Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Brain drain from El Salvador

The World Bank this week issued a report on the phenomenon of "brain drain." Brain drain is the tendency of highly educated professionals to leave developing countries and emigrate to rich nations. Such emigration deprives the native country of important intellectual resources necessary for development and the well-being of the country.

El Salvador does not fare well in the data. Fully one third of Salvadorans with a professional education live outside of El Salvador.

An article in The Daily Journal describes the impact on a country like El Salvador facing brain drain:

The exodus of skilled workers from poor countries is clearly a symptom of deep economic, social and political problems in their homelands. Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist at Columbia University, who migrated from India in the late 1960's, said immigrants are often voting with their feet against ill-governed states and dysfunctional economies. They get their government's attention by the act of leaving.

"If you stay, you don't have any bargaining power at all," Professor Bhagwati said.

But some scholars are beginning to ask whether the brain drain may also fuel a vicious downward cycle of underdevelopment - and cost poor countries the feisty people with the spark and know-how to resist corruption and bad governance.

The ultimate conclusion of the World Bank report concerning the causes of emigration by highly educated professionals is completely unsurprising. Emigration occurs because those professionals can earn higher wages in wealthier nations.

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