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Human Capital

Migration Of Human Capital

If people truly are the "wealth of a nation," should developing countries worry about a "brain drain" if their doctors, nurses, and scientists migrate to richer countries? The answer depends on the 3 R's of recruitment, remittances, and returns. Recruitment deals with who migrates abroad: Are the emigrants employed managers whose exit leads to layoffs, or unemployed workers who have jobs and earnings abroad but would have been unemployed at home? Remittances are the monies sent home by migrants abroad: Are they significant, and fuel for investment and job creation, or small and not used to speed development? Returns refers to whether migrants return to their countries of origin: Do they return after education or a period of employment abroad with enhanced skills, or do they return only to visit and retire?

During the 1990s the migration of highly skilled workers from developing to more developed countries increased, reflecting more foreign students as well as aging populations able to pay for more doctors and nurses and the internet-related economic boom. International organizations are exploring ways in which the more developed countries could replenish the human capital they take from the developing world via migration, perhaps by contributing to or backing loans to improve their educational systems. If the human capital that migrates is not replenished, global inequalities may increase.


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Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development. Human Capital Investment: An International Comparison. Paris: OECD, 1998.

Psacharopoulos, George. "Returns to Investment in Education: A Global Update." World Development 22, no. 9 (1994): 1325–1343.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Dublin: Whitestone, 1776.

Philip L. Martin

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Heterodyne to Hydrazoic acidHuman Capital - Costs And Benefits, Migration Of Human Capital, Bibliography