Often in New Zealand we bemoan the fact that so much of our “skilled labour” is heading overseas.
This concern is fine – however, looking at this factor by itself does not tell us anything about the change in our skill base domestically.
In a paper by Satish Chand and Michael Clemens it is claimed that skilled migration out of Fiji has been caused by the same factor behind the increase in the stock of skilled labour in Fiji (ht Market Movers) – namely an increase in the return on skills overseas.
This makes sense, an increase in demand for skilled labour overseas increases the return for skilled labour overseas – with an open labour market skilled labour will then bugger off. This in turn will reduce the supply of skilled labour, increasing the wage and increasing the incentive for people to train in these specific skills – increasing the long-run supply of this labour type.
I find the perceived result that the skilled capital stock INCREASES (which is what they find) a touch implausible, as if domestic demand for those skills does not change and a higher return on labour exists overseas (holding the wage rate up) surely the equilibrium level of employment for that skill is lower. Still I do not know what mechanism they use to explain this – as I have not gone through most of the paper. Once I have I’ll correct myself in the comments 😛
Still it is a valid point that we have to look at why people are leaving before making judgments – instead of merely stating that people leaving is a bad thing.