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THE concept of a brain drain refers to movement or migration of skilled and specialised labour from one environment to another, usually for better commercial reward.

The motivation to migrate specialised skill is usually driven by remuneration and social economic factors such as safety nets or functional welfare systems that may be absent or insufficiently funded in the current environment.

It is a drain on the country or environment losing skilled manpower but a gain on the recipient nation. In most cases, people will generally be attracted to high paying jobs especially when the rewards for migration far outweigh the cost.

Governments usually enact laws to set quotas or other forms of silent discrimination to bar that sort of movement if the migration begins to create unforeseen or unbearable consequences.

Most nations have become good at subtle discriminatory policies and imbue them within visa requirements or immigration policies in general. The idea is to firstly secure the most sensitive and lucrative jobs for citizens to localise the flow of funds through salaries.

Secondly, there is also the notion of protecting certain sectors so that employment is readily available to citizens, whether skilled or not. There are other reasons for managing work-related migration but the two mentioned suffice.

The increase in work-related migration or brain drain can largely be traced to the growth of finance and technology, if we exclude the impact of wars on population movement.

Observably, the growth in finance in the 1970s had a significant impact on collapsing geographic borders because cash did not require visas to cross borders, for example.

Continually, banks found it profitable to locate to markets away from their centre of trade: in this respect, western banks located to Asia and Africa as they explored these markets.

While this was happening, labour intensive jobs in factories and plants started to trail trade in services by wide margins, especially from a finance perspective.

Sectors like agriculture have since become prone to technology in multiple ways. For example, seeds can be manufactured in laboratories; greenhouses can grow anything desired at any time of year and even plain fields no longer depend on weather patterns to grow food. Such modern technology has meant that minimal labour is employed, unlike previously.

That human survival has become increasingly dependent on technology poses an interesting question for the future of Artificial Intelligence (AI), especially in sensitive areas that speak to human survival.

Areas such as agriculture and the decreasing room for natural food growth techniques. even areas such as health appear to be reducing human care with technology.

In the end, the brain drain concept might not retain the old concept of physical migration of labour because if people can work in isolation, then they could be further isolated.

The one thing the Covid-19 pandemic showed the world was that it was possible to interconnect labour without the burden of physically relocating people. Technology, which has been responsible for unemployment in former labour-intensive sectors like mining and agriculture managed to keep jobs and economies operational this time –   albeit at suboptimal levels.

Even so, the old tradition of commuting to work, including crossing borders or migrating was openly challenged during the Covid-19 period. With this evidence, one can ask, is it feasible to experience a brain drain without the physical movement of human resource from one jurisdiction to another?


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