Brain Drain within Developing Countries


I can hardly meet any of my childhood friends these days. When I make enquiries, I find out that most of them have moved abroad for better opportunities. This is a major problem in developing countries like Nepal. Skilled and unskilled people are continuously searching for better opportunities and, for most Nepalese, better opportunities means moving abroad.

Nepal is a landlocked country, which is still in a stage of developmental transition. The main reason for the slow development could be prolonged political instability, bad governance or poor rule of law. One of the main consequences has been a steady increase in the number of people emigrating in order to find work or opportunities to study. This, however, results in brain drain.

When I meet children and ask them about their future plans, they reply that, if they do well at school, they will go abroad for a happy and secured life.

An amazing fact is that even financially weak and non-eligible students aim to go abroad by any means possible. The students I meet are more curious about part-time job options and the Permanent Residence processing guide rather than their education. Some of the immigration plans and permanent residency schemes of some countries have attracted technical manpower lately.

Each year hundreds of thousands of applications are submitted to the Diversity Visa Program of the United Sates of America by Nepalese. Many people move to Europe, the Gulf countries and Korea.

As far as I know, there is a long history of Nepalese people moving overseas for employment. Early migration was the result of factors such as political instability and a desire to earn a livelihood. A more formal and temporary form of migration began after people started to work in the British Army following the Sugauli Treaty (Treaty with the East India Company i.e. British Government) that was signed on 2 December 1815. This Treaty permitted Britain to recruit Gurkhas for military service.

Migrating in order to study is a recent phenomenon. Education, international work experience, new cultures, better employment opportunities attract not only privileged groups,  but also people from the middle class. The fact is that an international education has become economically affordable even for average households.

The increase in revenue due to emigration has contributed to a reduction in poverty in Nepal. In addition to the economic benefits as a result of this revenue, there are also benefits due to the skills that these migrants acquire. However, the emigration of qualified people means a loss of human capital, which damages long-term growth prospects in developing countries.

Brain drain refers to a phenomenon whereby people with a high level of skills, qualification and competence leave their countries and emigrate.

The main disadvantages of a developing country like Nepal losing its workforce due to people going to work in other countries are:

  1. Emigration of qualified people results in a further loss of local governance capacity where institutions are already weak. This leads to less, or no, innovation.
  2. As the major source of income is remittance from the people working abroad in the developing country like Nepal. As now the major source of income for Nepal is remittance, Nepalese works in the foreign country specially for labor forces whereas Nepal is unable to create employment opportunities for lab our forces working out of the country.
Although Nepal is an agricultural country, it now finds itself in a situation where it has to import food from neighbouring countries. There is also a distinct lack of young people in some communities – the majority of young people work at temperatures of 50 degrees in the Gulf countries.

Nepal can offer very few employment opportunities. Instead of using the brains which are in Nepal in order to develop our own nation, the state itself is appealing to foreign authorities to hire Nepalese workers. It is a fact that much agricultural land in Nepal remains uncultivated as there are no workers available to undertake this task.

Many government officials, lecturers, doctors and other professionals go abroad on government fellowships and scholarships. They complete their studies or training, use their maximum term of leave and eventually resign from their job in Nepal to settle in the host country. Many people visit foreign countries but they rarely abandon their nation as many Nepalese do. This is also the main reason for the slow development in Nepal.

Nowadays, we can hardly find renowned professors, good scientists, medical experts or accomplished artists in Nepal.

Better standards of living, a higher quality of life, higher salaries, access to advanced technology and more stable political conditions in developed countries attract talented individuals from less developed areas. The migration is from developing to developed countries.  The intellectuals are the most expensive resources because of their training in terms of cost and time.

It is now time to promote sustainable development and to create stability to entice these “brains” back. An appropriate environment and infrastructure is needed. Most developing countries are losing productive manpower.

This is a serious threat for developing countries such as Nepal, where, for example future builders are “escaping” as soon as possible. If this problem is not addressed in time, the population will soon consist of just old people, children and untrained youths.

If people who live abroad could be encouraged to create opportunities at home, this may lead to the retention and repatriation of national talent.

Creating employment opportunities should be given top priority. Improving the quality of universities is essential, as is the need for them to have links to European and American universities. Providing better opportunities irrespective of caste or religion in developing countries is of utmost importance. Providing attractive salaries irrespective of qualifications and experience must be given higher priority.


Image Title Author License
Nepalese_school Nepalese_school Dmitry A. Mottl CC BY-SA 3.0

Discussion (3 Comments)

  1. great feed 😃

    1. Hey, yes, I do also think that this article is very interesting. Before I was reading it I did not know about “brain drain”. 🙂

  2. Great feed sir… 😊