Latin America Is Losing Qualified Young Workers To OECD Countries

on November 05 2013 12:22 PM
Brazilian students
Brazil has 6 million students currently in their universities. Universidad Central de Paraguay

The creation of jobs is still post-recession America's and Europe’s nightmare. In September, the U.S. unemployment rate was 7.2 percent, a mere 0.6 percentage points lower than it was the previous year, whereas in the European Union it was 12.2 percent, a point percentage increase from 2012 -- hardly an attractive job scenario. However, young Latin Americans are flocking by the thousands to both markets in search of better opportunities.

In countries forming part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which concentrates 70 percent of the worldwide trade in goods and services, the number of skilled immigrants went up from 12 million to 20 million in the last 10 years, according to Unesco -- and they were mostly from developing countries. This coincides with a spike in the number of Latin Americans with advanced degrees, which went from 30 million to 40 million from 1996 to 2007, according to the World Bank.

Latin America has become an attaractive destination for educated youth from European countries in deep economic crisis, like Spain, which suffers from 26 percent unemployment currently. However, numbers from the World Bank show that several Latin American countries have experienced a veritable exodus themselves -- reaching even 90 percent of skilled workers in some Caribbean nations.

Governments have reacted in different ways to stop the trend. The growing economies of Brazil and Mexico, for instance, have decided to change the term “brain drain” to “talent flux,” symbolizing the moving world economy, according to Raúl Delgado Wise, director of the International Network of Migration and Development.

“Many countries in the region are turning a hypothetical problem into an opportunity,” Javier Botero, a specialist in higher education at the World Bank, told Spanish newspaper El País. “Globalization is making world mobility a reality. Latin America should take advantage of the people who are abroad to work on national projects.”

José Pablo Arellano from Cieplán, a Chilean think tank that studies public policies in Latin America, said that the continent could also take advantage of the talent flux. “With growing companies, countries like Perú and Chile are not only keeping talent, but attracting it.”

Countries should also increase the incentives to bring back talent. “The region needs to create more jobs to satisfy the demands of a highly educated population,” said Botero.

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