KNOMAD  > Thematic working groups >  Skilled labor migration

Skilled labor migration




  • What Attracts High-Skilled Workers?
    June 22, 2016
    Washington, DC
  • Return Migration and Geography of Innovation in Multinational Enterprises
    April 28, 2015
    Washington, DC
  • What really is Brain Drain? Location of Birth, Education, and Migration Dynamics of African Doctors
    January 15, 2015
    Washington, DC 

While the emigration of skilled people is often viewed as a loss for the sending country, many policymakers are increasingly recognizing the associated opportunities for knowledge and skills transfer.  Policies to address talent mobility need to balance the needs of developed and developing countries. This will require a multidimensional approach that includes views from the migrants in question, private firms, employers’ organizations, governments, recruitment agencies, labor groups, trade unions, international organizations and researchers.

High-skilled migration can impair productivity in developing countries by reducing the quality and availability of services that are critical to growth and welfare, and by negating the benefits that come from the presence of a critical mass of highly-educated professionals.  Small developing countries have especially significant outflows of professionals (particularly in health and education) who are in very scarce supply in the domestic economy.  On the other hand, high-skilled migrants can make important contributions to the development of their countries of origin by sending remittances, facilitating the transfer of technology to domestic firms and professionals, building bridges, and creating incentives to gain higher education.

This thematic working group aims to help create and share knowledge on talent mobility, covering issues such as mutual recognition of skills, admission policies and bilateral agreements on skilled labor migration, technical and vocational training, and related policies on education and employment.  Efforts to reduce dependence on foreign skills and approaches to mitigating brain waste and the brain drain will also be analyzed.  The perspectives shared by representatives of governments and businesses will be central to generating a menu of policy options.

The meetings highlighted the importance of undertaking several activities presented below. These activities would entail organizing workshops with government officials, employers and researchers. The activities will include: i) evaluations of what is happening in different countries; ii) historical studies; and iii) case studies. These case studies will be selected from different destination and origin countries (e.g. large vs. small island countries, Gulf-States) and from different sectors (e.g. health, construction, engineering).

Key Questions

  1. How can skilled labor migration best support development?  How do state and market driven policies affect skilled migration?  What are the costs and benefits, both private and social, of skilled labor migration?
  2. What complementary policies are needed to enrich human capital in sending and destination countries?
  3. What measures can be taken to enhance the benefits to developing countries of permanent, temporary, and circular migration of skilled workers?
  4. How can positive public perceptions of skilled migration be promoted?
  5. How are countries attracting skills and talent needed in destination communities?
  6. What are migrant-origin communities doing to attract and retain skilled workers?
  7. What efforts are being made by policymakers to make movement less harmful and more beneficial to both origin and destination countries (prevent brain drain at origin and lessen opposition and impact by native workers at destination communities)?

Planned Activities

  • Assess the merits of facilitating skilled emigration in order to minimize brain waste.
  • Evaluate policies that aim to increase SME access to foreign skills, including how to return skills to migrant sending countries.
  • Study best practices for intra-corporate transfers. Analyze ways to attract/retain skilled workers at origin.
  • Assess policies for attracting talent, including the use of points systems, taxes/subsidies, education, financing, and non-monetary incentives.
  • Study how to mitigate negative effects and increase the benefits of skilled migration in both sending and receiving countries.
  • Review how market and state policies impact migration.
  • Analyze the role of educational institutions in student migration.  Assess how to reduce opposition to skilled migration.
  • Consider how sending countries can attract FDI and reduce dependence on foreign skills.
  • Assess the impact of bilateral agreements on skill mobility.  Map bilateral cooperation to increase skills, such as through aid projects and inter-university programs.  Conduct case studies of partnerships and educational activities intended to foster skilled migration.
  • Analyze complementarities between migration and education policies.
  • Assess different governance capacities and the role of the private sector in skills formation.
  • Analyze how to enhance migration governance capabilities and data gathering.
  • Study effective ways to increase the portability of skills by supporting mutual recognition of skills.
  • Examine systems for identifying skills shortages in particular sectors.
  • Conduct case studies of what strategies are in place and how to identify demand for skills.
  • Identify how skills matching initiatives are being implemented.
  • Assess how outcomes differ under different types of migration: temporary/circular and, permanent.