Latin America: brain drain largest for Argentina

Testing an insecticide, Buenos Aires Copyright: WHO/TDR/Crump

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[BUENOS AIRES] Argentina has the highest percentage of scientists emigrating from Latin America to the United States, according to a study by the Economy Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Cepal).

Andrés Solimano, an economist at Cepal, told a meeting of the Foreign Knowledge Networks for Employment and Development last month (27 April) that for every thousand Argentineans who emigrate to the United States, 191 are qualified professionals, scientists or technicians

In Chile the number drops to 156, in Peru to 100, and in Mexico to 26. 

“This is part of a bigger study we are conducting at the Cepal, about international mobility of talents. We want to study the movement of qualified people around the globe, be they scientists, technicians, corporate executives, or artists,” Solimano told SciDev.Net.

He added that Latin American countries spend a lot of money training scientists, but these end up leaving because of a lack of funding, jobs, or government interest in research. Their countries of origin are not seeing the benefits from their investment, he said.

According to Solimano, science policymakers need to put this issue on their agendas. This would help indigenous researchers in foreign countries link up with other scientists in their homeland, or even encourage them to come home.

“All countries have emigration; the key is to understand the relation between highly skilled labour and nationality. The number of science graduates continues to grow in [Latin America], but research budgets can’t cope with this,” says Lucas Luchilo, a researcher at the Centro Redes, a public institution specialising in science and technology development in Latin America.

Two years ago, the Secretary of Technology, Science and Innovation in Argentina set up Programa Raíces (Roots Program), a program to reach out to Argentinean researchers working around the globe. The Argentinean Student and Graduates in the United States Center, a website with chapters in Miami, Dallas and New York, has started the Argentinean Diaspora Project with the same purpose.

Read more about brain drain in SciDev.Net’s brain drain dossier.