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Types of Migration
Internal Migration
Global Labour Mobility
Child Migration
Skilled Migration
Forced Migration
Return Migration

Key Themes
Modelling Causes and Consequences
Links between Migrations
Rural Poverty and Livelihoods
Social Protection
Gender and Generations
Health and Education

UK / international
Albania / Eastern Europe
Ghana / Africa
Egypt / the Middle East
Bangladesh / South Asia




Skilled Migration

Skilled MigrationIn 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.


  Key Projects
  7a: International Comparisons of the Highly-Skilled

7b: Mobility of the Highly Skilled in Ghana

7c: Mobility of the Highly Skilled in Bangladesh

7d: Student Migration from Bangladesh


Research report from Bangladesh on the migration of skilled nurses

Globalization, Skilled Migration and Poverty Alleviation: Brain Drains in Context, Nov 2005 (WP-T15)

Global Forum on Migration and Development Background Paper: Highly Skilled Migration: Balancing Interests and Responsibilities


‘National Consultation on Institutional and Regulatory Reforms for Training of Highly Skilled Nurses for Overseas Employment’ on Monday 16th June 2008 at RMMRU, University of Dhaka

‘Entrepreneurship of Bangladeshi Diaspora in the US’ on Friday 29th May 2008 at RMMRU, University of Dhaka

A workshop was held on the Migration of the Highly Skilled in Accra in July 2005, drawing together key actors from the health and higher education sectors.


  Key Readings
  © University of Sussex 2003 Text-Only
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With thanks to IOM and Claudia Natali for the photographs