The Global Migration of Talent: What Does it Mean for Developing Countries?

John McHale
October 13, 2005

Human capital flows from poor countries to rich countries are large and growing. A leading cause is the increasing skill-focus of immigration policy in a number of leading industrialized countries—a trend that is likely to intensify as rich countries age and competitive pressures build in knowledge-intensive sectors. The implications for development are complex and poorly understood.

While fears of the "brain drain" were overwrought in earlier decades, the recent celebration of "brain gain" is also overdone, especially as highly selective migration policies deprive poor countries of scarce innovators and institution builders.

We explore available policy responses to improve the net effect on development without making the international migration system even more illiberal than it is today.

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