much of the world, skilled migration is synonymous with legal, permanent
migration, as the richest countries compete with each other to fill
structural labour shortages in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.
However, growing concern has been raised by poorer countries that
skilled workers are being "poached" or "hoovered
up" from developing regions, with negative consequences for
development. This situation is seen to be at its most acute in the
case of the health sector, such that some governments in developed
countries, including that of the UK, have responded with programmes
of ethical recruitment that limit or even prohibit the recruitment
of health personnel from poor countries.
While efforts to promote ethical recruitment are to be welcomed,
this puts a simple gloss on what is an extremely complex issue.
Attempts to restrict the migration of the skilled may not achieve
the desired objectives and may unfairly discriminate against career
advancement for African and Asian professionals.
At the same time, at least a part of the skills that citizens
of developing countries possess have been acquired in universities
and training institutions in developed countries. Increasingly,
voices are raised that instead of thinking of ‘brain drain’,
governments need to facilitate ‘brain circulation’.
In this context, research at the Centre is seeking to take a new
look at skilled mobility, bringing together data for a range of
poor countries at macro-level, from destination country sources,
as well as exploring detailed patterns of movement in partner countries.
Issues of concern include:
- What influences movement of skilled people, and how mobility
has changed over time in the context of shifts in the demand for
skills in origin and destination countries
- The impact that the loss of skilled personnel might have on
the domestic stock of skills by sector and profession
- The impact that skilled emigration has on the supply and demand
for domestic training and associated policy responses
- The impact that skilled emigration has on the quality of personnel
in selected skill categories
To date, a new survey of trainee and practising doctors and nurses
in Ghana has been conducted, which has demonstrated the significance
of advanced learning and career development as motivating factors
in migration, rather than simply economic objectives. In addition,
work on Bangladesh has explored the potential for that country to
join the Philippines in adopting a strategy of training nurses explicitly
for ‘export’. We plan to develop this research by focusing
more broadly on the issue of student migration, whilst working with
the World Health Organisation and other relevant organisations in
addressing the challenges of labour mobility within the health sector.