Arab countries lose US$1.57 billion annually from brain drain
In light of the present economic realities, an opportunity has opened for talent-exporting countries within the Arab World to introduce incentive policies to reverse the pervasive brain drain, reveals a latest report by TalentRepublic.net. Talent-exporting Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan should formulate proactive measures to create gainful work and investment opportunities at home, attracting both young home-grown talent and experienced immigrants, whose expertise and knowledge will promote social and economic development.
The TalentRepublic.net report pointed out that around 70,000 Arab university graduates emigrate annually to search for jobs overseas, while about 54 per cent of Arab students studying abroad do not come back to their home country to seek job opportunities. Stopping the widespread emigration of human capital can save talent-exporting Arab countries around USD1.57 billion annually, a study by the Arab League’s Department of Population and Migration Policies.
According to statistics obtained from the Arab League, ILO, UNESCO and other Arab and international organisations, about 100,000 scientists, doctors and engineers leave Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt, Tunis, Morocco and Algeria annually. 70 per cent of the scientists do not return home, while about 50 per cent of doctors, 23 per cent of engineers and 15 per cent of scientists move to Europe, United States and Canada.
TalentRepublic.net’s report indicated that it is imperative for the talent-exporting Arab countries to learn from previous experiences such as the Non-Resident Indian program, which the Indian government introduced during the past few years to attract Indian expatriates back home. The report also highlighted the need to establish a robust network and communication line with immigrant communities abroad, which will allow the governments of various Arab countries to convey their new incentive policies and ultimately prove to a larger number of expatriates that there are now numerous lucrative opportunities within their home countries. Such proactive measures, particularly those targeting people with world-class skills as well as successful entrepreneurs who can help generate domestic jobs, can potentially double the national income, consolidate the economy and even help the country catch up with established international job markets, the report pointed out.
The key to bringing back home-grown talent, according to TalentRepublic.net, is to secure social and economic stability. Some of the incentives that governments can introduce to prevent and reverse the pervasive brain drain include streamlining and simplifying the process of establishing businesses and investment portfolios, sponsoring manufacturing ventures, offering relaxed regulations, improving living standards and public services, instituting healthier pension and compensation plans, improving national security measures, and investing in new infrastructure and development projects.
TalentRepublic.net expects that such government-led measures can reap enormous rewards by utilising the vast experience and knowledge of returning professionals - many of whom hold important positions abroad - to develop the economy and promote national interest.
The Arab region is expected to experience labour force growth of 3.5-4.0 percent over the next 10-15 years. The World Bank estimates that to keep up with that growth, the region will have to create 55-70 million new jobs—55 million just to keep up; 70 million to bring the employment rate up to the global norm.
TalentRepublic.net’s report noted that Arab countries have been making substantial investments for educating and training youth. When graduates migrate, this translates into a loss to their home countries and benefit to the recipient countries, which exploit the refined talent without having to spend on education.
To underline the importance of retaining human capital, TalentRepublic.net cited the example of Egypt. Egypt’s economy achieved a growth rate of 4.7 per cent in the fiscal year until June 2009. TalentRepublic.net notes that this growth would have been doubled if the government had an attractive package in place for its human capital abroad, particularly those who have been affected by the ongoing global economic downturn. Nonetheless, in a move that is set to open new possibilities to retain local talents and attract immigrants, the government has recently allocated EGP 15 billion for various projects aimed at creating new jobs.
On the other hand, delayed government formation in Lebanon is holding off USD 2 billion worth of investments and 6,000 new job opportunities in the hotel industry, which shows that a competitive marketplace alone will fail to generate adequate employment opportunities; government-led incentives are essential to create jobs.
According to TalentRepublic’s report, the international mobility of talent is one of the pillars of globalisation, thus talent-exporting countries must always be prepared to provide attractive incentives to retain local talent and attract non-resident nationals who have strong potential to contribute in building the national economy. Failing to do so can result in mass human capital exodus, which can have a huge negative impact on efforts to build a robust and self-sustaining national economy.