The Brain Drain: the effect of professionals migrating to home countries

By Tim Thompson-Essex in Vancouver

The Brain Drain: the effect of professionals migrating to home countries

Recently, the migration of foreign-born talent in America back to their origin countries is becoming a heavily increasing trend. The diminishing pay gaps, in conjunction with greater career opportunities and developments in home countries has resulted in nearly 200,000 foreign-born Americans returning to their origin countries annually, reaching up to 1000 per day in some cases.

The mass migration and “brain drain” is further exacerbated by the increasingly difficult and lengthy process to get a visa, with only 20% of American visas receiving approval for professional reasons. The knock-on effect of the emigration has resulted in disruption across the US, greater hiring and training costs, and increasing talent gap. 

With the lack of qualified applicants in engineering and manufacturing being estimated by Deloitte at 2.4 million jobs becoming unfilled within the next 10 years, costing the economy approximately $2.5 million. The depletion of so many jobs will be difficult to reverse, depriving the country of the necessary skills to thrive.

The repatriation of professionals to India, China, and Ireland from the US are some examples of this. In a bid to bring back highly-skilled and educated individuals to their origin countries, projects and developments of markets and living standards in the origin countries have resulted in the emigration of 5000 tech-focused individuals, and the decline of graduate applications to the US by 8.8% from India alone.

Those who are highly educated and skilled professionals can help to increased trade, capital flows, and transfer knowledge and technology. The migration of such people from their origin to host countries are able to expand transnational social capital, facilitating integration of different regions.

As such, the potentially detrimental effects that the brain drain will have on the US workforce, particularly in the chemical industry as 20% of the workforce are approaching retirement in the next 5 years, must be acted upon as soon as possible.

A method of altering the declining trajectory is by adapting to the competitive and changing landscapes of the tech-focused industries and digitisation. Additionally, reformation of public education and expansion of projects to retain attractive highly-educated professionals may facilitate expansion of the workforce, thereby moving away from the current status of an ageing group.

With regards to potential policies, it may be beneficial to re-target where visa’s are being distributed, as 70% currently are being approved for family reunification. Alternatively, rather than outsourcing and having foreign-born Americans making up the bulk of talent with the relevant skills, honing in and cultivating homegrown talent could be key with regards to curbing the current brain drain scenario.

References:

-    https://www.digitalistmag.com/future-of-work/2018/03/21/mitigating-brain-drain-of-chemical-industry-05994556

-    https://www.amanet.org/articles/dealing-with-americas-alarming-reverse-brain-drain/

-    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/commentary-the-great-american-brain-drain-is-coming/

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About the author

Tim Essex specialises in recruiting at a mid-senior level exclusively across the North American Process & Chemicals sector focusing solely on Manufacturing, Operational Excellence, Quality and R&D hires.

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