Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brain Drain

I can't help linking two things I came to notice lately:

1) Following the US elections in some detail over the last few days, I couldn't help but notice the venom against those who do well academically. Words like 'elitist', 'egghead' etc....with meanings that would have positive connotations in the rest of the world appear to have become profanities in American discourse. I don't know how representative political blogs are of American public opinion in general.

Compare and contrast with the culture in other up-and-coming economic powers like India and China.

2) The influx of American 'brains' here. Most Western expats used to be European - particularly British. But now Americans are really making their presence felt. They're everywhere.

Of course, this could simply be because of the economic boom in the Gulf caused by rising fuel prices among other things.

But maybe it is also linked to the first factor? More American eggheads are leaving because they don't feel appreciated at home? That is certainly the reason why educated Arabs leave the Middle East. So is the brain drain now beginning to reverse?



Blogger Highlander said...

You do have a point here Loulou, from my various and varied travels to all parts of the world I've met many Americans that have chosen to live outside their country in cities such as London and Tokyo. I'm not sure what is it exactly that brought elite people to do that ( elite as in smart, extremely well educated and good looking :P) but one of them told me last summer 'it was the possibility to have such a conversation with you Highlander, I just can't stand it back home'. I don't know what would be his complaint back home but I can sympathise that for someone who thinks outside the mainstream back home may not be interesting. I don't know though whether the reasons for their move to the Gulf is due to potential monetary gain or because that region is intellectually stimulating though you would be better placed to answer that question.

As for Arab reverse brain drain, well with regards to Libya I have witnessed dozens of cases of Libyan families resettling back in the homeland after spending 5-20 years in the Americas. So possibly there is a trend but it is not a gushing river rather a little trickle.

We can wait and see what happens

9/17/2008 07:25:00 PM  
Blogger The Queen said...

What about the fact that more and more American jobs are outsourced so they are looking for a job that can't be found here anymore?

ironic note: I was actually interrupted by the telephone as I was about to post this comment. Who was it? A telemarketer who sounded like he was Indian. Those jobs are even outsourced.

9/18/2008 05:17:00 AM  
Blogger Vile said...

I'm not sure if it's true that more Americans are present in the gulf, i guess we need statistical data about that. But even if that were true, i dunno if they are all America's "eggheads" or just normal joes. I believe American institutions still pertain the "smartest" of the species.

9/18/2008 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...


You're right. It is just a personal observation - not a study.

But they're certainly not average joes. The Gulf states import 'average joes' from Asia or other Arab countries usually where labor is much cheaper than in the West. They only turn to the West for highly specialized people they wouldn't normally be able to find elsewhere.

As I said, traditionally these Western expats used to come from the UK or Europe. Now I am noticing more and more Americans among them. That's all.

9/18/2008 10:37:00 PM  
Blogger Um Naief said...

well, the eggheads are wise in that they realize how much freakin money they can make over here! not only do most get paid by the company here, but also receive a salary from the company in the U.S. who wouldn't do it?!! so... eggheads are just taken for granted! ;)

elitists... that's a whole other story. i would definitely say that many in bahrain aren't in that category, altho they'd probably say otherwise, but there are those who are.

i also agree w/ vile.. wouldn't say that all the americans in these parts are eggheads... i've met many that are actually very stupid.

9/23/2008 10:47:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

I work for a European multi-national. Hence, in the past when we would hire expensive consultants, they were much more likely to be from Europe than North America. But now that appears to be changing.

When my old boss - who is Swiss - retired, and an American came out here to replace him, I didn't think much of it at the time. Sure, it was unusual that he was recruited directly from the US. He wasn't even an American who was living in Europe where our corporate headquarters are. But I thought ok, a fluke.

And my manager really is an egghead. He's got like 3 degrees and a doctorate from MIT and Harvard. I still have to do the math and figure out how many years you'd have to spend in college to get all of that!

Then a few more American managers/specialists joined us.

Then I started to notice at meetings with our clients who are usually either governmental, oil companies or banks, that I was starting to hear a lot of American accents as opposed to British or French. The clients appear to be doing what we're doing - which is hiring from the US where they used to hire from Europe.

This is only over the last 18 months or so. Traditionally, the only Americans I used to meet here were involved with or working for the embassy or the military one way or the other.

And not all Western expats are seconded btw. That would be so expensive we'd never be able to offer our clients a competitive bid. Remember consultants charge for people on an hourly rate. We have to be able to offer rates that other consultants can't easily beat or we'd go out of business pretty fast!

Seconded staff are usually experts who come out here on a short-term, lump-sum contract - 3-6 months because you're right, they do cost the company 2 salaries. After 6 months, if we need them here, we make them a permanent offer - or they go back to their position abroad. But they can't get paid for 2 positions for very long. It wouldn't make any sense.

My husband - and some of his colleagues - had the longest secondment contracts I've ever seen here. He had 2 years, renewable for another 2. SOme of his colleagues had been seconded for as long 6 or 7 years!

But their clinic is not a 100% private one. There is some kind of integovernmental arrangement involved there because they do provide certain medical and teaching services for government and military. I guess governments can worry less about cost than private businesses.

9/24/2008 12:21:00 AM  

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