The theoretical perspective: from globalization to skilled migration and brain drain With the rapid expansion of research and policy interest in migration over the last two decades there has been a significant paradigm shift. Following Hugo (2012), we can state that this shift has involved a move away from thinking about migration purely in terms of permanent settlement or what Ley and Kobayashi, (2005, p. 112) refer to as the “narrative of departure, arrival and assimilation”. The emergence of transnationalism theory involves a more holistic consideration of movements (Dunn, 2005; Piper, 2008) including, among others, the following elements: (a) It focuses not only on the destination but also on the origin and on migration’s impact on the flows, linkages and relationships between them (Faist, 2000, Levitt, 2001); (b) It includes all forms of mobility and not just permanent displacement and resettlement; (c) It explicitly includes a consideration of diaspora and the linkages that it maintains with origin countries; (d) It recognizes that people can, and do, identify with more than one nation state (Basch et al., 1994). This paradigm shift has reinvigorated global migration research and considerably informed our understanding of the migration process and its effects. As Boyle (2002, p. 533) points out “It is the high intensity of exchanges and the new modes of contact that makes this an exciting new research arena”. In 1973, the oil crisis marked a milestone in the new world economic development and it was followed by a period of recession that caused all developed countries to rethink their economic strategies. Overcoming the crisis required the restructuring of production systems and the modification of processes, so as to bring about a complete transformation of the world economy. This led to a profound change in migration policy and, therefore, in migration patterns and directions of flows: in those years a new phase for internal and international migration began that saw some Southern European countries, traditionally sources of emigration, become countries of immigration. The process of urbanization has been gathering momentum since the 1970s, beginning in the poorest countries of the world, where millions of people left the poorest rural areas for the city,
subsequently giving rise to a migratory chain that has increased over time and produced a significant impact on the international flows. The arrival of large population masses in cities still lacking the necessary economic, social and health factors necessary for a decent standard of living has prompted a growing number of people to seek their fortune in more developed countries. The destinations of these new flows have not only been those traditionally of immigration (usually the United States or Western European countries) but also those considered of emigration (namely the Southern European ones), in case the latter prove to be more easily accessible than the former. Since the second half of the 1980s, and especially since the beginning of the 1990s, international migration has undergone further changes due to the process of political and economic globalization following the end of the Cold War and the dominance of the American and Soviet Polish people (Rosoli, 2001). The major political and economic events of the years 1989-1993 dismantled the old political order, and its economic relations created a new model and a different structure of migration flows and produced changes in the meaning and the effects of migration themselves (see Gould and Findlay, 1994). Thus, while the political crisis of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries and the creation of new independent states produced the interruption of a large part of the goods trade that took place within the Eastern Bloc, with a contemporary openness to Western markets, the ensuing economic crisis prompted people to seek work in richer countries (see Kupiszewski, 1994). This crisis also affected selected countries, such as Yugoslavia, Somalia and Eritrea, which, although not belonging to the Soviet bloc, maintained privileged commercial relations with it. In some of these countries, the pressures to emigrate were fuelled by internal conflicts and the situation for ethno-religious and political minorities that forced many to leave and seek political asylum in Western countries. Frequently, the standard flow of migrants in search of employment was incremented by a substantial number of refugees who, being confused with the first, turned out to be barely distinguishable from them. The case of those who left Albania and the former Yugoslavia is without doubt the most emblematic. Problems similar to those described above presently exist for migrants from many of the less developed or developing countries, where the political and social conflicts exacerbate the disastrous effects of the population explosion and the collapse of economies before they were able to take off. The end of the millennium gave rise to a new stage in the migration process. The gap between rich and poor countries is increasing, that is the gap between the North and the South of the world. However, it is also within the different regions of the world that we observe important inequalities: the economies of Eastern Europe are struggling to approach those of the rest of Europe; a persistent economic “barrier” divides the United States from Mexico, as well as, in the Mediterranean, separating Europe from North Africa. All of these sources of local inequalities continue to create high migratory pressure towards the richest countries of all areas, with the result of transforming at times – as in the case of
southern Italy – areas of traditional emigration experience into potential immigration ones. When this is the case, the effect is the deterioration of pre-existent economic and social issues, and the emergence of new ones. For example, we observe the emerging of new economic disputes that often fuel different forms of national protectionism, including unclearly defined defensive needs, sometime justified on ethical grounds. Thus, we see that the process of globalization of migration flows is still limited, compared to their regionalization. It is also necessary to note that the internationalization of the economy does not exclude the geographical polarization of investment, and this explains why migration between neighbouring countries and among countries that have historical and cultural similarities is always very strong. An important feature of the last few decades’ mobility process is the role played by skilled migration. Becker et al. (2004) show that already in the 1990s there was an increasing volume of migration flows involving skilled workers. Over the past decade, however, the increase in migration flows is increasingly characterized by the so-called skilled migrations (OECD, 2011). According to Hugo
in knowledge-based economies, countries seek to maximize their stocks of human capital not only by training their own populations, but also by attracting skilled persons through migration. Hence the “global” quest for talent has become an important part of the strategies of more-developed economies.