Stopping brain drain

This Article was published in
The Frontier Post (May 25, 2010)

By Sahibzada Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri

Brain drain for developing countries occurs when professionals leave their countries to work in countries where they may have better opportunities. When this happens, we may see an influx in developed countries but that may mean a shortage in under-developed third world countries. While this may include people in any profession, it tends to be more prevalent with the engineering, finance and medical fields. Potential professionals may leave their countries for educational purposes and choose to remain in the country they migrated to for a number of reasons. Some people may migrate to another country seeking a better way of life only to find that country will not honour their degree. When this is the case they may be forced to start over and go back through Universities from the beginning if they choose to stay.

If they choose to do this then they may have to find other means of supporting themselves. This means such countries may have a cab driver, house cleaner or a helping man on gas stations with a degree in medicine, Engineering or even Doctor of Philosophy. They can’t acquire professional jobs without a degree the country they reside in will accept, so they are forced to find whatever job they can to lay their hand on. Brain drain for developing countries means that they face a severe shortage of professionals and skilled labour. In countries where crises are rampant and resources and options are scarce, the lack of professionals only heightens the strain of an already over worked system.

The one bright spot in all of this is that it allows for a melding of minds and those that go back to developing countries to help those in need often bring back a new perspective. They have knowledge of modern aspects of profession that may be unheard of in their own countries of origin and this knowledge can be used to help those that are suffering. To begin correcting these problems, the governments of these countries must first take action. There needs to be more funding for scientific research, education, and industry. They also need incentives to keep professionals in their countries such as better pay and secure career paths. While it is very true that no one can force people to remain in these countries to practise, bit of nationalism in hearts, higher standards of living and better wages would surely help.

Other countries can do their part as well by helping with research funds and sharing knowledge they have gained in different fields. This is not a charity but a melding that has the benefit of saving nations and potentially helping the world as a whole. Development in developing countries can help eliminate crises worldwide and prevent the spread of hate mania presently raging among the poor nations against the rich ones. Brain drain for developing countries means that a few selected countries end up having most of the brilliant scientific minds while others have an acute shortage. This uneven distribution may mean that some countries flourish while others seem to be stuck in the dark ages.

This is especially true in Pakistan’s case. If this were more even then we might see a big change in some of the developing countries. The simple fact that a person may elect to start over rather than practise in their own country tells us that there must be a big problem that discourages the professional from serving their motherland. Acquiring professional education isn’t easy in any country like Pakistan. I simply can’t imagine getting a PhD and then moving to another country and staring all over again just to be able to work there. The numbers of people leaving their countries in the hope of better opportunities are truly staggering to say the least. In one report it is estimated that over 23,000 medical professionals emigrate from Africa alone and the number of nurses is even more extreme.

What’s more these numbers are for a single year. With numbers like this, one wonders where they all go and if they continue to practice. If only a small percentage of these trained professionals remain in their countries, then it could have a real impact on the standard of medical care in the developing nations around the world. We can also see similar results in other professions too. The phenomenon of brain drain is very scary for developing countries like Pakistan. It calls for immediate policy attention from the highest level. There is a need to set up a task force of professionals to unearth the reasons of precious brain drain and come up with proposals to stop the phenomenon.

Without affirmative action from the states, brain drain would continue to occur and time would soon come when the developing world would suffer from acute shortage of skilled workforce and professionals. It is unfortunate that this important aspect has failed to elicit the government’s attention. It is hoped that immediate attention is paid to this state of affairs and corrective actions taken in the larger interest of the nation. Let us prove through action that future of our nation depends on our youth.