« | Home | »

“The Global Migration of Talent: What Does it Mean for Developing Countries?” Kapur and McHale (2005)

Kapur and McHale explore global migration. They provide a wealth of evidence that show the effects of migration on poor countries’ development prospects and offer detailed policy responses.

Kapur and McHale analyze four key channels through which international skilled migration affects developing countries through the concepts of prospect, absence, diaspora, and return. The prospect channel focuses on the way in which a prospect or option of emigration affects the decision-making of people in poor countries, e.g., whether or not they’ll actually end up emigrating. Table 1 below shows estimates of skilled workers likely to emigrate and Table 2 shows estimates of emigration rates for the tertiary educated in Africa.


Similarly, the absence channel evaluates the effects on the welfare of “those remaining behind” (TRBs) when skilled individuals actually leave. The prospect of emigration and absence of skilled workers in a developing country may greatly affect their capacity to build domestic institutions, which Kapur and McHale recognize as a critical variable for development. The figure below illustrates the percentage of skilled workers who have emigrated from poor countries to rich countries.


The final two channels, diaspora and return, examine the relationship that skilled workers have with the poor countries that they have left. The diaspora channel shows the effects that overseas resident emigrants have on TRBs, where, depending on the country of origin, emigrants can link domestic residents to international social networks by using their accumulated wealth to invest in home-country projects or act as transnational entrepreneurs. Finally, the return channel looks at how emigrants returning with augmented capital can affect the domestic economy.

Kapur and McHale examine these channels of global migration because they believe these are important factors that have direct correlation with the development of poor countries. They believe that the society of TRBs can be compensated through policy responses. They offer policy options in four broad categories: control, compensation, creation, and connections. The table below shows these classifications. The four policies and roles of rich countries, poor countries, and international organizations are categorized accordingly.


Kapur and McHale fear that the increasing rate of migration from poor countries to rich countries signifies deep problems within developing countries. They offer these solutions to the global migration phenomenon because “the fundamental reality is that [poor] countries need talent to ensure innovation, build institutions, and implement programs – the key pillars of long-term development” (p. 8). They believe that through these policies, migration from poor to rich countries stands a better chance of being beneficial for development.

The Global Migration of Talent: What Does it Mean for Developing Countries? Full Report

Devesh Kapur and John McHale (2005): “The Global Migration of Talent: What Does it Mean for Developing Countries?” Center For Global Development. Washington D.C.

Summary by Ellen Liang


About this entry