Orozco: “We’re not Addressing the Brain Drain by Investing in Human Capital or Increasing Skills of the Local Labor Force”

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Manuel Orozco spoke with Open Democracy's Borders and Belonging Podcast about the socio-economic harm done to the countries in the Global South that suffer brain drains as well as the effect of global mobility in an interconnected world. In a conversation with Maggie Perzyna and Ninna Sørensen, Orozco discussed the key issue in terms of the shortages and demands of skilled labor as well as state fragility in developing countries country as a consequence of migration in larger numbers. 


Migration trends in the Global South

"I think in practical terms, the term ‘brain drain’ is a little pejorative and more normative than empirically based."

"You may be looking at countries like Jamaica or Ghana, where there is an important demand for skilled labor at a point where economic transformation is needed. And then you’re having problems in other places like Haiti, for example, or Mali, where the labor force is practically unskilled. And migration occurs among those with high skills because there are no opportunities in the host country. So you have a mix of realities going on."

The brain drain phenomenon

"You have different realities taking place. Today, we’re talking about what we call digital nomads. And these are basically skilled migrants who go to, you know, Jamaica, or to Costa Rica. And they come from the North or come from other parts of Uruguay or Nicaragua and start working there. They take advantage of the skills but also of the opportunities that the local economy offers. So, the context today, it’s somewhat different from what it was when the term was introduced."

The relationship between brain drain and underdevelopment

"Honestly, statistically, there is no relationship. I mean, let’s put this into context. When we look at an obsolete term like underdevelopment, I think we have to problematize the conceptual framework of that because it’s a 1970s approach. Let’s think in terms of the model of growth that most developing countries, if not practically, the large majority of them whether we’re talking about Africa, Asia, or Latin America, and the Caribbean - it is one that is structured along two pillars of economic growth: one with the extractive sector, energy, mining, agricultural exports through enclaves and free trade zones, and tourism. Those five key elements of economic growth, basically capture most of the formal sector of the economy. They may contribute to 70 percent of the GDP, but they only hire 30 percent, at most, of the labor force."

"And we’re not addressing it by investing in human capital, increasing skills of the local labor force, and making them employable and competitive. Those are, I think, the issue that we should be addressing..."



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