This month, the Jamaican Economy Panel (JEP) discusses how the current high levels of emigration and the possible brain drain that could be its result.
According to the PIOJ's Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ) 2019, annual net population growth decreased from around 10,000 people in 2010 to a negative number since 2017. The primary cause for this is a significant net outflow of people through migration, reaching around 18,000 people in 2020.
Furthermore, those most likely to leave are of child-bearing age and often the most educated or skillful. With only 9.3% of male workers and 17.7% of female workers having a degree, the migration of the most highly educated (or those with the most significant potential) could harm Jamaican growth potential, as was recognized in the 2017 policy on migration.
The panellists reviewed both pull and push factors that encourage migration. However, economic pull factors (specifically, people seeking higher living standards and better economic opportunities) are the most relevant, even if push factors such as violence and crime also play a role.
PIOJ posits that the high levels of net emigration bring certain benefits to the Jamaican economy by building economic networks. The panellists expressed a range of opinions on whether the benefits that Jamaica derives from this net emigration outweigh the disadvantages.
The policy prescriptions to reduce net emigration are similar to those for general socioeconomic development in Jamaica: provide better economic opportunities while also addressing crime and violence and institutional challenges.
Finally, the panellists also discussed how the benefits of the Jamaican diaspora could be harnessed more effectively. One popular option would be to further encourage return migration before or after retirement, but it is also vital to increase the socioeconomic impact of existing remittances.
The full results of this month's discussion are available HERE.