Brain Drain&Gain

Isabelle Segur-Cabanac

Aspects of the Brain Drain Phenomenon:
The Crafting of Policies as Reaction to the Immigration of Medical Workforce from Southern Africa to Europe and the USA

As the world appears to become smaller every day due to the ever increasing possibilities of mobility on a global scale, governments learn to face various changes they were consequently confronted with. One aspect which caused debates all over the world and still does is the phenomenon most commonly referred to as brain drain. Closely linked to the latter, the terms brain gain, brain circulation, brain loss or brain waste and others soon became common within debates dealing with the migration movements of professional workforce, such as physicians.

Terms and Definitions

  • Brain Drain is understood as a country’s loss of highly skilled human capital due to emigration processes together with a simultaneous lack of brain circulation.
  • Brain Circulation, on the other hand, can be understood as an ideally balanced flow of human capital to and from a country.
  • Brain Gain may be seen as the opposite of Brain Drain. However the two terms are closely entwined. Where one loses, the other gains and thus Brain Gain can be defined as a country’s growth in human capital due to the immigration of highly skilled workforce from abroad.
  • Brain Loss / Brain Waste describes a situation in which highly skilled workers immigrate to another country but find employment in fields disaccording to their education and in which they cannot use the professional knowledge they had acquired.

The complexity of the phenomenon of uneven brain circulation and its result has been discussed in many studies starting from the late 1960s and was also strongly brought into correlation with the topic of globalisation.

For the exhibition “Schnittpunkt Afrika – Dimensionen von Mobilität” I will focus on the various ways that governments have tried to attend to the issues of Brain Drain by creating policies in order to control the flows of human capital to and out of their country. On the other hand, for my Bachelor thesis I intend to shed light on the aspect of Brain Drain which discusses the economic and social effects of the emigration of medical workforce such as doctors and nurses, who received their educations in Southern Africa and chose to move to Europe or the USA with the expectations and hopes of finding a job with humane working conditions, of achieving a higher standard of living and having opportunities of advancing their education.


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