Brain drain: Migratory movements of people

The ongoing migration of teachers from Jamaica to seek greater compensation and better working conditions abroad is a sad example of this prevailing problem.

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has ignited many spirited and contentious discussions on the monarchy, colonialism, reparation, and migration, which has been a historical phenomenon from the early ages.

According to International Organization for Migration, in 2019 it was estimated that 3.5 per cent of the world’s population lived outside their country of birth. This movement of people has significantly transformed many countries, in terms of demographics, wealth allocation, and developmental potential.

The earliest fossils of the first people were found in Africa, and even they left their homes. Migration out of Africa was fuelled by food, climate, and other environmental factors. In more recent times, migration across borders has been fuelled by colonialism, war, and the quest to find greater economic and social opportunities. Many developing countries have been severely impacted by the migratory movements of their people, which has caused the loss of some of their best human resources, a phenomenon termed brain drain. The ongoing migration of teachers and nurses from Jamaica to seek greater compensation and better working conditions abroad is a sad example of this prevailing problem.

Many people residing in low- and middle-income countries have historically left their homelands to seek a better standard of living in richer, more developed countries.

Those of us who are students of history know the significant exploitation and damage that were inflicted by the migration of the colonial masters to the New World. The colonisers came, saw, and truly conquered. Exploration of the New World may have started as an innocent and laudable objective, but it led to explorers, conquistadors, and pirates using the high seas to plunder and exploit many countries.

The chief culprits were the Europeans, who brought with them diseases, weapons, religions, and new customs that obliterated the culture and way of life of the original people. The unforgivable actions by these colonial masters include the forced movement of Africans from their homeland into enslavement and the killing of aboriginal Indians found across the Americas.

The colonisers also stole important resources, such as art and precious metals, without compensating the natives. This matter was further exacerbated during and after world wars I and II, respectively, when many of the colonies’ citizens migrated to Europe to fight wars and assisted with the reconstruction of its devastated cities. In other instances, some ethnic groups, such as the Jews, in these countries were killed and forced to migrate for fear of being annihilated. Today, the remnants of this colonial period continue in the political and governance systems of many developing countries and impact the quality of life of their people. It is this lack of quality of life that seems to drive migration from many developing to developed countries.

Historically, migration facilitates the movement of people to find greater opportunities. This movement of people sometimes results in the loss of skilled human resources from one country to another. defines brain drain as the departure of educated or professional people from one country, economic sector, or field for another, usually for better pay or living conditions. On the other hand, defines it as the loss of many highly skilled and educated people from one country to another. These definitions highlight the loss of educated and skilled people as they migrate from one country to another for greater opportunities.

The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a dramatic shortage of labour worldwide, especially in the health-care and education sectors. For this reason many countries have implemented more attractive immigration policies to entice skilled workers. This transfer of skilled workers can be devastating for developing countries that are unable to compete with developed countries with larger economies. What is clear is that those countries with greater economic development and political stability have less brain drain.

The labour force is the core of the economic success of a nation. It is this demand for skilled labour that influences governments and businesses to develop immigration and recruitment policies to encourage migrants into their countries and businesses. Governments attack unemployment by developing immigration policies to fill the gap in competencies and skills that exist in their countries. Many migrants may think they are the ones driving immigration; on the contrary, they are not, a country’s immigration policy dictates the number of visas and work permits that are issued each year.

The flight of trained human resources creates a brain gain for the receiving country and a brain drain for the sender country. Where there is a surplus of trained human resources in one country, unemployment in another country can be alleviated by migration to the country in need. Unfortunately, the balancing of these competing human resource requirements is not usually well managed as it depends on the choice of the migrants and the competitive advantage that exists in the receiving country. This is especially devastating for poor, developing countries like Jamaica, which have policies that invest in free and/or subsidised education and end up losing its workers without any compensation for the net costs invested in them. reveals that Jamaica’s rating of 9.1 out of 10 in 2022, resulted in the country being ranked second place out of 177 countries on the human flight and brain drain index. This confirms the critical shortage that Jamaica is experiencing in the health-care and education sectors as these workers leave for more lucrative opportunities.

For many Jamaicans, migration is an important and even vital action to foster their growth and development. My dad used to say, “Boy, if yu nuh leave dis place yu ago tun good fi nothing.” For that reason most rural folks have elected to migrate to nearby towns, nearby cities, or overseas to enhance their quality of lives. My older siblings followed this migratory trajectory and also gave support to the younger siblings as they followed the same path.

I was fortunate to be taken from my rural home by my sister and second mom, Bee, at the age of 11 years old to live in Kingston. My first overseas travel occurred when I migrated to Trinidad and Tobago at the age of 23 to attend university. Interestingly, in 1994, I secured a 10-year multiple entry US visa, which allowed me to travel for business and pleasure. My professional status as an engineer with one of Jamaica’s largest companies, Jamaica Public Service Limited, facilitated this opportunity.

Living in paradise means the world to me. As the popular saying goes, “No weh nuh better than yaad.”

My education has provided me with significant opportunities, as such, migrating was never on my agenda. This changed one night in 1997 when our family was robbed at gunpoint. The trauma was life-changing. This incident occurred during a period when members of the police force were on strike. The incident added to five more robberies that my family sustained over a six-year period. The incident occurred after we stopped as a family at Red Hills Mall supermarket to pick up groceries before heading to a friend’s house in Meadowbrook Estate. Baby Leone, my youngest daughter at the time, and I were left in the car while the rest of the family went into the supermarket.

As we sat there, a white Toyota Corolla car pulled up next to us, it was tinted very dark. I could not see anyone in it. I did not focus much on the car as I was distracted by Leone’s cute laughter and smiles while she sat comfortably staring back at me. On the family’s return, I was requested to drive up the road to pick up other items at a corner shop, which we did.

As we pulled up to our friend’s gate, the same white car blocked my vehicle and a well- spoken and groomed man with a gun in hand jumped from the vehicle and said, “Boy, step out of the car!” By then, the family had left the vehicle and was walking through the gate. As I positioned my hand to open the van door, the gunmen became very agitated, “…bwoy, weh yu a do?” he said. I went into my rude boy persona and said, “Fada, I am just opening up the door.” I told him the car is still in drive; I tapped the brake to show him. I told him I would be placing the vehicle in neutral and then I opened the door. He pushed the gun on my cheek and said loudly, “If yu try something yu dead to…”

I stayed calm, and as I left the vehicle he grabbed my flip cellular phone that was affixed to my belt. What followed next was like a trip to hell and back. The gunman jumped into the van and drove off. As he did, bellowing screams of terror came from my family, “Leone in the van!” In panic and in total fear, we all chased the car shouting, “Leone! Leone! Leone!” Suddenly, he stopped and allowed me to open the door and unstrap Leone’s cradle and remove her from the van. Her tear-filled, innocent eyes stared at me with fear. Tears streamed down her cheeks. No sounds came from her.

As I secured Baby Leone safely with me, the van came to a screeching halt and then made an angry reverse toward us. With Baby Leone in her cradle, I started running hysterically up the road with my heart pounding in my chest. I thought the gunman was coming back to take our lives; yes, finish the job. I felt death breathing down my neck. I ran into an area of loose gravel, skidded, slid, and fell on my back on the ground. Leone was thrown from the cradle face down. Fortunately we fell on the roadside and the van sped by, leaving me in shock and dismay. I got up, placed Leone in her cradle and watched the robber turn the vehicle and head off up the road. By then, my family was by our side. They were all crying loudly from the ordeal that they just experienced — wails of shock and relief. To date we have remained traumatised by this unfortunate experience. We applied immediately to migrate to Canada as landed immigrants. It took some time, but in 1999 we all migrated.

The decision to migrate is a very personal one that should be contemplated by an individual and his or her family. The following are my suggestions to enhance your migration decisions:

1) Migrate to a country with large economies such as USA, China, and Japan. According to International Organization for Migration, a total of 272 million international migrants existed in 2019, and the top destination to migrate to was the USA, which attracted 50.7 million of all international migrants.

2) Migrate to your country of choice before the age of 30 years old. I migrated to Canada at the age of 33, I found that establishing myself was extremely difficult. My educational and professional accomplishments were not fully accepted and respected.

3) Qualify yourself in high-demand professions, such as information systems, construction, agriculture, engineering, hospitality, and health-care industries. Take time to investigate the job market of the country to which you plan to migrate to confirm the alignment with your experiences.

4) Conduct detailed research and planning into the requirements to migrate to your country of choice and execute the following critical activities:

a) Secure visa entry approvals from the embassy

b) Secure employment that is aligned with your core competencies

c) Secure reasonable accommodation, especially with family or friends

d) Secure adequate monies to maintain your family for one year

e) Secure a driver’s licence in the country you will live

5) If there are two breadwinners in your family, select the person who is most likely to secure a job to migrate first, the other person should remain employed in your home country. Ensure that you have qualification and experience that are in high demand.

6) If you own a house, rent it furnished to generate additional income to support your migration transition efforts. Assess the cost-benefit of shipping certain important furniture and utensils to your new home, especially sentimental and antique items.

7) I support the selling of your motor vehicles to raise funds to purchase a vehicle in the country to which you will be migrating. Use excess funds from selling your motor vehicles to make deposit on a house that will be delivered one to two years in the future.

8) If the country to which you plan to migrate allows you to establish a bank account and credit card before you land, proceed to establish them. Having proper credit in most countries will be vital to the security, growth, and development of your family.

9) When you migrate create private contracts, such as with a landlord, utility, and auto-care companies, to help to build and strengthen your credit. Manage your financial obligations properly at all times.

10) Maintain ongoing contact with your homeland by visiting, sending remittances, eating home-grown foods and connecting with social groups that are committed to maintaining the culture of your country. Migration depression is real.

Migration is a necessity for the effective distribution of the world’s population. However, in this process small nation states like Jamaica are vulnerable to losing their skilled human resources to richer, developed countries. This will continue to be a major phenomenon that governments should better regulate through immigration policies and bilateral agreements.

Donald Farquharson

Jamaica’s rating onthe human flight and brain drain index between 2015 and 2022online

Many people residing in low- and middle-income countries have historically left their homelands to seek a better standard of living in richer, more developed

The high crime rate is a push factor for many Jamaicans who have opted to


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