July 25, 2014

Should Australia worry about a “brain drain?”

Recent global job search data suggest that more and more Australian job seekers are looking for work abroad.

According to job search firm Indeed, around one in four Australian job seekers is searching for employment opportunities overseas, mostly in the United States or the United Kingdom. India and Japan are also popular targets.

Indeed’s Australian country manager Chris McDonald said that the majority of job searches for Japan are for graduate or mature age positions. He also spotted a trend in job seekers’ India searches, which were primarily for IT-focused or operations roles.

McDonald pointed out, however, that it is uncertain how many of these searches were from existing migrants looking for jobs back in their home countries.

Director of the University of Canberra’s Centre for Labour Market Research (CLMR) Phil Lewis argues that this movement should be considered a “brain share” rather than a “brain drain.” He reasons that Australian graduates or workers who take their experiences abroad are likely to spur on globalization opportunities in the long term, thus driving skills back into the country’s talent pool.

IZA World of Labor’s Murat Genç has found evidence that supports this, with specific reference to trade. He has found that migration appears to encourage international trade, and thus argues that transmigrational movement should be encouraged.

Similarly, our author Arnaud Chevalier notes that student mobility can expand workforces in sending and receiving countries, positing that the notion of a “brain drain” is overblown.

The exact effects of migration are dependent on numerous factors. Our author Frédéric Docquier has written about the impact of brain drains in depth, and says that a country’s losses or gains depend on country-specific factors, such as level and composition of migration.

However, he also notes that imposing restrictions on mobility can be detrimental to development.

Read more here.

Related articles:
The impact of migration on trade, by Murat Genç
How to attract foreign students, by Arnuad Chevalier
The brain drain from developing countries, by Frédéric Docquier
Circular migration, by Klaus F. Zimmermann