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Why do People Brain Drain?

Updated: Feb 7

Author: Beste S

Publication date: 24.08.2023

The term "brain drain" refers to the migration of highly educated and talented people from one country or region to another. This often happens for reasons such as job opportunities, better living conditions, higher wages or better educational opportunities. Brain drain can harm immigrants' home countries but can also benefit destinations through innovation and growth.

Determinants of Brain Drain: Driving and Attractive Factors

Brain drain occurs as a result of decisions made by migrating individuals. Economic, political, social, cultural, psychological and occupational factors have an impact on the migration decision. The basis of these decisions is to achieve better living and working conditions in general. Let’s take a look at the driving and attractive factors on brain drain.

The driving factors will be expressed as the considerations for leaving the country that gives brain drain. Attractive factors, on the other hand, can be expressed as considerations for going to the country receiving brain drain. It is likely that individuals who migrate within the scope of brain drain are affected by these factors and their levels of influence vary.

brain drain

The Possible Effects of Brain Drain on Countries

Brain drain isn’t an ordinary, simple migration movement. The migration of a well-educated, skilled labor force during a productive period has more important consequences than the migration of an unskilled labor force. These results cause positive or negative effects on countries in the short, medium and long term. Here is a list of the main effects of brain drain on the countries that receive migration. The positive aspects for the countries receiving brain drain are as follows:

  • The living costs (such as education, health) before the immigrant's arrival in the country are not covered.

  • The productivity of the immigrant has an impact on the growth and development processes of the country's economy.

  • Immigrants employed in sectors that need labor fill the gap in the labor market.

  • Social security systems are supported by a highly skilled workforce.

  • A highly skilled workforce is utilized in the production of new technologies and in providing better services. Brain drain immigrants generally receive lower wages than locals doing the same job. Therefore, the marginal utility increases in the production process.

  • The human capital of countries receiving immigration is getting richer. Cultural diversity is increasing in countries receiving immigration.

  • Economic mobility and young population are increasing in countries receiving immigration.

Negative aspects of brain drain on countries

  • Migrants' use of public services is a cost-increasing factor.

  • Sending foreign currency to their countries causes economic loss for the economies of the receiving countries.

  • Sending foreign currency to their relatives has a positive effect on the economies of the sending countries.

  • The permanent or temporary return of immigrants to their countries after emigrating enables them to transfer the knowledge and experience they have gained in the receiving country to their own countries (Know-how transfer).

  • Immigrants have a positive impact on the image of their country in the countries they migrate to.

  • Immigrants can participate in diaspora activities that will protect the interests of their own countries in the countries they migrate to.

brain drain countries

The brain drain harms countries

  • A qualified workforce that has been trained and whose costs have been incurred is lost.

  • The economies of the countries and the development process are adversely affected. There is a shortage of skilled labor in the labor market.

  • Human capital is weakening.

  • The fact that there are few occupational groups with high added value weakens the timely, complete, and correct delivery of services.

  • The deprivation of the workforce that will produce innovation and technology has negative consequences on future periods.


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