Volume 44, Number 172,
January-March 2013
The Migration of Qualified Workers
as an Obstacle to Development
José Luis Hernández

However, the labor surplus of professionals in developed countries coming from underdeveloped countries can be explained by different reasons, all closely linked. It should be emphasized that the majority were trained to perform in their country of origin, but not necessarily in their destination country. Moreover, in this respect, dominating the language of the target country is an important factor.1

Additionally, the composition of capital in the target country has been increasing to such a point that there may be sectors where there are already too many employees. In other words, there is already a reserve for this type of labor from the country itself. This translates into lower salaries, at least for the type B workers that were previously mentioned, because type A employees are paid “you know, whatever.” For example, going back to Brown, Lauder and Ashton (2011: 26): “In 1970, the chief executives of Fortune 100 companies in the United States received 39 times more than the average worker; by the end of the 1990s, this had increased to 1,000 times the pay of ordinary workers.” The talent war has led to higher specialization and lower salaries for workers with medium and low qualifications.

On the other hand, destination countries have seen a strong exit of investment towards other places, especially Asian countries, where they can take advantage of low salaries to increase competitiveness on the international stage. A statement taken from Brown, Lauder and Ashton (2011: 50) says the following:

An automaker headquartered in Detroit told us, ‘If you had asked me 5 years ago, I would have said that the skill sets probably are still in the advanced economies, but I think that is changing very, very quickly.’ He was equally quick to understand how this was transforming the relationship between quality and cost. ‘The advantage from our perspective is that you are paying these guys anywhere from sort of $12,000 to $15,000 a year versus, say, a European or a U.S. engineer at anywhere from $75,000 to $95,000 a year, with a whole bunch of benefits as well.’

This would clearly manifest itself in a drop in employment and salaries in developed countries. Meanwhile, many Asian countries long ago understood that a departure from underdevelopment implied overcoming the relationship that makes a country underdeveloped. In other words, they understood that they had to generate knowledge and cutting-edge technology. They have managed to achieve significant advances in these fields, renegotiating their position in the international stage and playing a different role in qualified migration that has translated into higher rates of return, as a response to concrete State policies designed to take advantage of this diaspora. Regarding this, an official from the International Migration Organization (Norza, 2009: 8-9) recommended:

Many situations must be researched and this topic interests us. We want to clarify why other areas of the world have grown in scientific and technological development and understand the policies applied so that highly qualified labor returns. Among these are stimulus and protection policies with State and private sector intervention, applying the concept of brain gain or the recovery of highly qualified human resources. It is absolutely necessary to also investigate State policies developed in Asia that are used to regulate and organize a surplus of qualified human resources. Countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, India, China and Korea have achieved economic growth using policies adjusted to the management of resources.

In this framework, it is understandable that while these countries have been consolidating their science and technology sectors, qualified migration has slowed or has turned into more of an exchange of qualified workers and students. “There are approximately 10,000 students from the United States studying in Chinese universities” (Brown, Lauder and Ashton, 2011:45). However, in Latin American countries, this type of migration has mainly been in the form of a brain drain.

1 This idea has been called brain waste, because the society of origin does not take advantage of the education and abilities of the persons in which it has invested resources, but neither does the target country. However, from the perspective of the individual, this is not the case, because a person’s training may have important meaning.

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Published in Mexico, 2012-2018 © D.R. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).
PROBLEMAS DEL DESARROLLO. REVISTA LATINOAMERICANA DE ECONOMÍA, Volume 49, Number 194 July-September 2018 is a quarterly publication by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, CP 04510, México, D.F. by Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Circuito Mario de la Cueva, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán,
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