The recent spate of migration, particularly of skilled professionals, out of the country will not derail long-term economic prosperity if the right measures are put in place to encourage knowledge-transfer, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Ghana, Eric Osei-Assibey, has opined.
He explained that advancements in technology guarantee that skills acquired by Ghanaians abroad will be transferable, even for people who do not physically return to their countries of origin.
He said this during the launch and inaugural lecture of the Pan-African International Students (PAIS) movement, a platform that seeks to draw on benefits from the increasing number of African students abroad.
Citing a recent example, he explained: “I was somewhere recently, and when I spoke to students there about returning to Africa they were unhappy, saying there are no opportunities – and that is a reflection of how they perceive things to be at the moment. But there is innate patriotism in them, and that should never be overlooked”.
The economist’s comment comes as the emigration rate has spiked, with sectors such as technology, healthcare services and finance witnessing attrition rates over four times pre-2022.
Already, data released by the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association (GRNMA) secretariat have revealed that, since beginning of the year, more than 10,000 nurses have applied for clearance to seek employment opportunities abroad. Of this number, approximately 4,000 have received clearance and embarked on overseas employment journeys. The United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and Canada stand out as the most preferred destinations for these nurses, mainly due to much improved working conditions and flexible schedules offered in those countries.
This surge in demand for healthcare professionals, particularly nurses, can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic’s aftermath and the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon.
Great Resignation refers to the mass resignation of employees, which began in early 2021 as a response to the pandemic’s economic impacts. Reasons cited for this trend include stagnant wages amid rising living costs, limited career advancement opportunities, hostile work environments, lack of benefits, inflexible work policies and prolonged job dissatisfaction. Sectors most affected by these resignations include hospitality, healthcare and education.
The healthcare sector in the United Kingdom has been hit particularly hard, with reports indicating that approximately 4,000 European doctors left the UK’s healthcare services following Brexit. Over the past two years, nurses have been leaving the UK’s health service in record numbers, primarily due to the strain of managing a healthcare system with 133,000 vacant positions.
The remaining healthcare workers are overworked and underpaid, further exacerbating the situation. Additional data reveal that 15,000 nurses resigned from the health service in the year leading up to March 2022, with 4,000 of them citing work-life balance issues as their primary reason for departure. Some of these nurses have opted to work in the Middle East, mirroring the motivations of their Ghanaian counterparts.
Additionally, the United Kingdom’s government has announced a substantial increase in student visa application fees – from £127 to £490 – marking a 385 percent increase. This adjustment is set to take effect from October 4, following the enactment of new legislation.
In addition to the student visa fee increase, the British government has also raised visit visa application fees from £100 to £115. According to the Home Office, these fee hikes are intended to sustain the immigration system independently, without relying on funding from British taxpayers.
Furthermore, other countries like Canada are actively pursuing immigration policies – such as the Immigration Levels Plan – with the goal of welcoming more than 460,000 new immigrants annually until 2025. This initiative demonstrates their commitment to attracting and accommodating a substantial number of newcomers.
But Prof. Osei-Assibey believes that the onus is mostly on the state, among all stakeholders, to work toward a framework that ensures skills gained by these individuals benefit the country in the long-run.
“Throughout history, people have migrated and will continue to migrate for a variety of reasons, but the question we must ask is: How can this be beneficial in the long-run?” he remarked.
“We have not witnessed much growth economically because the focus has been on the transfer of technology. However, even if the most advanced technology is transferred, without the requisite knowledge on how to operate it we would not see the benefits. The focus now must be how to collectively build an environment that sees the transfer of knowledge; that should be the emphasis, and our people in the diaspora serve as the best bet to partnering for this knowledge-transfer,” he added.