With approximately three-quarters of the region’s highly-skilled said to be living abroad, two of Barbados’ key multinational partners want to see the issue of brain drain addressed if Caribbean economies are to prosper.
However, officials are of the view that Barbados and other Caribbean countries must address a number of inefficiencies within the system and create more opportunities for these individuals.
Delivering the 33rd Adlith Brown Memorial Lecture at the Grand Salle recently, Deputy Division Chief in the Caribbean Division 1 of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMFs) Western Hemisphere Department Dr Arnold McIntyre criticised Caribbean economies for not doing more to retain its skilled human resources.
He said based on an IMF research, Caribbean countries stand out with regard to the outward migration of skilled human resources.
“The share of Caribbean nationals with a tertiary education – which we could call a [cadre] of high skills and knowledge – living abroad is 76 per cent. We are exporting three quarters of our human capital,” he lamented.
“When we look at US data it indicates that Caribbean migrants are well-educated. Nearly half of the immigrants to the US have at least a college education. This is a ratio compares to the US population itself. In contrast, one-quarter of the immigrants from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean in the US have a college education,” he pointed out.
McIntyre said the IMF study found that while remittances were an important source of foreign exchange and a key macro-economic stabilizer for the region, the losses in human capital and the long-term growth effects outweighed those measures.
“Although remittances support investment, support education and foster commercial linkages, when we look to estimate this you will see the growth impact of the net effect of migration and remittances on long-term GDP growth 2003 to 2013 in the Caribbean ranges between -10 per cent and one per cent. There is no other region in this hemisphere that is remotely close. We are exporting our skills,” he argued.
In a separate interview, Regional Economic Advisor for the Caribbean Country Department of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Moisés Schwartz told Barbados TODAY he agreed the issue of brain drain was one that Barbados and other regional economies should address urgently.
Pointing out that Barbados had a very good quality of education, Schwartz said it was not good that the island was unable to retain most of its talent.
“It is a problem when you have educated people, skillful people and you don’t have the labour opportunities for them to exploit their skills, so that is a mismatch of skills with opportunity. So that is certainly a problem and we have seen in Barbados,” he said.
“That is why you have Barbadians living in the UK, the US and sending remittances. If you are a doctor and you do not have a position here in Barbados and you are well-qualified you go aboard. So that is a problem,” Schwartz insisted.
He said the best way to address this issue was to grow the economy and create more opportunities for university and college graduates.
Schwartz said while this would not happen overnight, he believed Barbados was heading in the right direction with some of its policy decisions.
“So it is not something that one may be able to achieve in the very short-term, but if there is kind of a continuous positive implementation of economic policies providing certainty for different aspects of economic policy without surprises, without shocks, [and] without ineffective spending that you might have now in these state-owned entities, all of that would set the stage for a more prosperous and productive economy where hopefully many people who have the skills will be able to stay and find a job that suits their skills and interest for the benefit of the country. I think the stage is kind of set for Barbados to move in that direction but it is going to take some time,” explained Schwartz.