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Reversing Brain Drain: Evidence from Malaysia's Returning Expert Programme



Mathis Wagner
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Boston College


Justin Sandefur
Research Fellow, Center for Global Development

How can we encourage the return migration of high-skilled individuals to countries experiencing “brain drain?” In a new paper, Mathis Wagner and his coauthors present the first evidence on the efficacy of a major program designed to do so by using the case of Malaysian Returning Expert Program (REP), which targets very high-skilled Malaysians abroad and provides them with incentives to return to Malaysia. They identify the impact that acceptance to the REP (conditional on having applied) has on the probability that the individuals return to Malaysia. The paper finds that the program increases the probability of return by 6 percentage points, and provides an analysis of the costs and benefits of the program.

*The CIRF series is an academic research seminar that brings some of the world's leading development scholars to discuss their new research and ideas. The presentations are at times technical, but retain a focus on a mixed audience of researchers and policymakers. There’s more about the series here.

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