High-Skilled Latin Americans Continue To Head To U.S., Europe Despite Lack Of Jobs

Even with a shaky European economy and a recovering one in the U.S., two of the world’s largest markets are still major draws for highly-skilled, educated workers from Latin America.

The countries that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – consisting of the United States and European powers and that account for 70 percent of the worldwide trade in goods and services – have seen an enormous rise in the number of skilled immigrants in the last decade.

From the start of the millennium until now, the number of skilled immigrants moving to OECD nations has jumped from 12 million to 20 million – and the majority of them are coming from developing nations.

This jump has coincided with a spike in the number of Latin Americans receiving advanced degrees – 30 million to 40 million from 1996 to 2007, according to the World Bank – and is due in large part to the rise of a powerful middle class in Latin American nations like Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

The vast majority of these immigrants who come to the U.S. – many who end up working in California's Silicon Valley – are legally employed under work visas from top-tier tech and finance companies.

There has been some reverse migration from Europe to Latin America – a particularly enticing move is from Spain, where unemployment has hit 26 percent, to the Spanish-speaking world across the Atlantic. But the numbers still appear to favor traditional immigration trends from the developing to the first world.

Caribbean nations have been particularly hard hit, with 90 percent of their skilled workers fleeing their countries for opportunities aboard.

As countries with powerful economies like Brazil and Mexico have chosen to soften the term from “brain drain” to “talent flux,” some analysts believe that Latin American nations could take advantage of the migration instead of mulling over the domestic consequences.

“Many countries in the region are turning a hypothetical problem into an opportunity,” said Javier Botero, a specialist in higher education at the World Bank, according to the International Business Times. “Globalization is making world mobility a reality. Latin America should take advantage of the people who are abroad to work on national projects.”

Botero added that if Latin American nations want to keep talent, they need to provide the income and incentives for their highly-educated citizens to remain at home.

“The region needs to create more jobs to satisfy the demands of a highly educated population,” he added.

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