An increasing number of professionals such as professors, doctors, engineers, physicians are leaving their developing countries in search of better standards of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political and economic conditions in developed countries. This migration of professionals is of growing concern as it impacts developing countries’ health and economic systems. The host countries have invested in these professionals’ education, but they don’t back anything in return. The young professionals work abroad because of better standards of living, higher wages attract them. There are huge disparities in working conditions and pay scale between rich and poor countries. Higher education and economic improvement pull young, well educated and healthy individuals to the developed countries. Poor working conditions coupled with low salaries keep professionals away from working in their developing nations. Not only the investment in the education of the professionals is lost, but the contribution of these professionals to health care is also lost. e.g the doctor to patients ratio in India is 1:2083 while it’s 1:500 in the USA. Keeping in mind the economic and political conditions of the developing countries, we can not stop professionals from leaving their developing countries and moving to the developed countries in search of a better lifestyle, high salaries, higher education and training opportunities. The governments of developing countries can not blame the professionals for moving abroad. If the government decides to give them all the facilities and opportunities that they get in developed countries, the young professionals won’t feel the need to work abroad. There has been increasing recognition during the last few decades that migration can be a factor in the promotion of international development. Migrants typically do not cut ties with their country of origin and their interaction with the household back home and the home community is the main channel by which migration could benefit development. There can be an important exchange of money, knowledge and ideas between host and home countries through migrants. 

Remittances, the most concrete consequence of international migration for developing countries, have reached a significant dimension at global levels. In 2010, remittances to developing countries reached over USD 320 billion and these are just those officially recorded. These flows have become an important source of foreign exchange and financing for many developing countries. These international flows are arguably less volatile than other capital flows such as portfolio investment, foreign direct investment and official foreign aid. Not every aspect of migration is beneficial for developing countries. Migration may impose a high cost for developing countries by leaving the country without the human capital necessary to achieve long-term economic growth. This human capital flight may impose a significant economic burden for developing countries as migrants take with them the value of their training, which is often subsidised by governments with limited resources. While migration impacts development, economic conditions are important drivers of migration. People migrate for various reasons including searching for better economic opportunities, education, family reunion and escaping violence. People often migrate for a combination of these and other reasons. However, the expected income gap between developed and developing countries is a strong incentive for people to migrate. As such, migration affects development, but development also affects migration. These are not simple relationships. Development does not always lead to less migration, the brain drain may not be bad for the human capital levels of the migrant-sending countries and remittances may not always be beneficial to the receiving economies.


Differences in income and living standards are important drivers of migration. Yet not everyone in developing countries migrates to developed countries, even when migration would imply a significant income gain for a large majority. Africa, the poorest continent on the globe, has generated relatively small migration flows considering the massive gain that migration would bring to its inhabitants. An explanation for this puzzle is found in the constraints on the migration of people. One such limitation is immigration policy restrictions in developed countries. With varying degrees of success, these policies limit the level of migration flows globally.

While immigration restrictions could potentially be a limiting factor, there is another constraint that is likely to be even more important money.  Migration is not free and whatever the reason for moving, migrants need a certain minimum level of resources to finance their move. A simple economics model would suggest that people migrate for economic reasons if expected lifetime income in the host country, less the cost of migrating, exceeds expected lifetime income in the home country. However, if the individual cannot access the funds necessary to finance the move, the expected income gap becomes irrelevant.

There are several implications of this cost restriction for migration. First, the desire to migrate is higher than actual migration levels, especially among those with fewer resources. The several developed countries would be extremely overcrowded and some developing countries would be almost empty if all the people in the world who would like to migrate were able to move where they wanted.

Second, increases in GDP per capita in many developing countries may lead to an increase rather than a decrease in migration. As income rises, those who have a lot to gain from moving but were not previously able to move will be able to migrate. This is likely to continue until the home country reaches a certain level of income, migration stabilizes and potentially decreases thereafter.

The third implication of the cost restriction on mobility is that those who migrate are not likely to be the poorest. Therefore, development-related policies designed to assist migrants and their families back in the home country do not necessarily benefit the poorest.


The international mobility of highly skilled workers is likely to increase in the future.  This is not the place to detail all the factors ordaining an upward trend, e.g., faster and cheaper transportation, faster and cheaper information, expansion of global labour markets, shortages of highly educated workers in the information-age economies, the ageing of the workforce in developed economies, just-in-time demand from industries eager to get on the front of technology curves, and so on. These trends are particularly salient considering other trends: enrollment rates in higher education are likely to continue to rise around the world (and especially in developing countries); and the centripetal forces of globalization drive, in part, strong pressures to liberalize human capital flows to match the increased liberalization of trade and international capital flows.  But while one can confidently forecast increasing volumes of international mobility, it is remarkably difficult to forecast with accuracy specific patterns of international mobility or their impact.

In the first place, different types of migrants are found in different types of labour markets, e.g., the “internal” labour markets of transnational corporations shaped by globalization and corporate strategies; or the “open” labour markets shaped by forces of supply and demand in both developed and developing countries.  In the second place, the crosscutting consequence of different types of labour markets lags in supply and demand, and institutional failures in education or training mean that much of the impact of skilled migration may be limited to specific occupations.



Leave a Reply