Policy Prescriptions and Possibilities

With the international mobility of highly skilled workers forecast to increase, many countries and regional groupings of states are taking steps to coordinate and implement policy responses. Most authors agree that countries must do away with a laissez faire approach. Strategic immigration and development aid policies must be developed, aimed at effective management of human capital that produces a win win situation for both sending and receiving countries. Skills migration cannot be prevented, but it can, in theory, be managed to the benefit of all parties concerned.

In general, policy options have been categorized into six types, or the 6 Rs. These are reparation, restriction, resourcing, recruitment, retention, and return. In short, the six responses suggest that:

  • (1) destination countries should financially compensate source countries for the loss of skilled personnel;
  • (2) sending countries should restrict who leaves and/or receiving countries restrict who enters;
  • (3) countries experiencing a skills loss should source missing personnel from other countries;
  • (4) receiving countries should make changes to their immigration and recruitment policies;
  • (5) origin countries should address the conditions that prompt skilled people to emigrate; and
  • (6) sending countries should focus on creating the conditions and incentives to retain skilled personnel and on attracting back those who have left.

A considerable political divide exists between countries of origin and destination as to which policies should be implemented. Many countries in Africa demand a cessation of recruiting, closing of the doors to skilled migrants by Europe and North America, and financial compensation for skills loss. The beneficiaries of skills migration have largely rejected the idea of direct monetary compensation, and argue that denying entry to people from certain countries violates the human rights of the individual who wishes to leave. They also maintain that origin countries ignore the downstream benefits of skilled professionals leaving, especially remittances and knowledge transfer through exchanges and return migration. Of the six policy responses, retention is generally seen as the best long term policy option, but many countries cannot create the necessary conditions on their own.