Najam on ‘Brain Drain’ and its Discontents

Adil Najam عادل نجم
‘Brain drain’ may have lost its usefulness as a concept.

“Brains don’t drain,” says Adil Najam, Dean of the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. Speaking to The News on Sunday (October 25, 2015) for its special report on the subject, Dr. Najam was quoted in the feature article “Bringing Our Expatriates Back” as suggesting that brain drain may no longer be a very useful concept:

… not in today’s age of global connectivity and connection. To be fair, I did once consider it a useful, even important, issue but no longer think so.

In particular, Najam believes that most government schemes to ‘reverse’ the trend have failed, and are condemned to fail. He elaborates:

They assume that talented Pakistanis are abroad because they can ‘earn’ more. Therefore, they offer lots of money and resources to bring them back. Invariably, these do not work. Mostly, they bring back folks who actually are not that talented in the first place and not doing much abroad.

From money and quality of life perspectives, even many ‘regular’ jobs in Pakistan are now as good as anywhere. The reason why the best talent moves is that it seeks the opportunity where that talent can be nurtured and used. What will bring the talent back is when there is an exciting opportunity and the ability to make a difference. We can see around us that when this is available, people do come back.

Read the full article here.

Adil Najam is the Inaugural Dean of the Boston University Pardee School of Global Studies and was the former Vice Chancellor of the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) in Lahore, Pakistan. His research focuses on issues of global public policy, especially those related to global climate change, diasporas, global higher education, South Asia, Muslim countries, environment and development, and human development. Learn more about him here.