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Global Perspective of Brain Drain
Brain Drain becomes a much more difficult concept to handle when perspectives are shifted away from national lines and more to a global perspective. While focusing on nations plagued by Brain Drain, the subject can be obviously written off as a net negative.
However, on the other side of things, a select few developed countries (notably the United States, England, Canada, and South Korea) are attracting more skilled individuals than they are losing, leading to a so called “brain gain.” These countries see almost the opposite effects of Brain Drain. Notably, they experience a great influx of talented individuals, which allow the nations to extend their technological dominance.
Western countries have also recently sought to increase this “brain gain” effect that they’ve been enjoying. A perfect example is the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000, which almost doubled the number of work visas granted to highly skilled professionals issued by the United States from 115,000 to 195,000 per year. The act also redefined the terms of the work visa program for highly skilled workers, making the programs much more attractive.
This act, which was pushed very heavily by lobbyists representing the American computer industry, exemplifies the rising global tension over Brain Drain. On one side, we see developing nations trying to battle Brain Drain in a desperate attempt to compete on a global level. Meanwhile, already developed nations have a great temptation to increase the Brain Drain effect by creating better and better incentives for highly skilled immigrants.
As nations have begun to take greater notice of the effects of Brain Drain, both sides have begun to fight over skilled workers. What has begun to immerge is less of a natural movement of skilled professionals, and more of a global competition over human capital.
Gladly, the competition over skilled human capital has yet to reach anything approaching a true trade war. The natural humanistic response has been to shy away from explicitly helping rich countries get richer at the expense of making poor countries poorer. Nationalistic pride has also helped to curve the competition, as professionals choose to stay and help their developing homeland, and developed nations are reluctant to offer overt advantages to foreign professionals over of their own citizens.
However, there is still a great amount of special interest in encouraging the further escalation of this competition for skilled professionals. Developing nations see it as a necessary fight to combat the effects of Brain Drain in their country. Meanwhile, developed countries see opportunities to use their ability to outbid weaker countries to widen their economic advantages. Moreover, the actual skilled professionals themselves see only direct benefits from a bidding war over their services.
Moving forward, it is important for all nations to adequately recognize the danger of a possible trade war over human capital of any kind. Historically, when countries have no recourse in retaining a necessary commodity during a trade war, the best option has always been to put artificial restrictions on the movement of that commodity. This idea is easily adapted to the problem of Brain Drain, as it is not too hard to imagine that developing countries would be forced to fall back on repressing the movements and freedoms of their skilled citizens if they no longer have any possibility of competing with the attractions of outside nations.
This is the finer detail of Brain Drain’s global impact. If we ever allow the developed nations of the world to truly ruthlessly compete over the skilled professionals of developing countries, not only do these developing nations suffer economically and technologically, but we force a situation where weaker country’s only recourse is to reduce the freedoms of their citizens. Brain Drain’s global significance is that it serves as a deciding line as to how aggressively developed countries will chase the ability to gain personal economic growth, at the sacrifice of human rights worldwide.
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