Reverse Foreign Aid: poor-to-rich subsidy from the brain drain

NY Times Magazine on March 25th, 2007 features an article by Tina Rosenberg. She describes how poor countries are now subsidizing rich countries in what she calls a "Reverse Foreign Aid". Among all the mechanisms, the health worker brain drain was used as a prominent example of how poor countries are suffering from professional migration. See excerpt below...

"Human nature, not smart lobbying, is responsible for another poor-to-rich subsidy: the brain drain. The migration of highly educated people from poor nations is increasing. A small brain drain can benefit the South, as emigrants send money home and may return with new skills and capital. But in places where educated people are few and emigrants don’t go home again, the brain drain devastates. In many African countries, more than 40 percent of college-educated people emigrate to rich countries. Malawian nurses have moved to Britain and other English-speaking nations en masse, and now two-thirds of nursing posts in Malawi’s public health system are vacant. Zambia has lost three-quarters of its new physicians in recent years. Even in South Africa, 21 percent of graduating doctors migrate.

The financial consequences for the poorer nations can be severe. A doctor who moves from Johannesburg to North Dakota costs the South African government as much as $100,000, the price of training him there. As with patent enforcement, a larger cost may be in health. A lack of trained people — a gap that widens daily — is now the main barrier to fighting AIDS, malaria and other diseases in Africa."

Full article at