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Scientific diasporas as development partners

Skilled migrants from Colombia, India and South Africa in Switzerland: empirical evidence and policy responses- Preface by Jean-Baptiste Meyer

Edited By Gabriela Tejada Guerrero and Jean-Claude Bolay

Over the last two decades, globalisation has accelerated international migration flows, particularly of skilled labour. Yet increasing migration by skilled workers from developing countries («brain drain») has raised serious concerns internationally about the adverse development impact on their countries of origin. This book, however, highlights the positive aspects of skilled labour migration as scientific diasporas are playing a growing role in the transfer of technology, skills and knowledge («brain gain») to their home countries. This is a very significant development in a globalised world where science, technology and knowledge can trigger economic and social transformations. The book presents solid empirical evidence of the contributions scientific diasporas make to their countries of origin, based on primary surveys of skilled migrants from Colombia, India and South Africa employed in Switzerland, a major destination country. The findings lead to a better understanding of the motives for migration, the profile of the scientific diaspora communities in Switzerland, and the varied ways in which they help their home countries. The book makes a significant contribution to the international policy debate and dialogue on migration and development. In particular, it shows how to leverage the potential of scientific diasporas as agents of home country development, by identifying good practices and offering specific recommendations for the countries of origin and of destination.

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Preface by Jean-Baptiste MEYER XV

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Preface Two decades have passed since the Colombian “Caldas” Network of Scientists and Engineers Abroad showed the way towards a new brain gain approach to highly skilled mobility. This first experience of the diaspora option put an end to the brain drain paradigm and the exclusive reliance on returning expatriates to solve the skills gap and thus underdevelopment. It replaced the traditional emphasis on permanent loss or unlikely repatriation by a workable hypothesis of long distance association and multiple connections. From a feeling of fate and despair, the mood has changed to one of hope and projects, and this is as true of migration policy as it is of science and technology policies. Various success stories around the turn of the millennium started to lend credit to this concept. Asian cases in particular provided extensive evidence to support the idea that diasporas could make a substantial contribution to devel- opment at home. Even though their role has been hotly debated and subject to a variety of interpretations, none of these deny their important role in recent processes. In the migration-development nexus that has emerged over the last 5 years in international fora, potential and actual skills inputs from expats have received much attention alongside remittances. However, thus far, the empha- sis has essentially been on economic growth generated in specific sectors (the IT industry, high-tech clusters) and on the role played by the country of origin in mobilizing its own diaspora. The bias towards economic issues in the countries of...

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