Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Hottest Comodity: How Emigrants Can Be a Country's Most Valuable Resource

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

The Hottest Comodity: How Emigrants Can Be a Country's Most Valuable Resource

Article excerpt


The picture of the world today is, broadly speaking, of limited resources meeting ever more numerous and more complex challenges. Moreover, these challenges and risks are almost always interrelated: there is increased scientific evidence that the incidence of extreme weather is related to manmade environmental damage , such as that created by the same rapid economic expansion which in turn fuels the rise in raw-materials and energy prices food shortages and high food prices in developing regions of the world can, and often do, generate socio-political unrest , and so on. In other words, the vast majority of challenges faced by any country or company can best be tackled effectively without a multi-faceted, inter-disciplinary approach that takes into account secondary, alongside primary or "headline" effects.

In this context, another resource facing increasing demand is the human ingenuity to make the most out of every limited resource, to invent ever more creative ways to solve problems. It is this resource, and the efforts made by countries around the world to accumulate more of it, that is the focus of this paper.

Of the global pool of skilled labour, this paper focuses on return migrants, or those workers who opted to leave their country and later on returned, in a position to employ the skills, knowledge and capital acquired abroad back home again. For the sake of clarity and owing to the complexities of the global migration phenomenon and the varieties of motivations fuelling migrant flows across borders, this paper will dwell mainly on one of the four types of return migration identified by Cerase as early as 1974 (5)--the return of innovation: "In this case, the immigrant sees in his return home the possibility of a greater satisfaction of his needs and aspirations. [...] In order to realise them, he is prepared to make use of all the means and new skills he has acquired during his migratory experience." (6)

This paper addresses the question of so-called "feedback loops" (7) between return migration and a country's degree of development as evident in its socio-economic policies and soundness of democratic political institutions. The questions at the heart of this article are: Is the return of former emigrants and their transfer of skills acquired abroad a deliberate result of specific policies? If yes, can they be replicated? If no, can the result be attained through policy? Should countries adopt policies that pro-actively seek to encourage the return home of former emigrants and seek to use those flows as an instrument of development? Based on the experience of other countries, what policies will be most effective in attaining this goal?

Countries' need for skilled labour stems from well-documented economic considerations, but also from socio-political ones. As noted by David and Foray, the discrepancy in the productivity and growth of countries in recent times has less to do with the abundance or shortage of natural resources than with the capacity to ..."create new knowledge and ideas and incorporate them in equipment and people" (8). The same point was made by Kelo and W6chter in a study on migration in the European Union following its enlargement. They noted that in a framework of so-called knowledge economies, "the economic future of Europe, as that of any other region or country in the world, will critically hinge on its ability to produce sufficient numbers of highly skilled people, but also to retain them, and to attract further ones from other countries" (9). Furthermore, Kapur and McHale point out that " vast differences in the soundness of ... institutional foundations" are increasingly recognised as a key factor behind "massive gaps" in the living standards of developed and developing countries (10). They add that people build institutions and that the most talented individuals in a position to help with this process are those in the highest demand from other countries before concluding that "the places that potential institutional builders are most likely to leave are those where institutional quality is worst" ". …

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