This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Brain Train

The role of remittances from migrants to their country of origin is now well-understood. A new USAID-supported study from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, highlights a new aspect of giving back--the role that "diaspora" migrants play in volunteering their time and talent back in the country of origin, including even the pro bono training of professionals.

The argument that diaspora volunteerism can compensate for perceived development losses stemming from “brain drain” has been advanced for decades. But it remains controversial. Several high-profile initiatives target highly skilled and technical professionals from the diaspora for short- or medium-term consultancies in their countries of origin — often as volunteers. These programs grew out of the 1970s concern that the departure of highly skilled individuals represented a substantial human resource loss for many developing countries.

More recently, debates about the development implications of highly skilled migration have become more balanced, although they have certainly not disappeared. Scholars and policymakers have come to recognize three important points: (1) Many skilled migrants continue to contribute to and maintain ties with their countries of origin after departure (“brain circulation”);ƒ (2) Had their migration options been restricted, fewer people would have been able to develop their skill;ƒ and (3) The prospect of increased opportunities for skilled migrants may influence the educational decisions of youth in some developing countries, yielding higher overall educational outcomes and a more skilled domestic workforce.

In essence, we are witnessing the evolution of transnational migrants from simply having their boots in two countries to making significant contributions to both the country of origin and destination--i.e., having their roots in two countries. This can be a driver of social change in both places.

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