Migration can benefit all parties involved: migrant-sending countries, migrant-receiving countries and the migrants themselves. This is the major finding of an OECD report on Gaining from Migration: Towards a New Mobility System, which the Secretary General of the OECD, Mr. Angel Gurría, presented at the EU High Level Conference on Legal Immigration.
The study shows that policies can influence, but do not entirely control, migration flows. New instruments and approaches to establish an international labour mobility system will increase the gains from migration when:
high skilled migration flows are framed within partnerships between sending and receiving countries, encouraging the repatriation of skills and knowledge (brain circulation);
host countries integrate low-skilled migrants well into their economies and societies; and
policies harness the energies of diaspora networks, commercial banks and other businesses.
More specifically, the effect of emigration of the highly-skilled (brain drain) is not always negative, as is usually believed (Fig. 1). In fact, insufficient infrastructure in sending countries often discourages people from working in the sectors for which they have been trained: nurses that leave a poor country, for example, often do not work in the health sector prior to their departure. By migrating to another country, the highly-skilled thus receive further skills and experiences which may prove useful if this know-how can be returned to the sending countries.
Fig. 1: Brain Drain – A World Overview*
|| Less than 2 %
|| Less than 5 %
|| Less than 10 %
|| Less than 20 %
|| Over 20 %
|| Not included
* The depiction and use of boundaries shown on maps do not
imply official endorsement or acceptance by the OECD.
Comparing emigration rates of the highly educated — the share of a country's nationals with a university education who live in the OECD — reveals that low-income countries suffer disproportionately from the brain drain (indicated by darker shading). However, developing countries could even benefit from high-skill migration if partnerships between sending and receiving countries encourage a repatriation of skills and knowledge (brain circulation).
Source: OECD Development Centre and Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (2007).
Similarly, low-skilled migrants are not a threat to host economies as these people usually do not compete for jobs with the domestic population. Rather, low-skill migrants can actually fill positions which would otherwise remain vacant, increasing the overall productivity of a country. What is more, low-skill migrants contribute disproportionately to poverty reduction in their home countries as they generally migrate without their families and support them with financial transfers from abroad (remittances).
Finally, the report recognises the limited influence of governments. Non-state actors such as diaspora networks, commercial banks and other businesses play an important role: the former in providing a link between the sending and receiving countries, which could be used for a future transfer of goods and know-how; the latter two in providing a framework for commercial transfers which make a crucial contribution to the development process in migrant-sending countries.
For more information, please visit our migration website (www.oecd.org/dev/migration) or contact:
Migration at the Development Centre
Development Centre Studies: Gaining from Migration