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Worker Remittances and Poverty in the Arab World
The Arab world has one of the highest proportions of migrant to local workers in the world, with over 32 million migrant workers in the Arab states in 2015 alone. In addition, the region has one of the largest diasporas in the world. This means that many skilled workers are emigrating to wealthier countries and sending money home via remittances. But what do remittances in the Arab World mean for the region and its inhabitants?

Brain Drain vs. Gain

In Lebanon and Jordan, unskilled labor is provided by growing numbers of refugees and foreign workers, totaling over five million in 2015. However, as more foreign workers enter the country, growing numbers of high-skilled Lebanese and Jordanian nationals are emigrating. This often occurs when opportunities are limited, when unemployment is high and economic growth slows. The phenomenon is dubbed ‘brain drain’ as opposed to ‘brain gain’, whereby an increasing stock of human capital boosts economies. A drain occurs while poor countries lose their most high-skilled workers and wealthier countries in turn gain these educated professionals.

Remittances in the Arab World

These expatriates commonly work to improve their own living situations while also helping to support their friends and families. This is where remittances come into play. As defined by the Migration Data Portal, remittances are financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives in their communities of origin. Remittances often exceed official development aid.  They are also frequently more effective in alleviating poverty. In 2014 alone, the Arab states remitted more than $109 billion, largely from the United States followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

There is no denying that remittances can be a strong driving force for the socioeconomic stability of many Arab countries. But not all the influences are positive. Some experts argue that remittances can actually hurt the development of recipient countries. Their arguments cite potential negative effects of labor mobility and over-reliance on remittances. They emphasize that this can create dependency which undermines recipients’ incentive to find work. All this means an overall slowing of economic growth and a perpetuation of current socioeconomic status.

The Force of the Diaspora

The link between remittances in the Arab world and poverty is clear. Brain drain perpetuates and high amounts of remittance inflow and outflow persist if living conditions remain unchanged. Policymakers are therefore focusing efforts on enticing emigrants to return to their countries of origin. By strengthening ties with migrant networks, and implementing strategies like entrepreneurial start-up incentives and talent plans, the initial negative effects of brain drain could be curbed.

Overall, though brain drain and remittances can seem to hurt development in the short-term, if policies can draw high-skilled workers back, contributions to long-term economic development can erase these negative aspects altogether. Young populations that have emigrated to more developed countries acquire education and valuable experience that is essential to promote entrepreneurship in their home countries. Moreover, their experiences in advanced democracies can bolster their contribution to improved governance in their countries of origin. The Arab world’s greatest untapped potential is its diaspora, and it could be the key to a more prosperous future, if only it can be harnessed.

Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in EthiopiaThere are many barriers to residents obtaining proper health care in Ethiopia. It is estimated that 76 percent of Ethiopian women live in rural areas and do not have access to health care due to long traveling distances with lack of transportation.

Why Better Health Care in Ethiopia is Necessary

There are 1,949 health stations and 141 health centers in Ethiopia. Many of these facilities do not have a physician present to provide care. Therefore, many people, particularly women, do not want to travel long distances to a facility that may not have a proper physician to provide care. This is especially true for women that must travel alone because of the high rate of rapes and abductions that take place in Ethiopia.

There is a great need for proper health care in Ethiopia when disease is responsible for 74 percent of deaths. The conditions that are most responsible for deaths include malaria, acute respiratory infections, nutritional deficiencies, diarrhea and HIV/AIDS. In 2009, there were 1.7 million cases of malaria reported and 1.1 million cases of HIV/AIDS. Ethiopia is ranked third in all of Africa and eighth in the entire world for the most cases of tuberculosis.

The lack of health care in Ethiopia has resulted in a high rate of infant and maternal deaths. There are an estimated 59 deaths for every 1,000 live births and 88 deaths for every thousand children under the age of five. 34 percent of children are born underweight and 50 percent are stunted due to nutritional deficiencies by the age of five.

Understanding Issues in Ethiopia’s Current System

Ethiopia’s government has been largely focused on battling famine which is why the health care system has suffered. However, in 2012, the government built 13 new medical schools and increased the enrollment in the already established schools. The government has proposed that with the estimate of 85 percent of the rural population not having access to health care in Ethiopia, a large barrier is the lack of physicians available in the public sector.

A study in 2009 that surveyed how many physicians were working in Ethiopia showed that there were 2,152 physicians in the public sector (about one physician for every 42,000 patients). The same survey showed that 73 percent of physicians that graduated from a residency program in Ethiopia either left the public sector to work privately or immigrated overseas for more income. The government has made efforts to increase the number of residency programs to train more doctors and surgeons. However, the increase in students is not enough to support the population.

The deficit of surgeons is even greater than general physicians. Until 1980, all surgeons were trained outside the country and there were roughly three surgeons to every 1,000,000 patients. This improved when the Tikur Anbessa Hospital established the first surgical residency program in 1980 and has since continued to improve.

Since 2005, there have been seven more surgical residency programs added that have incorporated subspecialty training such as neurosurgery, urology, cardiothoracic surgery, plastics and reconstructive surgery. This program accepts only 25 new residents a year and each student will rotate between six different hospitals around the city of Addis Ababa.

How the Government is Battling the Issue

The local government has decided that increasing the number of students and graduates will decrease the physician shortage which is currently the worst barrier of proper health care in Ethiopia, but the increase in student enrollment has compromised the quality of physician training. One factor that contributes to lowering the quality of training is the limitation of resources; there are on average 30 students to one cadaver.

Another damaging factor to the quality of medical training due to the increase of enrollment is the lack of instructors. There are not many incentives in teaching students, therefore recent graduates with little clinical experience are asked to instruct the new students.

There is a desperate need to develop health care in Ethiopia. The lack of attention to the health care system is due to the great efforts to end famine in the country. However, the country’s government is making small efforts to improve citizens’ access to health care in Ethiopia.

– Kristen Hibbett
Photo: Flickr

South Africa's Growing Business Landscape
South Africa‘s business landscape can be challenging. Many businesses have become successful nationally as well as internationally in some cases, but it can be difficult for new businesses to get off the ground. These are a few of the difficulties faced by businesses in South Africa as well as some opportunities to overcome.

The Brain Drain

The large number of skilled workers leaving South Africa for other countries has led to the term “brain drain.” The Global Innovation Index estimates that South Africa has lost 5 percent of its researchers and entrepreneurs to other countries, which has taken away up to 20 percent of innovative production. By September 2015, 47,000 skilled South Africans had left the country, with 70 percent happy with their choice. This brain drain has led researchers to wonder why so many citizens are leaving and how to increase enthusiasm for staying in South Africa.

The Challenges of Owning a Business

Part of the challenge for entrepreneurs is simply the time required to open a business in South Africa, which hurts small businesses that cannot afford to wait. The main positive of opening a business is that the rules seem to be followed and there is a clear path to take. However, the time involved is lengthy. Construction permits can take up to 127 days to complete, but getting electricity for a building can take up to 226 days. It is estimated that it takes an average business owner 200 hours a year to complete their taxes. If someone breaks a contract, it may not be worth the time to try to recover the costs, because it takes an average of 500 days for cases like these to go through the court system.

Many Changes in the Last 25 Years

Other difficulties for many South Africans may be systemic ones. South Africa has seen a lot of change in the last 25 years in overcoming the aftermath of South Africa’s apartheid system. Like most major system changes, there are improvements and also growing pains. Many neighborhoods in South Africa still reflect separations in races and ethnic groups, which dates back to when this was required by apartheid law. In addition, there is still a significant wage gap between black and white citizens, with white citizens earning more.

However, improvements such as the murder rate being halved, access to better housing and the growing availability of electricity (50.9 percent in 1994 to 85.3 percent in 2012) show the country is invested in a better future. While these changes and challenges do not directly relate to businesses in South Africa, they illustrate the environment businesses are operating in. More than ever, it is clear that businesses are needed to help with some of these issues, particularly with the unemployment rate, which is at 26.7 percent, higher than it was in 1994, but lower than when it hit its peak of 31.2 percent in 2004.

Successful Businesses in South Africa

There are still challenges facing businesses in South Africa and a large number of citizens are finding opportunities elsewhere, but there are those that have stayed and been successful. When South African entrepreneurs were asked what lessons they learned, they cited the importance of building a loyal consumer base, a willingness to be gutsy and a readiness to try new things.

Some successful entrepreneurs that have changed the face of South Africa are Pam Golding, who founded Pam Golding Properties in 1976 as an estate agency, but has since moved into the luxury residential space. Or Richard Maponya, who started successful businesses involving retail and property despite apartheid laws and recently helped open Maponya Mall. Or Adrian Gore, who founded Discovery Health, which has had such a huge impact on health insurance that many other companies are duplicating his model.

While not all of South Africa’s challenges will be cured through business, developing a healthy business base will create more opportunities for citizens, increase employment opportunities and help fill in other voids, such as infrastructure or bridging gaps between groups of people. All of this together will help to create a healthy work and business environment, consequently reducing the brain drain in South Africa.

– Natasha Komen

Photo: Flickr

Curacao Poverty Rate
On October 10, 2010, after centuries operating as a deep-water port for the Dutch, the small Caribbean island of Curacao gained autonomy as a state in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 80 percent of the country’s debt was forgiven by the Dutch, and most government positions were undertaken by local citizens. For many who lived on the island, 10/10/10 marked the dawn of a new era of opportunity. “We were confident that we were going to have this perfect future,” said political analyst Michiel van der Veur.

Enthusiasm was short lived. Soon after gaining autonomy, the assassination of politician Helman Wiels plunged the island into turmoil. Between 2012 and 2013, Curacao had four prime ministers, greatly increasing the instability. As a country plagued with such unrest, it should be no wonder that the Curacao poverty rate is over 25 percent.

A small island country located in the Caribbean, much of the economy in Curacao is based around tourism and is thus highly sensitive to fluxes in the world market. Most of the country’s necessities are imported, leading to large trade deficits.

The Curacao poverty rate is likely increased by the country’s “brain drain” problem. Like many other developing island nations, citizens who are ambitious and educated often leave, moving to other countries with better opportunities for people with their skill sets.

However, Curacao has committed itself to addressing the country’s widespread poverty. With the support and assistance of the U.N. Development Program, Curacao has created a National Development Plan (NDP), which will focus on improving the economy through a series of steps from 2015 to 2030.

The NDP focuses on five themes to accomplish its goal: education, economy, sustainability, national identity and good governance. As diminishing the Curacao poverty rate is a priority, economy is one of the most important themes. In order to accomplish this, Curacao will focus on structural reform, government support, sectoral growth, supporting investments and broadening ownership of industry and land.

With the NDP, Curacao has taken a significant step towards strengthening the economy and the country as a whole. While there is much work to do, the country’s history as a long time trading center and large deep water port point to a high probability of success.

Connor S. Keowen

Photo: Flickr

Brain Drain
Brain drain is a rampant epidemic detrimentally impacting developing nations across the earth. As a result, businesses and political figures are making fantastic efforts to reverse brain drains on both a national and global level.

What is Brain Drain and Why is it Happening?

According to Merriam-Webster, brain drain is defined as, “a situation in which many educated or professional people leave a particular place or profession and move to another one that gives them better pay or living conditions.”

The term brain drain was first coined around the 1960s when Great Britain experienced a high percentage of British scientists and intellectuals leaving the country to find better careers in the U.S.

Since then, many other countries such as Greece, Lithuania and a number of African nations have experienced brain drain at an alarming rate.

The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine reports that brain drain stems from a wide range of economic, social and political conditions. Most of these conditions are observed in developing countries where the careers of citizens are stifled from issues such as poverty, political instability and lack of technology.

These conditions make developed countries more attractive to those with a degree or a specialized skill. Countries such as the U.S., Canada and the U.K. have been gaining a significant amount of doctors and nurses from abroad.

Migration Abroad

In 2006, the U.S. received roughly 213,331 doctors and 99,456 nurses from abroad. Research from the WHO estimated that brain drain resulted in a global shortage of 4.3 million healthcare workers. Countries experiencing brain drain lose educated working class employees by anywhere from thousands to hundreds of thousands of workers.

In just 2011 alone, Lithuania reported 54,000 migrating to find work in the U.K. The continent of Africa loses one in nine university graduates to Western nations. In addition, Greece estimated that 160,000 to 180,000 college graduates have left the country for better opportunities.

Though developed countries can benefit from receiving these educated migrants, the sheer amount of incoming, educated people can overwhelmingly disadvantage various sectors within developing countries.

Brain Gain

However, there is hope to reverse brain drain as seen from the efforts of nations such as Lithuania, the UAE and many African countries.

Lithuania

Business leaders and governmental officials in Lithuania are combating brain drain through a series of university mergers. University mergers are when multiple universities unify in order to foster stronger university brands. The plan is that these university mergers will attract current citizens and international students to study in Lithuania.

Marius Skuodis, a former citizen of Lithuania, has returned to his country because of the new opportunities provided within the university mergers. He plans on pursuing his PhD at Vilnius University, despite having to accept a lower salary.

Skuodis is quoted saying that, “Lithuania offered me career opportunities I could not expect in the UK.”

UAE

The UAE has also made gallant strides in turning brain drain into a brain gain. The UAE is a nation that suffered from brain drain as well as high levels of violence for numerous years.

Recently, businesses have made tremendous efforts in the UAE to improve the quality of life for workers and residents. These efforts have turned the UAE into a thriving nation with one of the highest standards of living for citizens in the world.

Africa

In Africa, reports indicate that brain drain has slowed substantially within the continent. A study in 2014 from South Africa’s Adcorp, stated that 359,000 highly skilled South African workers had returned to working in their countries of origin.

Economists have noted that this accomplishment was possible due to the policies that governments and businesses have put in place in order to encourage workers to come back home.

Finding a solution to reducing brain drain is no easy feat, as it requires both businesses and governments to coincide with one another to tackle the issue at hand. Businesses and corporate leaders need to implement solutions to create more job opportunities with quality benefits for those with desired skills.

Governments need to strive for policy changes that encourage workers to return to their countries. However, if governments and businesses can work together to make substantial legislation changes, many nations may follow suit and reverse their brain drain into a brain gain.

Shannon Warren

Photo: Flickr

Brain_Drain
With the Greek economy in the throes of crisis, and its exit from the EU imminent, employment prospects for educated Greek professionals seem bleak. Questions over their homeland’s future have caused a mass exodus among many educated Greeks. The emigration of Greece’s most talented professionals has earned an informal name in the media; they are called ‘Grexit’s.

In fact, the modern western world has never before experienced a brain drain on this scale; Emigration levels have increased by 300% from before the crisis hit at the onset of the Great Recession. This diaspora exceeds 200,000.

Of those that have emigrated, educated professionals represent a sweeping majority, with up to 180,000 possessing a university degree. Over 10% of Greek professionals currently work and reside abroad.
After looking at the figures, it is not hard to understand why so many young and talented Greeks have left their homeland. The employment rate for those under 24 stands at an abysmal 50%, and between 2008 and 2013 Greece lost nearly 1 million jobs—over half of which belonged to young people. Considering that Greece’s total population stands at around 11 million, this represents a substantial decline in employment opportunities.

Those that have escaped the inhospitable economic climate have found better job prospects in professional fields abroad. Destinations in Europe are the most popular, with countries like Germany and the UK accepting more than half of Greece’s emigrants.

Germany in particular has become a receptacle for many aspiring Greek doctors, as its well-funded healthcare system has a large demand for personnel. So far, 35,000 Greek doctors have traveled to Germany where their pay is substantially better. Ironically, Greece actually possesses a surplus of medical professionals and has more neurosurgeons than even Germany, the largest country in Europe by population. This fact highlights an important, yet tragic, facet of the Greek Brain Drain; Greece possesses a disproportionally large number of high achieving and highly educated people, many of whom have already left.

Three percent of the world’s most prominent scientists hail from Greece. While that figure may seem measly, Greece’s population represents only .2 percent of the global population. Despite all of Greece’s scientific heft, 85% of these globally recognized scientists conduct their research and reside outside of their home country.

For Greece, this represents a devastating loss of investment. Funds spent on education, from both government programs and from family’s pockets, has essentially gone to waste; those who have enjoyed a Greek education and then chose to work abroad are not innovating at home. With so many talented professionals leaving, it will become more challenging for Greece to pull itself out of its depression.

Greek professionals are not alone, as 46% of Greeks have entertained the idea of emigrating from their home country. With this attitude settling upon many, the problem has only compounded. According to the managing director of Endeavor Greece, Haris Makryniotis, “there is a sense of paralysis, and it’s gotten worse since the elections in December.”

Greek banks have also mirrored this mindset and have stopped giving out loans. According to a report by CNBC, this “means that if you are running a business, there is no debt financing available for working capital right now. And if you are an entrepreneur looking for start-up capital, investors are not untying their purse strings.” Effectively the Greek economy is at a standstill.

There are no quick solutions to a crisis such as this. In order for Greece to prosper, its people, including its reluctant expatriates, must look towards the future. Many hope to return once the economy is back on its feet. Hopefully, at the end of their odyssey abroad, they will find themselves back home once again.

Andrew Logan

Sources: CNBC, The Economist, The Guardian, NPR
Photo: CNBC

Why Does Brain Drain Hurt a Developing Nation

There is a general consensus that developing education is an incredibly important factor to reducing poverty. After an individual receives their education, that person may stay in their home country for a while, but if the economy is too depressed, they may move abroad to work. When this happens, countries are said to have experienced a “brain drain,” or “the migration of health personnel in search of the better standard of living and quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in different places worldwide,” according to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

While brain drain, or human capital flight, usually consists of health personnel, it can also include any person in any highly skilled field.

Brain drain has its benefits for individuals and drawbacks for the developing nation that the individual is leaving. For the worker, leaving for a more developed country has proven to have great benefits. That worker tends to have higher productivity, can usually research and publish more in their field, earn a higher salary, and even send money back to any family in their native home. In short, the individual has used his or her training to move out of a poverty situation and create a better life for their family.

However, for the nation that is left, brain drain results in many gaps in vital industries.

Puerto Rico is suffering from a cycle of poverty that brain drain has helped perpetuate. The migration of skilled workers did not cause the economic problems, yet the problems are more difficult to solve when highly skilled professionals, especially healthcare workers, leave the country.

Haiti has also seen a shortage of workers after having a brain drain: “Healthcare is a contributing factor to brain drain because the pay to healthcare professionals such as doctors and nurses, who are lacking in accessibility, is lower than in other countries. Another contributor to brain drain is education, because the education system is poor—not only do few individuals acquire a post-secondary education, there are few opportunities to advance in specialized fields of interest and conduct meaningful research.

Even more developed countries are seeing the effects of healthcare workers leaving unstable economies. Greece is currently feeling the results of brain drain as more and more healthcare workers are leaving for Germany in the wake of economic unrest. If this continues to spiral, there will be a massive healthcare shortage.

What can be done to stop brain drain? Well, it may never completely stop until economies, schools and healthcare facilities are made better in developing countries. Unless healthcare professionals and other skilled workers are given a financial or educational reason to stay, brain drain will continue to occur.

Some good is being done to stop brain drain in Haiti through the work of the University of the People. They are working to help some students gain education with the hopes that those students will stay in the country and become leaders.

Developing nations need more initiatives like this to help keep skilled workers from leaving.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, New York Times, U.N., University of the People, University of Maryland
Photo: TheAtlantic

young migrants
On February 14th, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released the 2013 World Youth Report, aimed at addressing the significant impact of young migrants on both origin and destination countries. The report also highlights the specific concerns, challenges and successes faced by migrants across the globe.

Whether it be for work, study or family reasons, voluntary migration continues to increase every year. The UN estimates that there are 232 million international migrants worldwide, representing 3.2% of the world’s total population. More than 30% of these migrants are considered youth migrants under the age of 29 and approximately half of these are female.

Youth migration has a significant impact on not only individual lives, but also global economies. Many young migrants leave their country of origin in search of better job opportunities and often send remittances home to benefit their families. These individuals improve their financial situations while engaging in economic transactions that will benefit their destination country.

However, countries of origin often suffer the negative effects of “brain drain,” or human capital flight. This is the process by which professionals, often in the fields of health or education, leave developing countries in search of a higher salary and better living conditions.

The report also goes into detail about the specific struggles and opportunities that young migrants can face.

In the preparatory stage, migrants cited the difficulties they faced in obtaining accurate information about their intended destination, as well as in obtaining needed documents and making travel accommodations.

On arrival, migrants noted experiencing both culture shock and loneliness. Often communication barriers had to be overcome and in the long term, many faced both stereotyping and discrimination.

The report notes some recommendations made by migrants to ease the transition from origin to destination country. Among these is the development of tools to assess the readiness of a migrant and to help facilitate decision-making and planning. They recommended peer-to-peer initiatives, pre-departure orientation programs, and awareness-raising campaigns.

Despite these challenges, many young migrants have become exemplary examples of what can be achieved in the face of adversity.

As the report notes, “their capacity as agents of social change and development should not be underestimated.”

Mollie O’Brien

Sources: UN News Centre, United Nation Regional Information Centre for Western Europe
Photo: Caritas