Impact of brain drain on Sri Lanka
Developing countries’ resources drain to developed
Brain drain can be identified as a significant feature which can be
seen in developing countries. It is an important pattern of
international human migration. Brain drain refers to ‘Migration of the
highly skilled professionals to the foreign countries in search of
In modern world large number of intellectuals leave their native
lands and settle in the developed countries. Brain drain can occur
either when individuals who study abroad and complete their education do
not return to their home country, or when individuals are educated in
their home country emigrate for higher wages or better opportunities.
The second form is obviously worse because it drains more resources from
the home country.
From the inception of the human civilization people migrated from one
place to another and it caused to the emergence and the collapse of the
civilizations. But migration patterns such as brain drain is not simple
as far as the social impacts of such problems are concerned and it has
become a critical issue which cannot be sustained further for developing
countries such as Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka can be identified as store of intelligence among third
world countries, comprise of educated people with high level of
knowledge and competencies. Brain drain which was started in 1960s has
been consistency taking place until today, and the rate has been
proportionately increased from considerable percentage at present.
Although there was a big talk in Sri Lankan society about the
migration of the intellectuals before 1977, this situation was changed
by the open economy. With the introduction of the open economy policy,
lots of Sri Lankans get opportunities for foreign employment.
Therefore massive amount of people with law literacy rates migrated
to the foreign countries, specially to the Middle East. Therefore labour
migration was the significant feature and attention of the entire
society was on this new trend. So the problem of brain drain was
exceeded by the newly emerged concept of labour migration. Nevertheless
the problem of the migration of intellectuals was gradually improving.
Today lots of Sri Lankan intellectuals migrate to the countries like
United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and New Zealand.
When Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 there were adequate number
of our own professionals for the essential human services. But in 1950s,
Sri Lankan intellectuals started to leave Sri Lanka in search of
The outward of the professionals had progressively increased
specially during 1960s and 1970s. In the early years particularly before
1976 the tendency of the professionals was to migrate with their
families for employment and to eventually settle down abroad
permanently. This trend was controlled by the government through the
travel restrictions in 1975.
In July 1983 trials can be mentioned as significant incidents with
regard to the brain drain. In 1983 political instability and ethnic
disturbance caused large exodus of the intellectuals. During this period
large number of Tamil intellectuals who resided in North and North
Eastern Province left Sri Lanka and they received refugee status
especially in the countries like Canada and United Kingdom. Since then
it has been continuing up to now.
As identified in surveys lots Sri Lankan intellectuals migrate to
foreign countries due to many reasons. Most of the intellectuals have
migrated due to the inadequate salaries in Sri Lanka. Therefore they
were inspired to migrate overseas to earn more money.
Moreover lack of job opportunities in the relevant fields, further
education, acquiring better living conditions, prevailing political
instability and ethnic conflict are the other factors which affected the
migration of the Sri Lankan intellectuals.
It is not a secret that brain drain creates negative effects on
developing countries. Resources of the developing countries drain to
developed countries through the brain drain. Considering the situation
in Sri Lanka although Sri Lanka is a third world country, Sri Lankan
Government has been expending large amounts of money higher education.
Annually government expends money for maintaining the university
system and also provides facilities for the students free of charge.
Therefore governments’ investment on higher education drains to foreign
countries due to brain drain.
Further more migration of the professionals affects the fields of
health, education and development. Sri Lankan health sector is largely
hit by the brain drain. It can be seen shortages of doctors in Sri Lanka
due to their migration. Annually Sri Lanka produced considerable amount
of doctors, but lots of them are finding employment abroad. Especially
rural hospitals of Sri Lanka haven’t adequate doctors. People in these
areas face lots of difficulties due to the absence of the doctors and it
directly affect the public health facilities.
Migration of the other intellectuals such as engineers, scientists
and experts also affect the development of the country. Science and
scientific research play a crucial role in country’s development
process. The exodus of trained scientist has affected most research
institutes. Impairment of their quality on account of brain drain would
have been adversely affected the pace of Sri Lanka’s development since
science and technology are the two arms of development.
When we are considering about the brain drain it is important to pay
our attention towards the attempts taken by the Sri Lankan Government to
minimize the brain drain. The first attempt was obtaining the approval
of the Cabinet suggestions to avoid brain drain. It was an important
decision that was implemented in the national level. In these Cabinet
suggestions following factors should be considered.
* It was decided for Sri Lankan universities to work in collaboration
with the foreign universities and with the other institutions.
* Imposed restrictions on foreign travels, providing leave and five
years leave for government workers.
* In foreign travels amount of currency that can be consumed was
* Provided opportunities to professional specialists for consultant
To be continued