The OECD recently published a very interesting report on skilled migration and the diffusion of knowledge: The Global Competition for Talent: Mobility of the Highly Skilled. This publication can be seen as a follow-up of the 2002 report International Mobility of the Highly Skilled. Here’s a short summary of the summary:
“International mobility of human resources in science and technology is of growing importance and can have important impacts on knowledge creation and diffusion in both receiving and sending countries indicating that it is not necessarily a zero-sum game.
Receiving countries benefit from a variety of positive effects related to knowledge flows and R&D. But sending countries can also experience positive effects. Much of the literature on highly skilled emigration focuses on remittances and brain drain but emigration of skilled workers can also spur human capital accumulation in the sending country. Brain circulation stimulates knowledge flows and builds links between locations. Diaspora networks can function as a conduit in these migration flows so that all countries can benefit.
Most OECD countries are net beneficiaries of highly skilled migration but there are significant variations. Students are increasingly mobile as well and often leads to skilled migration, both short and long term migration. Some evidence suggests that immigrant HRST (Human Resources in Science and Technology) contribute strongly to innovation.”
Skilled migration is an increasingly important rationale for the higher education internationalisation policies of national governments (and of the European Union as well). In this global competition for talent, Australia and Canada have actively linked the recruitment of foreign students to their skilled migration policies. This approach is also increasingly chosen by European countries. Particularly in the science and technology related fields, skill shortages are becoming apparent and the benefits of (cultural) diversity for innovation are recognised.
And if you need a highly skilled and diverse body of professionals, why not start with foreign students? At Nuffic we recently published an appeal for an increased attention for internationalisation. In this appeal, the skilled migration approach is clearly apparent (see here for the Dutch booklet, or here for the English translation). Obviously, we are of the opinion that such policies should not come at the expense of developing countries…
The new OECD report shows again that such policies can create benefits for both the sending and receiving countries. This goes in particular for emerging economies where the opportunities for brain circulation are present. Other studies – like this world bank report – show that it are the least developed countries that suffer most from the brain drain because brain circulation does not occur in these countries. Here, skilled migration policies should be accompanied by compensating and mitigating policies for the sending countries (see this CGD publication for some ideas on this issue).