Jamaica and other Caribbean countries like Guyana and Barbados have been losing between 70 and 90 percent of their tertiary trained manpower to emigration over the past 45 years.
Economists have calculated that this represents a huge cost to these economies, since the per capita expenditure on tertiary education is several times that on secondary and primary education.
Even when the return flow of remittances is taken into account, the calculations show a net economic loss. In the case of Jamaica, the estimate of the loss is about 13 percent of GDP. In Barbados, 16 percent.
(Source: Emigration and Brain Drain: Evidence From the Caribbean. By Prachi Mishra. IMF Working Paper WP/06/25 (2006). http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wp/2006/wp0625.pdf )
It is going to be very interesting to see how Cuba will seek to protect the loss of scarce and highly skilled manpower while maintaining the freedom to travel and emigrate. The article rightly says that restrictions often prove counter-productive.
Should the receiving countries compensate the sending countries for the costs of educating skilled immigrants? Would they ever agree to that?
Should persons who emigrate permanently compensate their sending country for the costs of their education? But would they have the money to do so before they emigrate? And how would this be enforced after they migrate? And what if they decide to return?
Is brain circulation they way to go, as Jesus argues? India has done this, but it requires a well developed institutional infrastructure within the country, with which Diaspora professionals can collaborate. Cuba has this, doesn’t it?
We should be following very closely what Cuba does and the results. Maybe the rest of the Caribbean can learn from them–and they from us.
I have thought over many years:-
My thoughts have been for a long time ( without empirical proof)
A. Cuba has had mass migration for a variety of reason over many years.
B. The revolution initiated a brain drain from Cuba.
A. Jamaica has had mass migration for a variety of reasons over many years.
i) The building of the Panama canal
ii) Migration to various South and Central American destinations – inclusive of, but not limited to San Andres ( Columbia); Honduras; Nicaragua.
iii) Post World War 11 saw via the Empire Windrush ( and thereafter to England) the migration of Jamaicans to England.
iv) Beyond the Windrush migration, many, many Jamaicans have migrated to North America for reasons mainly of pursuit of economic opportunities.
When I weigh Jamaica against Cuba – or – vice versa – I honestly suspect that the motivational factors for economic upliftment and improvements within a person’s lifetime propel somewhat similar migratory instincts. ( N.B. I am not unaware of the political dimensions relative to each country ) however – I am suggesting that while one may instinctively say “political” when it comes to Cuba – there is still a commonality of motivational fact for migration when one focuses on the raw demographics of persons moving away from one’s place of birth.
How the phenomenon is managed – as you imply – is a challenge for referencing operational paradigms.
Hidden in the bowels of the Arboleya article is the following observation (I have added the emphasis)
“While emigration tends to remain an endemic phenomenon in Cuban society (not only because of the encouragement it gets from the U.S. but also for the exceptional facilities that the U.S. gives Cubans), it is a result of endogenous contradictions, the most important being the existing imbalance between the human development promoted by the revolutionary process and the inability of the job market to absorb that qualified workforce.”
Now note the following statement buried in the official government announcement on the new policy:
“The updating of the migration policy takes into account the right of the revolutionary state to defend itself from the aggressive and subversive plans of the U.S. government and its allies. For this reason, those measures aimed at preserving the human capital created by the Revolution from the theft of talents practiced by the powerful nations shall remain in force.”
So a lot will depend on (i) Cuban government policy on which classes of citizens will be issued passports; and (ii) US (and other governments’) policies on the which classes of Cubans, and how many, will be issued visitors visas and immigrant visas.
It actually sets up a new dynamic in Cuba-US relations. But for me, what is interesting is by what means the Cuban government proposes to manage the possibility of a massive brain drain resulting from the new policy.
“ … the inability of the job market to absorb that qualified workforce.”
prompts me to draw a straight line analogy with Jamaica.
Jamaica produces graduates and skilled persons from the tertiary level onwards.
It is no mere imaginary concession to concede that Cuba per capita produces far more skilled persons from the tertiary level onwards, than does Jamaica.
The migration from Jamaica is voluntary and without governmental restrictions or constraints. Once the US, Canada or whatever country accepts the nurse, doctor, engineer or whoever, that skilled person who has applied for overseas employment, or first seeks entry into the metropolitan country to obtain employment, then leaves of his or her volition, as a total personal choice.
I have met skilled Cubans working abroad ( i.e. those who are not refugees, but are working on Cuban government programmes established with other nations). Let me hasten to add – I have invariably had the utmost respect, both for the professionalism and sense of dignity of those Cuban professionals. The Cuban doctors are quite deservedly respected throughout the Caribbean region.
Beyond the differences in Jamaica’s or Cuba’s policies towards the quite comparable brain-drain problem, is the commonality of human purpose and desires that remains with these professional people. While ideology can infuse a sense of nationalism and sense of altruistic purpose, there is also a commonality of magnetic economic pull for movement of people, skills and talent from relatively poor to rich country.
Indeed – I accept that the challenge is how best to manage the migratory realities with policies that can serve the interests of the poorer country that has trained these professionals.
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