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BRAIN DRAIN: MIGRATORY MOVEMENTS OF PEOPLE

Updated: Dec 5, 2022


The death of Queen Elizabeth II has ignited many animated, spirited and contentious discussions on the Monarchy, colonialism, reparation, and migration. The migratory movement of people has been a historical phenomenon from the early ages. In 2019, it was estimated that 3.5% of the world’s population live outside their country of birth (publications.iom.int). This movement of people has significantly transformed many countries in terms of demographics, wealth allocation and developmental potential.


Working to Build Jamaica


The earliest fossils of the first people were found in Africa, and even they left their homes. Migration out of Africa was fueled by food, climate, and other environmental factors (education.nationalgeographic.org). In more recent times, migration across borders has been fueled by colonialism, war, and the quest to find greater economic and social opportunities. Many developing countries have been severely impacted by the migratory movements of their people which has caused the loss of some of their best human resources, a phenomenon termed Brain Drain. The ongoing migration of teachers and nurses from Jamaica to seek greater compensation and better working conditions abroad is a sad example of this prevailing problem.


Jamaica Professionals Migrating


Many people residing in low and middle income countries have historically left their homeland to seek a better standard of living in richer more developed countries.


Those of us who are students of history, know the significant exploitation and damage that were inflicted by the migration of the colonial masters to the new world. The colonisers came, saw and truly conquered. Exploration of the new world may have started as an innocent and laudable objective, but it led to explorers, conquistadors and pirates using the high seas to plunder and exploit many countries. The chief culprits were the Europeans, they brought with them diseases, weapons, religions, and new customs that obliterated the culture and way of life of the original people. The unforgivable actions by these colonial masters include the forced movement of Africans from their homeland into enslavement and the killing of aboriginal Indians found across the Americas.



The colonisers also stole important resources, such as art and precious metals, without compensating the natives. This matter was further exacerbated during and after World Wars I and II respectively, when many of the colonies’ citizens migrated to Europe to fight wars and assisted with the reconstruction of their devastated cities. In other instances, some ethnic groups, such as Jews, in these countries were killed and forced to migrate for fear of being annihilated. Today, the remnants of this colonial period continue in the political and governance systems of many developing countries and impact the quality of life of their people. It is this lack of quality of life that seems to drive migration from many developing to developed countries.

The Slave Trade


Brain Drain


Historically, migration facilitates the movement of people to find greater opportunities. This movement of people sometimes results in the loss of skilled human resources from one country to another. Merriam-webster.com defines Brain Drain as the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another usually for better pay or living conditions. On the other hand, Cambridge.org defines it as the loss of many highly skilled and educated people from one country to another country. These definitions highlight the loss of educated and skilled people as they migrate from one country to another for greater opportunities.

COVID-19 has caused a dramatic shortage of labour worldwide, especially in the healthcare and education sectors. For this reason, many countries have implemented more attractive immigration policies to entice skilled workers to their countries. This transfer of skilled workers can be devastating for developing countries that are unable to compete with developed countries with larger economies. What is clear, is that those countries with greater economic development and political stability have less Brain Drain (wol.iza.org).

Percentage of Nationals Living Aboard


The labour force is the core of the economic success of a nation. It is this demand for skilled labour that influences governments and businesses to develop immigration and recruitment policies to encourage migrants into their countries and businesses (investopedia.com). Governments attack unemployment by developing immigration policies to fill the gap in competencies and skills that exist in their countries. Many migrants may think they are the ones driving immigration; on the contrary, they are not, a country’s immigration policy dictates the number of visas and work permits that are issued each year.



The flight of trained human resources creates a Brain Gain for the receiving country and a Brain Drain for the sender country. Where there is a surplus of trained human resources in one country, unemployment in another country can be alleviated can be relieved by migration to the country in need. Unfortunately, the balancing of these competing human resource requirements is not usually well managed as it depends on the choice of the migrants and the competitive advantage that exists in the receiving country. This is especially devastating for poor developing countries like Jamaica, which have policies that invest in free and or subsidized education and end up losing their workers without any compensation for the net costs invested in them. Globaleconomy.com reveals that Jamaica’s rating of 9.1 out of 10 in 2022, resulted in the country being ranked second place out of 177 countries on the human flight and brain drain index. This confirms the critical shortage that Jamaica is experiencing in the healthcare and education sectors, as these workers leave for more lucrative opportunities.

Jamaica’s Human Flight and Brain Drain Index (Source - Globaleconomy.com)


I think that migration is a necessity to effectively balance the world’s population and human resources. Migration facilitates stronger working relationships between countries, as migrants get the opportunity to share their culture and work practices with each other. It also allows indirect upskilling, where persons emulate best practices that exist in different countries to enhance their productivity. As cross-border investments take place, many developed countries invest in Big Infrastructures such as transportation, railway, airlines, ships, and telecommunication including satellite and wireless technologies. These investments result in spillover effects of technologies and state-of-the-art assets that enhance the quality of life of all the citizens of developing countries.


Migrants who leave developing countries usually earn better remuneration which creates disposable income for them to consume more commodities. This also allows them to provide more support to their families by sending remittances, food, and equipment to them. In the case of Jamaica, remittances are the largest sources of foreign exchange inflows, the bulk of the remittances come from USA, United Kingdom, Canada and Cayman (boj.org.jm).

Baby Leone


We Migrated to Canada


For many Jamaicans, migration is an important and even vital action to foster their growth and development. My Dad use to say, “Boy, if yu noh leave dis place yu ago tun good fi nothing.” For that reason, most rural folks have elected to migrate to nearby towns, nearby cities or overseas to enhance their quality of lives. My older siblings followed this migratory trajectory and also gave support to the younger siblings as they followed the same path.


I was fortunate to be taken from my rural home by my sister and second Mom, Bee, at the age of 11 years old to live in Kingston. My first overseas travel occurred when I migrated to Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 23 to attend university. Interestingly, in 1994, I secured a 10-Year Multiple Entry US Visa which allowed me to travel for business and pleasure. My professional status as an engineer with one of Jamaica’s largest companies, Jamaica Public Service Limited, facilitated this opportunity.


Living in paradise means the world to me. As the popular saying goes “Noh weh noh better than yaad”. My education has provided me with significant opportunities, as such, migrating was never on my agenda. This changed one night in 1997 when our family was robbed at gunpoint. The trauma was life changing. This incident occurred during a period when members of the Police force were on strike. The incident added to 5 more robberies that my family sustained over a 6-year period. The incident occurred after we stopped as a family at Red Hills Mall supermarket to pick up groceries before heading to a friend’s house in Meadowbrook Estate. Baby Leone (my youngest daughter at the time) and I were left in the car while the rest of the family went into the supermarket.


As we sat there, a white Corolla car pulled up next to us, it was tinted very dark. I could not see anyone in it. I did not focus much on the car as I was distracted by Leone’s cute laughter and smiles while she sat comfortably in her cradle staring back at me. On the family’s return, I was requested to drive up the road to pick up other items at a corner shop, which we did.


As we pulled up to our friend's gate, the same white car blocked my vehicle and a well- spoken and groomed man with a gun in hand jumped from the vehicle and said, “Boy, step out of the car!” By then, the family had left the vehicle and was walking through the gate. As I positioned my hand to open the van door, the gunmen became very agitated, “B@#$oclaat boy! Weh yu a do?" he said. I went into my rude boy persona and said, "Faada, I am just opening up the door.” I told him the car is still in drive, I tapped the brake to show him. I told him I would be placing the vehicle in neutral and then I opened the door. He pushed the gun on my cheek and said loudly, "If yu try something yu dead to p@#$yclaat !”


I stayed calm, and as I left the vehicle. He grabbed my flip cellular phone that was affixed to my belt. What followed next was like a trip to hell and back. The gunman jumped into the van and drove off. As he did, bellowing screams of terror came from my family, "Leone in the van!” In panic and in total fear, we all chased the car shouting, “Leone! Leone! Leone!” Suddenly, he stopped and allowed me to open the door and unstrap Leone's cradle and remove her from the van. Her tear-filled, innocent eyes stared at me with fear. Tears streamed down her cheeks. No sounds came from her.


As I secured Baby Leone safely with me, the van came to a screeching halt and then made an angry reverse toward us. With Baby Leone in her cradle, I started running hysterically up the road with my heart pounding in my chest. I thought the gunman was coming back to take our lives, yes, finish the job. I felt death breathing down my neck. I ran into an area of loose gravel, skidded, slid and fell on my back on the ground, Leone was thrown from the cradle face down. Fortunately, we fell on the roadside, and the van sped by, leaving me in shock and dismay. I got up, placed Leone in her cradle and watched the robber turn the vehicle and head off up the road. By then, my family was by our side. They were all crying loudly from the ordeal that they just experienced - wails of shock and relief. To date we have remained traumatized by this unfortunate experience. We applied immediately to migrate to Canada as landed immigrants. It took some time, but in 1999, we all migrated.

Living in Canada


Dr. DF's Suggestions


The decision to migrate is a very personal one, that should be contemplated by an individual and their family. The following are my suggestions to enhance your migration decisions:


1. Migrate to a country with large economies such as USA, China and Japan. A total of 272 million international migrants existed in 2019, and the top destination to migrate to was the USA, with 50.7 million of all international migrants (publications.int).


2. Migrate to your country of choice before the age of 30 years old. I migrated to Canada at the age of 33, I found that establishing myself was extremely difficult. My educational and professional accomplishments were not fully accepted and respected.


3. Qualify yourself in high demand professions such as information systems, construction, agriculture, engineering, hospitality, and healthcare industries. Take time to investigate the job market of the country you plan to migrate to confirm the alignment with your experiences.


4. Conduct detailed research and planning into the requirements to migrate to your country of choice and execute the following critical activities:


  • Secure visa entry approvals from the embassy;

  • Secure employment that is aligned with your core competencies;

  • Secure reasonable accommodation, especially with family or friends;

  • Secure adequate monies to maintain your family for 1 year;

  • Secure a driver’s license in the country you will live.


5. If there are two breadwinners in your family, select the person who is most likely to secure a job to migrate first, the other person should remain employed in your home country. Ensure that you have qualification and experience that are in high demand.


6. If you own a house, rent it furnish to generate additional income to support your migration transition efforts. Assess the cost-benefit of shipping certain important furniture and utensils to your new home, especially sentimental and antique items.


7. I support the selling of your motor vehicles to raise funds to purchase a vehicle in the country you will be migrating to. Use excess funds from selling your motor vehicles to make deposit on a house that will be delivered 1-2 years in the future.


8. If the country you plan to migrate to allows you to establish a bank account and credit card before you land proceed to establish them. Having proper credit in most countries will be vital to the security, growth, and development of your family.


9. When you migrate create private contracts such as with a landlord, utility and auto care companies to held to build and strengthen your credit. Manage your financial obligations properly at all times.


10. Maintain ongoing contact with your homeland by visiting, sending remittances, eating homegrown foods and connecting with social groups that are committed to maintaining the culture of your country. Migration depression is real.


Conclusion


Migration is a necessity for the effective distribution of the world’s population. However, in this process, small nation-states like Jamaica are vulnerable to losing their skilled human resources to richer developed countries, this is called Brain Drain. This will continue to be a major phenomenon that governments should better regulate through immigration policies and bilateral agreements. I think migration is a personal decision that should be made by each individual and their family. My family decided to migrate to Canada because of the direct impact of crime and violence on us. Using my family’s experiences, I have provided 10 relevant and important suggestions to help your migration decisions.


References


h://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/their-footsteps-human-migration-out-africa

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-04275-8

https://boj.org.jm/statistics/external-sector/remittances/




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3 Comments


Patrick Simms
Patrick Simms
Mar 04, 2023

Similar reason for migrating, Donald

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Donald Farquharson
Donald Farquharson
Nov 01, 2022

Thanks for your comments. I am especially concern about our children and females in our society. Crime and violence have changed the way we live and work......

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nataliec
nataliec
Nov 01, 2022

Wow… yes threat of crime and these random acts of violence that you described are the very reason my closest friends moved to other countries like Canada and the Cayman Islands. Yes, they have had better opportunities in their careers where at 40 they are able to head specialists wards in hospitals or have become senior partners in firms but more importantly they have piece of mind. The my jokingly say after being in other countries for a few years they don’t know how they survived! They technically didn’t. Pulling up to their gates after a late shift, even going out with other girlfriends you always have it in the back of your mind to watch the parked cars in…

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