Working paper abstract


Promoting return and circular migration of the highly skilled

Metka Hercog & Melissa Siegel

Migration of skilled workers from developing countries has increased substantially in recent years. Traditionally, such patterns raised fears on the ground of the associated 'brain drain' as human capital formation is considered to be of central importance to the development and reduction of poverty levels. Therefore, any loss of skilled workers through migration was considered harmful to the achievement of development goals. In contrast, the new body of literature emphasizes the positive incentive and feedback effects which skilled migration has on sending countries' development as well as on other stakeholders. While most papers on the impacts of migration on development focus on remittances and low-skilled migration, we emphasize the effects of skilled return migrants which bring about the transfer of knowledge and skills. This paper examines five levels of policy concerning the mobility of skilled workers. Because of their differing positions, we examine the position of sending and receiving countries with regard to skilled migration separately. We look at receiving country policies, sending country policies, bilateral approaches, regional approaches and global approaches. This paper first explores what options are theoretically discussed at the five levels of analysis. Secondly, we observe what kinds of policies are actually used in practice and which policies show some evidence of success. We also systematically discuss the advantages and disadvantages (or limitations) of each policy option.

Key words: return migration, highly skilled, migration, immigration