Beyond Brain Drain – Résumés


Alex Sager: The Critique of Methodological Nationalism and “Brain Drain

Normative accounts of skilled emigration (often discussed under the label of “brain drain”) have operated almost exclusively within a framework of methodological nationalism. This paper demonstrates how methodological nationalist assumptions in the social sciences have systematically distorted normative discussion on skilled emigration and that when this is acknowledged, the problem of the “brain drain” effectively disappears. This allows us to develop and to refine criticisms of methodological nationalism and to develop epistemic categories that avoid its pitfalls. Moreover, the conceptual errors encountered in reflection on skilled emigration appear in more general form in work on temporary migration and on migration and development. This offers new ways for thinking about how distributive concerns should impact our views on migration once we abandon methodological nationalism.

Antoine Pécoud: Brain Drain and the free movement of people

One of the issues raised in the debates surrounding the free movement of people regards the consequences of this scenario in terms of skilled migration. If people were free to move, the argument goes, poor countries would lose their ‘best and brightest’ citizens and see their development perspectives jeopardised. This is yet another illustration of the dilemma between individuals’ rights and collective well-being, which pervades the ethical and political debates on immigration policy. This communication will

suggest that this kind of argument fits into a broader development pattern, dominated by the ‘will to improve’ (Murray Li) as well as by the obsession to ‘make migration work for development’, which should perhaps be challenged. Overall, recent research has concluded that, whether positive or negative, migration had a limited impact on development anyway. More fundamentally, the idea that migration should be used to foster development suffers from a utilitarian bias that is deeply unsatisfactory.

Adina Preda: Some reflections about the rights and freedoms to migrate

There a claim commonly made in the literature on migration, namely that there is an ‘asymmetry’ or even ‘inconsistency’ between the (human) right to emigrate, i.e. to leave a country, and the absence of a right to immigrate, i.e. to settle in a different country because they are two sides of the same coin. This kind of claim is misleading and overstated.

The freedom to leave (and return to) one’s country can be interpreted in three different ways: 1) as a (naked) liberty, i.e. the absence of a duty to leave; 2) as a claim to non-interference and 3) as an immunity against one’s stated who is thus disempowered from making laws that restrict this freedom. A putative right to immigrate, however, is not the flip side of the right to leave; it is rather a power to enter into certain relationships with citizens of other states. There is no asymmetry here; they are different kinds of right that are unconnected.

It is, however, true that one is unable to exercise one’s freedom of leaving a country if one is not admitted into another. But I want to argue that 1) immigration restrictions do not restrict freedom of movement, at least not much more than within countries and 2) travel visas, however, do restrict freedom of movement but prohibiting people from leaving a country does not (at least not in a meaningful way).

What both emigration and immigration restriction limit is people’s opportunities, in unequal ways. What I am then suggesting is that the more pertinent question is whether equality of opportunity extends beyond the boundaries of the state. Framing the problem in terms of freedom or rights is unlikely to help us make progress in this debate.

Lucie Cerna: The policy implications of the war on talent

Countries are in fierce competition for global talent in order to fill labour shortages, respond to ageing populations and develop their knowledge economies. They have increasingly liberalised their policies to attract high-skilled immigrants. And while it is commonly assumed that more talent migration is good overall, high-skilled immigration also creates distributional consequences. This paper will engage with several policy implications related to the war for talent, including how governments can resolve dilemmas between domestic workers and employers, how they can select ‘the best and brightest’ and enable them to work in high- skilled occupations, what the loss of personnel means for countries of origin and how countries can respond to the increasing competition for such human resources from emerging economies.

Oliviero Angeli: Taxing the entrants to protect the stayers? On the prospective responsibility of skilled migrants

It is sometimes argued that relatively affluent and skilled emigrants carry responsibilities to those left behind and that these responsibilities could be met by means of emigrant taxes. Whether this is so, however, depends on what is meant by ‘responsibility’. In my paper I will distinguish between two distinct kinds of responsibility of emigrants: outcome responsibility and prospective

responsibility. While outcome responsibility tends to be backward looking, prospective responsibility is forward looking in that it involves proactive measures to protect others from future harms. As I will argue, privileging prospective responsibility over outcome responsibility leads to endorsing immigrant rather of emigrant taxes. Specifically, my argument will be that taxing i.e. charging well-off and/or skilled immigrants a fee for the right to enter can be justified as a means to protect economically vulnerable residents in recipient countries from being forced to emigrate.

Michael Clemens: Losing our minds? A fresh start in considering policy toward skilled emigration

Abstract: Skilled workers are increasingly emigrating from the poorest countries. Many fear that this high-skill emigration causes poverty and even death in those countries. Thus economists and others have proposed a number of policies to tax or restrict such migration, ostensibly justified by efficiency, equity, and ethics. But recent research suggests that many of these policies—in practice and even in theory—can be inefficient, inequitable, and unethical. In each case, these arguments ultimately rest on nationalist axioms with no supporting justification. There are alternative policies to regulate high-skill migration in a way that authentically serves the same goals without requiring methodological nationalist assumptions.

Valeria Ottonelli: The “global drain” of domestic care work: what’s wrong with it?

The notions of a “global care drain” and “global care chains” are often used to account for the harms and injustice of current migratory patterns that see female migrants employed as

domestic careworkers. I argue that such notions are gravely misleading. In order to represent the relevant migratory patterns as a transfer of irreplaceable human resources from sending to receiving countries, they construct care as a fully commodifiable good, the work that is performed by domestic careworkers as skilled and specialized, and the economy of care both in the sending and receiving countries as relying on a standardized and stereotypical model of “traditional” care.

These presuppositions of the language of “care drain” not only are grounded on racial and class prejudices and on a misconception of the ethics of care, but also divert attention from the actual harms implied by the relevant migration patterns and from the remedies that should be sought to them. Among the dangers of these migratory patterns, the most relevant ones concern the creation of new forms of servantship in the receiving societies and the emotional suffering that is endured by migrants.

Bernardo Bolanos & Camelia Tigau: Diasporas and colonialism. The geopolitical dimension of skilled migration

The most important normative theories in the social sciences in India and Latin America are respectively called “subaltern studies” and “decolonial studies.” Both assume methodological nationalism or, at least, methodological regionalism. In addition, Third World scholars, as the Palestinian Edward Said, have developed the postcolonial studies in American universities. In this essay, we argue that (even without resorting to subaltern, postcolonial or decolonial theories), it is possible to prove from an egalitarian liberalism that colonialism is an objectively unjust exploitation of persons. A colonized nation-state is one in which capital (agricultural land, housing and other domestic wealth) belongs mostly to a second nation-state. We distinguish then from (1) Legitimate policies against “brain drain” that are preventive of coloniality; (2) favorable to the “brain gain” that do not generate

colonialism and (3) Phenomena of “brain drain” and “brain gain” that are the essence of coloniality and, therefore, are illegitimate. The latter allows to answer to the question for the obligations of skilled migrants: they have a moral obligation not to contribute to the coloniality of the host country. We will discuss real examples, prototypical of each of these cases.

Christine Straehle: Are they my Skilled? Anti-emigration measures from a liberal perspective

Many developing countries propose that the emigration of their skilled citizens to greener shores poses a problem of social justice. If so many of those benefitting from educational and other opportunities emigrate, the countries in question find it hard if not impossible to realize some of their social justice goals. In light of these complaints, political philosophers have proposed different means: countries could adopt an emigration tax, or they could restrict emigration for a certain period of time, obliging local talent instead to apply their skills first at home.

In this paper, I take on the challenge posed by such proposals. In an era beyong methodological nationalism, such proposals fall short of justificatory requirements since it is not clear why the first duty of justice would be to the local community. But even if we were to allow some communitarian perspective on skill, I want to argue that such measures violate liberal rights, most importantly, the right to self-determination. Instead, they may become akin to a sort of social slavery.

Phillip Cole: Labour mobility: towards a cosmopolitan ethic

Ethical debates about labour mobility are concerned with the potential or actual harms caused by that mobility (while acknowledging its benefits), and seek to assign moral responsibility

for those harms, both for causing them and finding a moral solution to them. These debates usually assign those responsibilities to states, both receiving and sending, but if we are to move beyond methodological nationalism we must explore different ways in which to assign them. One way is to assign them to the individual migrants, for example by asking what duties they owe to the poor, either within their own nation or globally. Of course, to focus on the duties they owe to co-nationals is to remain in the framework of methodological nationalism, and so we have to reframe the question in terms of duties owed to the global poor. However, in this paper I argue against approaching the ethics of labour mobility in those terms, but rather to move beyond a focus on states or individual migrants. Instead, a cosmopolitan approach would transcend not only methodological nationalism but also methodological individualism, and look towards a global approach to the ethics of labour mobility.

Jean-Baptiste Meyer: Brain drain and the cosmopolis: conflicting views… or may be not

In the 1960s and 1970s, in the auge of the brain drain approach, it quickly happened to be qualified as a “nationalist” view vs the rising “internationalist” model based on the concept of a world labour market of skills. The former was supposed to exhibit national protectionism of local talents while the latter would defend global exchange for optimization of human resources. Narrow minded conservation vs opened cross fertilization was the immediate dichotomical interpretation.

However, since the beginning, the brain drain approach has heavily drawn on emerging global views and analysis (dependency theory, Wallerstein’s world system) much beyond simplistic borders policies. It is interesting to notice that today’s approaches on diaspora issues keep on struggling with this debate: Larner and Gamlen showing for example, the coincidence of neoliberal

rhetoric with the expansion of nation-states deterritorialized constituencies.
When one wishes to go a step further and take some distance with ideological paradigms, new methodologies, freed from traditional sources and data, may be explored. Some steps have been made on these experimental paths, looking at non national statistics and world wide web data mining, on Latin American case studies. Using international data bases and software for the search of transnational profiles and diaspora members, the CIDESAL ( project has initiated a move towards such new tools. Reflections on these deserve to be now extracted.

Parvati Raghuram: Dis/locating skills

Skills offer one of the most important passports to mobility in the contemporary world. As a result, skilled migration has become the object of considerable empirical and policy analysis. However, theorisations of skilled migration have lagged behind policy analyses as they have largely depended on national frameworks as the basis for their analysis. They have also frequently adopted generalised notions of skills. In this paper I aim to address these two lacunae by exploring the spatial aspects of skill development and how these vary based on the skills involved. I ask, how does the production of skill involve particular kinds of spatialities. How do these spatialities differ based on the type of skill being discussed? And what happens if we think of skills as being produced at particular spatio-temporal conjunctures? Mobility, it will be argued is an inherent part of the production of skills and to be recognised as skills knowledge requires a spatial stretch, a global relevance. This is only achieved through migration and mobility. Hence, I would argue that migration and mobility are inherent to the production of skills. Theorising the spatialities of skills pushes us

past the methodological nationalism inherent in much contemporary analysis of skilled migration. And in doing so it shows us the extent to which the migration of skilled persons is entangled with a range of other mobilities. Focusing on the multiple actors involved in different kinds of skilled migration also helps us to decentre the migrant as the primary object of study in skilled migration. This theoretical paper will be illustrated with examples from student migration, medical migration and IT work – each of which has different kinds of spatialities of skills.