Every country worries about its brightest and most promising stars moving away, and not returning. This phenomenon, known as the ‘brain drain’, is a common affliction for developing countries that, unable to provide jobs or growth opportunities see their young drawn to build a life overseas, yet the UAE has “shown that it is possible to reverse the forces that had driven away our most talented young people,” says His Highness Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He cites an intensely personal encounter in 1968 when he met a young Arabic doctor in the UK who told him “my home is where I eat” when asked when he intended to return to the country of his birth, to address this much-debated issue, in an article written in Gulf News today.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai laments this ‘brain drain’ from developing countries that can ill-afford it but acknowledges “It is, of course, everyone’s right to choose a better life, wherever in the world they wish. We understand why they go. Talent is drawn – like a magnet – to opportunity” stating that “the United Nations and the OECD report that migration for work has risen by one-third since 2000. One in nine university graduates from Africa now lives and works in the West. Many will not return: skilled workers are six times more likely to stay away.”
There is however, great cause for optimism too; countries are being able to reverse this trend and to coax the young back in a ‘brain regain’. “A new study by LinkedIn, the world’s largest online professional network and recruitment platform, has measured the net international movement of talent among its members. Topping the list as a destination for talent is my own country, the United Arab Emirates, with a net talent gain of 1.3% of the workforce in 2013. Other net “talent magnets” include Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and Brazil.
Most interesting, fewer than one-third of net talent importers are developed countries. In fact, the top talent exporters in this study are Spain, the UK, France, the United States, Italy, and Ireland. Rich countries that until recently had been tempting away our brightest minds are now sending us their own.”
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. cites opportunity and quality of life as being the key determinants for luring back the bright to their home countries. He ends on a cautious but upbeat note; “But let me be clear: reversing the brain drain is about more than plugging a leak. It means flipping a vicious cycle into a virtuous one. By attracting the best talent from around the world, we can create a vibrant and diverse society that fuels innovation and prosperity – which in turn attracts still more talent.
To make this work, we must believe in people. Human beings – their ideas, innovations, dreams, and connections – are the capital of the future. In this sense, the “brain regain” is not so much an achievement in itself as it is a leading indicator of development, because where great minds go today, great things will happen tomorrow.”