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Brain Drain of Thailand

Thailand faces the detrimental effects of brain drain, specifically with its tertiary-educated researchers. Those educated at universities, colleges, polytechnics, and institutes of technology are in high demand in the modern international economies. Compared to countries such as Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, Thailand has only 286 researchers engaged in research and development per million people (1990-2003), compared to 4,745 per million for Singapore. This means that for the already limited population of educated workers in Thailand, brain drain may have a more pronounced effect on the country.

One reason Thailand may have fewer tertiary educated workers is due to its small budget for research and development. Thailand spent 0.2% of GDP on research and development in 2003 compared to 2.2 for Singapore that same year.

The “cost” of brain drain in Thailand is proportionally higher than in neighboring countries due to its smaller demographic of educated workers.

One reason why Thailand has suffered less than other Asian countries is due to some of its cultural and social norms. Strong cultural and familial roots make migration a difficult choice for native Thais. Although Thailand has suffered political and economic upheavals, they have not been severe enough, yet, to warrant a mass outflow of skilled human capital as seen with other countries.

One trend that can be observed is that developed countries generally provide tertiary education, while developing countries make up their major markets. A recent trend has been to encourage migration from developing countries to those countries with higher education. Thailand has an established government policy (beginning in the 1950s) that bonds students who receive funding for their education. The government requires work or service amounting to twice the time spent overseas by students upon their return, or financial compensation amounting to two or three times that of the cost of education abroad. Though it appears unfair, those who recieve government scholarships usually continue to receive their regular salaries while studying overseas. No firm data exists that supports the possibility of these policies restricting any brain drain; however, it could possibly carry a negative effect, given the constantly changing limits on worker mobility inside and outside of the country. Certainly it may be said that this bonding system causes some resentment amongst the bonded students.

One interesting issue has been the decline of health sectors in countries affected by brain drain. For example countries such as Fiji, the Philippines, China, India and Korea have been hit hardest in the health industry. This means providing basic services has become more difficult. Thailand, on the other hand, has been fortunate in this regard. Thailand’s health services and research have remained strong and are becoming a growing industry.

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