English 101 (01)
16 February 1997
Brain Drain : Its Aftermath for Bangladesh
What is brain drain? According to Walter Adams, the term itself is loaded, pejorative, suggestive of loss of a vital resource, without compensation (2). More precisely, brain drain is the depletion of the intellectual or professional resources of a country through immigration. Such a migration has gone on for decades and in some measures for centuries, as is evidenced by the way the Scots have migrated to England, the United States, the Commonwealth and other parts of the world. The climate, natural resources and relative lack of opportunity at home have impelled generations of able young Scots to leave home and seek their careers and fortunes elsewhere. The higher rewards and opportunities in other countries have been alluring factors. And what has been true of the Scots has also been true of Canadians, Scandinavians, Greeks and many other nationalities including Bangladesh, a South Eastern country (12). Although brain drain may not be the only reason Bangladesh's plight, it is surely a major factor which hampers progress. In fact, Bangladesh is a classic example of the aftermath that follows brain drain.
The 1950's began amid optimism about the development of Asian countries including Bangladesh. It was assumed that investment, education, and modern management would be sufficient for their economic growth. By the 1960's, disillusionment spread. The progress of developing countries was uneven, it fell short of aspirations, the developed countries grew faster, and therefore international gaps widened rather than narrowed. The "brain drain" issue moved from scholarly analysis and newspaper recriminations onto the floor of the United Nations General Assembly in late 1967 (Glaser 12-13). Resolutions introduced by developing countries demanded that richer members (particularly the United States) change their migration policies, encourage foreign students to learn the skills needed at home, encourage these students to return, and compensate the developing countries for losses (Niland xi).
Today, the growing output of schools in Bangladesh is imperfectly related to the job market; consequently many skilled persons find unsatisfactory jobs or no jobs at all. In the developed countries, service industries and complex manufacturing grow at least as fast the output of their own schools (Glaser 9), many attractive jobs are created and migrants are welcomed by employers. According to Walter Adams, human capital, as a strategic resource, is flowing out of the economy of Bangladesh where it can make the greatest contribution to human welfare, and into economies already well-supplied with trained, capable, scientific and administrative personnel (33).
In addition, Bangladesh has been facing a number of obstruction to development such as poor drainage system, low quality of building resources, computer illiteracy, student politics, political disruptions, unsteady Government systems, strikes, sexism, corruption, natural calamities, crime, etc. Such impediments gives rise to an unwanted frail nation.
A nation is considered to be modern and advanced by surveying the extents of its technological developments in the field of science and industry. The main sources of the knowledge and know-how for these technologies are the educated and motivated individuals who include scientists, doctors, engineers, teachers, business pioneers, etc. But in a country like Bangladesh where most of the people are illiterate, advancement in development is at stake. On the other hand, the ones who are educated and capable of contributing towards the growth of the nation, prefer to live abroad. Statistics show that between 1946 and 1961, 43,000 scientists and engineers, "many" of whom came from the less developed countries, emigrated to the United States (Adams 32). Moreover, Glaser estimated that over 90 percent of Asian students who arrive for training in the United States never return home (45).
Education is one of the main factors that determines the destiny of a country and children are regarded as its major asset. So if the children themselves fail to secure a good education, the country's fate will be in the hands of illiterates. According to the latest statistics provided by the Ministry of Information in Bangladesh, over 68.5 percent of the Government offices are run by officials who have merely earned a High School degree (29).
While the fate of the country lie in the hands of such people, there is a significant number of highly educated Bangladeshis abroad who contribute to the welfare of foreign countries. One such example can be taken from the life of a personal relative. He happens to be a highly qualified civil engineer with a Ph.D. from Dhaka University. Upon gradation, he decided to come here to United States where he expected to earn a higher salary than he would obtain back in Bangladesh. He began by working at a Macdonald's restaurant for five years before he got a job that had anything to do with engineering. Today, such examples are abundant on the streets of the major cities of America or other developed countries. Young graduates leaving their less developed countries and working in the richer nations where they do not get a chance to apply their skills and knowledge.
One such example can be more clearly stated by the condition of health care in the country. In 1964-65, some 11,000 interns and residents in US hospitals (out of a total of 41,000) were graduates of foreign medical schools- and more than 8,000 of these came from developing nations (Adams 67). Statistics show that 65 percent of the newly graduated doctors in Bangladesh attempt to practice abroad (Basic Facts, 24). While in the country, there are millions of children suffering from malnutrition and childhood diseases. One can only imagine what improvements the newly graduates could have made in the country if they were to practice there. Moreover, every year thousands of people die due to untreated diseases. Even though there are free treatment plans available, the doctors that are available are usually inexperienced. The public is well aware of this fact and, therefore, whenever a complicated operation is to be performed, the patient, if he happens to be from wealthy family, is rushed to either Singapore, America or Great Britain. The fate of the poor patient, on the other hand, lies in the hands of the inexperienced doctor.
The generally held conception among the people of Bangladesh is that anything "foreign" is better. Recently, they rather go and struggle to survive in a richer country than struggle in their own land. The underdeveloped countries, have found themselves woefully short of technical and professional personnel in the key administrative and research positions (Adams 3). Today, as never before, there is a "common market" for brain power which transcends national boundaries. The improved transportation and communication available have facilitated the increased rate of brain drain that drags Bangladesh backwards into ignorance.
Adams, Walter, ed. The Brain Drain. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1989.
Committee on the International Migration of Talent. The International migration of high- level manpower: its impact on the development process. New York: Praeger, 1990.
Glaser, William. The Brain Drain: Emigration and Return. Pergamon Press. Great Britain: William Clowes & Sons, 1990.
Ministry of Information of Bangladesh. Bangladesh: Basic Facts. Dhaka: Moni Printers, 1996.
Niland, John R. Preface. Studies in International Development and Economics: The
Asian Engineering Brain Drain. By Niland. Massachusetts: Lexington, 1992.