Skills Circulation and the Advent of a New World Order

Jean-Baptiste Meyer

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Is the knowledge world organized differently today with respect to yesterday? At the world level, observers used to highlight the asymmetry between the North and the South, which would shape the unidirectional flows of competence from the former to the latter. The 'center' would attract the brains and human resources in science and technology. Today, by contrast, one tends to stress the greater complexity of flows' directions and the 'circulation' of brains rather than their 'drain'. Some see this trend as making migration contribute to development. Others, in a more skeptical way, argue that the core features of the world have not changed.

This article does not aim at identifying which position is right, but rather at discussing the core arguments in this debate, on the basis of empirical evidence and of the interpretations it can be associated with. The first part analyses the evolution of data over the last decade. The role of diasporas is the object of the part 2, which demonstrates the potential, but not automatic, link between migrants and their country of origin. The third part connects the major transformations of the scientific and technological world with current and future mobility trends; if flows are less unidirectional than before, the social and political conditions in which they take place remains uncertain. In conclusion, the paper argues that the 'circulation' approach to migration, that is now at least a decade old, is going through a new phase and must therefore be reassessed.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Meyer, J.-B. Skills Circulation and the Advent of a New World Order. Diversities. 2012, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 63-75, UNESCO. ISSN 2079-6595.

About the author:

Jean-Baptiste Meyer is a researcher at the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD, Paris) and associated member at the Doctoral School at the School of Economic Sciences at the University of Montpellier. He has published extensively on knowledge circulation and development, specifically on skills mobility. he has coordinated diverse international research projects on skilled mobility in collaboration, among others, with the National University of Colombia (1993-1996) and with the University of Cape Town (1997-2000). He was the leader of the expert review of the IRD on scientific diaspora networks which delivered its final report 'Scientific diasporas' in 2003. He was chosen by the joint initiative of Nature, Science and the Third World Academy of Science as the chair of the editorial panel for the brain drain dossier of the Scidev website. He is also currently a member of the scientific commission of social sciences at IRD and a member of the Advisory Board of the International Migration and Diaspora Studies (IMDS) Project of the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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