicians and elected leaders are not accountable to the people, democratic principles are being trampled upon, gross inequality and corruption seem to be the order of the day.

With all of these taken into consideration, young and vibrant intellectuals feel like they have no future in such an environment. They pack their bags en-masse and leave at the slightest available opportunity.

Having looked at some of the causes of brain drain, what then is the cure? Simply put, the cure is having a government that works.

We do not see Americans or the British immigrating in large numbers to other countries, do we? Why not? It’s simply because their systems work. Nobody will leave a country if everything is working. When there are jobs, access to proper education, good health care, security, government financial aids to small businesses without disparity, people would generally see no reason to leave such a place.

While it is true that no government can cater for a hundred percent of its citizens as there will always be less privileged people in the society, if the government is responsible enough to provide for a greater percentage of its citizens, then that is a government that works.

Sadly, there is not much to expect from third world countries as the greed on the part of their leaders, would not allow them to imitate and implement some of the economic practices that enable the Western world to have growing and sustainable economies.

It is left for anyone who wants to be a part of such growth, to pick up their belongings and leave when the time is right.

Princess Golley is a licensed Human Resource Administrator and a practicing administrator with over 6 years of experience. She wrote in from Canada.

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