The Financial Express

Brain drain vs. brain gain  

| Updated: January 19, 2022 22:10:19

Brain drain vs. brain gain   

On the basis of a survey carried out by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in mid-January 2020, the non-profit international organisation claimed that 82 per cent of young people aged between 15 and 29 in Bangladesh "expressed their desire to leave the country". Since this conclusion was drawn by the WEF, two years have elapsed when ---barring a little over two months ---the country has mostly smarted under the spell of once-in-a-century pandemic. What is likely to be the answer if the young generation of the same age group is now asked to make a choice between living in its home country and abroad? There are factors both in favour and against life here and in a foreign country. Still the answer may not vary widely after two years. But should this have been the case?

True, a small band of children of a particular segment of society have been growing up with renewed eagerness to learn the history of this country. But the larger proportion of young people has not developed the sense of belonging to the country under the influence of smart gadgets and proliferation of social media platforms which feed it with alien culture and cheap entertainment. Reading books, let alone classics and subjects that help nurture probing minds, remains beyond their purview. Also, the elders most of whom were born after the country's independence could not set examples of love for and dedication to the country. Contrarily, there have been unenviable developments, particularly on the social and economic fronts which are responsible for stratification of society leading to widespread disparities and injustice. The rule of law has also suffered at the hands of privileged coteries. All this may have disillusioned the younger people who rightly or wrongly paint a rosy picture of life abroad. To them the open societies in the West appear to be nothing short of an El Dorado.

The point many tend to miss by ignoring the exodus of the young people is that the more talented than the ordinary mortals can only seize the opportunity of settling in the preferred countries in the West. Over 1.0 million people from Bangladesh emigrated in 2017 alone. Of the 10 million people living abroad, 2.4 million were permanent migrants in 2018. The number may have gone up by this time. It is the highly educated and technologically and technically specialised professionals who get preference in the West.

Now if this makes Bangladesh a country with the 5th highest number of emigrants in the world, the extent of brain drain can easily be realised. The policymakers, however, have none but to blame themselves. If BUET engineers do not find employment or graduates are churned out with no relevance to the demand of the employment market, it cannot but be the policymakers' fault. The fact that 24 per cent jobs of the readymade garments industry, the highest foreign exchange earner, at the top echelon are held by foreign nationals after so many years illustrates this most vividly.  Now is the time for 'brain gain' instead of brain drain. Some countries including China are doing this quite efficiently by luring highly skilled professionals from abroad with offers of financial rewards and other benefits. Bangladesh must follow suit.   

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