Lindgren   Windsor Star   22-Nov-1997   That leaves brain raids
The following article is useful in demonstrating that the plundering of the world's brains is not restricted to to the former Soviet Union, but is rather a worldwide plunder, with plunderers of Eastern Europe like Canada, themselves being plundered in their turn by the United States.

It may be of particular relevance to Ukraine to note that in the graph shown below, the worldwide inflow into Canada of "computer scientists, engineers, etc." rose from an annual base level of around 4,000 in 1992 to almost 18,000 in 1996.  This constitutes a vast inflow of wealth into Canada, and a vast loss of wealth to the countries from which these tens of thousands of "computer scientists, engineers, etc." originate.  As this flood followed the winning of independence of Ukraine in 1991, some of the inflow may have been from Ukraine, and is compatible with the interpretation that following independence, there was an interval of euphoria which was quickly succeeded by disillusionment and exodus.

One may also pause to notice how the graphs use two "How to Lie With Statistics" devices, apparently to influence unthinking readers.  That is, in order to impress readers with how small brain outflows are in comparison with brain inflows:
(1) the outflow figures are for outflow to the US only, whereas the inflow figures are for the whole world.
(2) the outflow graph is gratuitously flattened where the observed values seem to not go much beyond 3,000, the ordinate of the graph unjustifiably extends to 12,000, which has the effect of flattening the curves against the bottom of the graph.  The only conceivable justification for selecting a range of ordinate values greatly exceeding the range of values graphed would be to duplicate the ordinal values in some other graph so as to make the two graphs comparable, which is not being done here.

Two photographs in the original article are not reproduced below.  These have the captions:

"I came to Canada in search of adventure." Mariusz Makos, a 29-year-old Polish immigrant
now employed with Corel in Ottawa

"In China, the government controls everything." Yonghai Gu, emigrated from China 18 months ago, now working with Nortel

Brain gain, not brain drain

The stats suggest that instead of losing qualified people, Canada attracts them


Dismal anecdotes about the Canadian brain drain are easy to come by these days.  The University of Manitoba's medical school has lost 22 of its 120-strong faculty in the last five years, mostly to the United States.

A leading health researcher warned recently that hundreds of top-notch medical minds might leave the country because their research proposals aren't being funded.

Hi-tech industries say that as many as 20,000 jobs could go unfilled because of a shortage of skilled workers.

But startling new research by Canada's top statistician indicates this is only part of the story.  When the whole tale is told, Statistics Canada chief Ivan Fellegi says, it becomes clear that reports of a nationwide intellectual apocalypse are vastly overstated.

The so-called brain drain is, in fact, a brain gain.

"There is a brain drain from Canada to the United States it's clearly there," Fellegi says.  "But the evidence that we have, and it is the best available evidence that I could find, suggests the brain gain we have from the rest of the world is substantially greater than the losses to the U.S."

Yonghai Gu is an example.  He is one of 600 high-achieving Chinese immigrants whose brain power is tapped each working day by research giant Nortel in its massive complex just west of Ottawa.

He says he's in Canada because of the intellectual challenge and opportunity: "In China, the government controls everything.  If you did a project, the success or failure of that project depended 50 per cent on the quality of the work and 50 per cent on the personal and political things."

Fellegi is not alone in challenging what he called the "myth" of the Canadian brain drain.  Participants in a recent C. D. Howe Institute conference examining the issue concluded "there was no particular problem," says Dennis Maki, a labour economist at Simon Fraser University and the meeting's rapporteur.

And work in progress by another SFU economist suggests the highly educated immigrants who come to Canada with jobs in hand would otherwise cost the country as much as $2 billion a year in training costs.

That's at least five times what Canada invests annually in skilled people who leave the country says Don DeVoretz, co-director of the Vancouver Centre for Immigration Research.  "We also take only the best and brightest."

Fellegi's work draws on Canadian and American immigration statistics to generate much-needed hard numbers on the highly skilled workers coming and going from Canada.  His study, presented recently to the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, showed:

Canada lost about 5,600 so-called knowledge workers to the U.S. in 1995.  Fellegi says it's possible another 5,600 left for other countries, bringing the total loss for the year to about 11,000.  By comparison, about 34,300 knowledge workers came into the country from the rest of the world in 1995.  Last year, the number climbed to 42,600.  Knowledge workers include managers, engineers, computer and natural scientists, health professionals and university professors.

About 2,000 people with managerial skills went south in 1995.  By comparison, about 10,600 came to Canada from all countries in 1995 and more than 13,000 arrived last year.

About 420 professors and teachers left Canada for the U.S. in 1995; 1,600 entered the country from elsewhere.  The numbers do not support the notion that the brain drain accounts for shortages of skilled workers in the hi-tech sector.  About 641 computer scientists and engineers left for the U.S. in 1995, while nearly 13,200 flowed into the country from the rest of the world.  Last year the influx was 18,000.

There is a brain drain in the health sector.  Canada lost about 1,600 doctors and nurses to the U.S. in 1995.  An equal number probably went to other countries.  That same year, only about 1,700 health care workers entered Canada.  What's more, doctors in particular often run into certification problems that prevent them from working in their field.

The numbers aren't up to the minute, but Fellegi dismisses the notion that the brain drain to the U.S. has become more of a problem in the last 18 months.

"I'd be very leery of making that assumption," says Fellegi, who notes that his job is to work from data, not anecdotes.  The Canadian economy has improved in relation to the U.S. over that period which, he suggests, means more opportunity for workers at home.

Fellegi also questions suggestions that the quality of knowledge workers leaving the country is somehow superior to the quality of knowledge workers arriving.

"We don't know if we are losing our best and brightest compared to the arrivals," he says.  "But at least the arrivals have bona fide qualifications."  Nearly 85 per cent of the 112,000 knowledge workers who came to Canada between 1986 and 1990 worked in their fields by the time of the 1991 census.

So why the panicky, brain-drain headlines that seem to be appearing with greater regularity?  SFU's DeVoretz suggests it's because there is a problem with public sector employees such as doctors, nurses and, to a certain extent, university professors.

Area specific

"The problem is concentrated in a few specific areas," he says.  Cutbacks in public spending, the result of the federal government's war on the deficit, mean there is less money available to compete with generous American paycheques and research grants.

That helps explain the University of Manitoba's faculty woes.  And it explains why many world-class researchers may soon be heading south.

Dr. Gary Glavin is the University of Manitoba's acting associate vice-president for research and Manitoba regional director for the Medical Research Council.  The research council could not afford this year to fund 500 research projects that met its standard.

Glavin warns that many of these researchers will look to the U.S. where the average grant is about $200,000 compared to the research council's $65,000.

One obvious way to combat the brain drain from public sector institutions is to provide more money.  The association representing universities and colleges wants the federal government to double funding for research councils.  Others want the tax gap reduced between Canada and the U.S.  The Canadian Advanced Technology Association, for instance, believes the federal government's commitment to reduce taxes over time will help keep the best technology brains in Canada.

A Canadian earning $70,000 a year pays the top income tax rate of 46 to 54 per cent (depending on the province).  Taxes on a comparable $50,000 U.S. income range from 28 to 33 per cent (depending on the state).  The top U.S. tax rate of 40 to 46 per cent doesn't kick in until annual earnings are more than $250,000 US.

But tax breaks are a controversial way to plug the brain drain.

"The brain drain is a significant problem in a few areas, says SFU's DeVoretz.  "But it certainly does not require an overhaul of the tax system."

That leaves brain raids.  The advanced technology association is planning a mission to attract hi-tech help in Europe.

Not everyone, however, waits for recruiters.

"I came to Canada in search of adventure," says Mariusz Makos, a 29-year-old Polish immigrant who arrived in 1994.  Armed with an electronics degree and computer programming experience with an American multinational in Poland, Makos landed in Toronto, found work in three weeks and moved to Ottawa's Corel Corporation in January.

He's earning about 40 per cent more than he would in Poland, but that's just a side benefit: "I love hiking and travel and Canada is a great place to be to see mountains and forests."

Preferred Canada

Taick Hwan Nam worked as an executive with a hi-tech multinational in South Korea for eight years before coming to Canada: "I never spent time with my family because of constant travel and working very late," he says.  "Working was my life."

Nam, whose brother and two sisters were already in Canada, arrived in August 1995 and within six months was running Corel's sales operations in South Korea.  The father of two young children acknowledges that there were lots of business opportunities in his homeland but said "Ottawa is the best place for my family.  I'm going to stay here."

And then there is Yonghai Gu.  Sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, he came to Canada as a post-doctoral student in 1992 to study modem technology.  Eighteen months later he was hired by Nortel where he now manages a team conducting cell phone research.

He finds Canada, with its multicultural ethos, more comfortable than the U.S.

"Money isn't the only issue, you know.  If it was, then everybody would go south of the border."

Ottawa Citizen