The changing face of Brain Trade

 

The brain trade, it might sound like something out of a cheesy 1920’s horror movie but it’s really just a familiar, everyday concept. It’s where an individual ‘sells’ his brain (essentially his skills) to a country (generally economically superior to his own) which then absorbs him (or her), into its system thus benefitting from the product of that skill. The individual in turn gets better benefits and lives a more comfortable life as a result.

The recent spate of brain drain could be tracked back to the years immediately following World War 2. After the chaos of the war, masses of skilled individuals looking for greener pastures flocked to (mostly) the United States, then known as the ‘land of the free’, in search of the heavily marketed ‘American dream’.

Why I say ‘marketed’ is because the US also, assisted in this with various policies such as,

 

  • Fostering demand for skilled workers by increasing costs of local education and,
  • Opening their shores to highly skilled migrants whose education had mostly been paid for by other governments.

 

This ensured a steady supply of high skilled workers that helped to control the levels of high wages at the top, and also cut back on government spending on education and importantly, ensure a larger domestic (and hence, more loyal) unskilled/semi-skilled worker base to fuel maximum economic growth. And they got it too, the US boasted many genius immigrants (think Einstein and the likes of Henry Kissinger) who contributed to bring it to the powerful position  that it still enjoys today.

 

More recently, with more and more skilled people emerging from third world nations, a lot of them have sought havens in places like UK, Australia mainly with a generous flow to other European Nations other developed countries like New Zealand, South Africa, Canada etc. The term ‘brain gain’ was coined much more recently to explain the drain of Canadians going into the US (Canada however was at that same time, gaining its own fair share of skilled Asians).

The world however, is a different place today, and the brain market has not escaped the tides of change. Post 9/11 stress led to a lot of countries supporting immigration policy reform but the biggest defining factor of this oncoming change has been the growing imbalance (or balance, depending on your perspective) of world economic power. How many friends have you who opted to go to China or India as opposed to more traditional destination for their higher studies? Lower costs and high quality education are drawing them like flies. They are still going to more traditional destinations for jobs however, but that will soon change as economic growth in these nations’ increase and they approach statuses of developed nations.

 

India and China are focusing on a strategy of getting back what they lost. They are offering lucrative incentives to nationals living abroad and indeed, many Indians and Chinese are taking them. This proactive Brain Gain from former victims of Drain has not yet begun to affect the world in a big way. But as the status quo changes further it won’t be long until it does. Indeed the are already significant numbers of Westerners working in countries on this side of the Middle East and their numbers are increasing.

We are all confronted with a choice of whether to sell our brain or not. How many of us have contemplated going abroad for studies? How many of us have thought of better economic benefits in the UK, Australia or the US for instance? How many of us have looked upon migration or global citizenship as a chance to achieve our true potential? If we have, then we have contemplated nothing less than to inflict ‘brain drain’ upon our nation. This however is not an ethical exploration of the concept of brain drain and I will leave the arguments on the aspects of Patriotism to others, but maybe in the meanwhile we should all start polishing up a bit on our Hindi and Mandarin?

–Halik Azeez

Halik is new to Beyond Borders and is still getting the hang of the whole thing. He blogs anonymously elsewhere in order to feed an omnipresent inferiority complex and unleashes upon the world his more unconventional thoughts and beliefs. His views are his own.

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Posted on 10/10/2008, in Opinions, Youth-Culture-Society and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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