Academic journal article African Studies Review

Some Perspectives on the Migration of Skilled Professionals from Ghana

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Some Perspectives on the Migration of Skilled Professionals from Ghana

Article excerpt


In the last four decades, transnational movements of both skilled and unskilled labor from developing countries to the advanced industrial economies have witnessed an unprecedented growth. Motivated largely by deteriorating livelihood conditions in the developing world and increasing demand for wealthy and highly skilled professionals in the developed economies, these movements have attracted a great deal of research attention and inspired public policy debates on their implications and results. Like other countries, Ghana has had a long history of movement of her nationals to various parts of the world for various reasons. However, in terms of the goal of enhancing the benefits of such emigration for Ghana, there appears to be a policy void. This article contributes to filling this gap. It discusses the merits and problems associated with the transnational movements of Ghanaian health and educational professionals and proposes ways to enhance the benefits. It also suggests pathways for aiding future migration policy formulation in Ghana.


In recent years, the debate on the development effects of skilled-labor migration from developing countries has continued to intensify among both academic researchers and civil society organizations in response to the increasing outflow of skilled professionals to the developed world. Fueled largely by the increasing demand for skilled labor in a more competitive global marketplace, as well as strong indications of imminent demographic decline, advanced developed countries have adopted various policies intended to attract people with the requisite technical skills and backgrounds to help augment their skilled manpower resources. While many scholars agree that some migration of skilled labor is necessary for the integration of developing countries into the global economic system, and also that some international efforts have successfully reduced the impact of these movements, they also caution that large outflows are detrimental to the smooth and sustained development of these lagging economies and that some restrictions in the migration of skilled labor are called for (see, e.g., Lowell et al. 2002). As a result of what many consider the "poaching" of these highly educated professionals - people who are needed by the developing countries themselves to engender growth and development and who, moreover, have been trained with the meager resources of those countries - developed countries are now being perceived by many as undermining the development agenda of poor nations (Skeldon 2005a).

The complexities of the contemporary migration process - its new forms, populations, and destinations in the ever-changing global context - have created new pressures on the governments of nation-states, which must manage both out- and in-migration in ways that sustain their place in the globalized world. In most cases, however, they are operating in a policy environment characterized by ineffective planning and inadequate collaboration across boundaries, as well as by changing popular views on migration and its perceived impact (IMI 2006). These challenges are exacerbated, further, by what is often a relative lack of control over the emigration of both skilled and unskilled labor, especially in situations in which developing nations are unable to provide adequate incentives to keep their nationals at home.

This article focuses on some of the development implications of the international migration of skilled labor from Ghana - a country that provides an ideal context because of its citizens' long history of migration abroad in pursuit of further education or employment, and also because of the persistence of strong familial ties and bonds between these expatriate communities and the people back home (see Akyeampong 2000; Asiedu 2005). Specifically, this article interrogates the widely held view that these migrations hold back socioeconomic development in the country of origin and thereby promote a culture of dependency. …

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