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The University of Southampton
Economic, Social and Political Sciences

Informing policymakers on benefits of temporary migration

Research challenge

Policymakers in many developing countries have long considered migration of skilled workers to ‘rich’ countries a threat to their development because of the resulting ‘brain drain’ that leaves developing countries under-skilled and poorer.

Jackie’s research has challenged these presumptions. Her work reveals that temporary migration can have multiple positive effects on the country of origin. Migrants return with more skills, money to invest and are more likely to found businesses. Her findings highlight the positive impact temporary migrants have on home nations, countering the notion that high skilled emigration is a loss to developing countries who invest scarce resources in financing the education of their people who then emigrate.

Our solution

Jackie’s work was the first to provide empirical evidence that showed overseas savings and newly acquired skills increase the probability of becoming an entrepreneur upon return. She demonstrated that uneducated returnees have a markedly positive impact on the economy. They return with savings, allowing them to set up their own businesses which would not have been possible without migration. She found that skills are more important than savings for highly educated returnees, who use knowledge and experience gained abroad to set up enterprises back home. [1, 2]

Jackie also examined how working overseas impacts on migrants’ wages upon their return home [3]. Focusing on return migrants and non-migrants in Egypt, her findings provided strong evidence that people who temporarily migrate to work abroad enjoy a wage premium when they return home. Return migrants earn more than non-migrants. For every year they are abroad and up to five years, their wage premium increases with the length of time spent abroad. She has extended this work showing further that return migration benefits people’s skill sets, as well as their earning potential.

What was the impact?

The World Bank used Jackie’s research to support the Egyptian Government in its 2010 negotiations with the EU on temporary labour migration, specifically the cross-border movement of people to supply services, known as ‘Mode 4’ in the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The World Bank used Jackie’s findings to advise Egypt on the benefits of equipping its people with education and skills that could be employed in Europe.

The International Organisation for Migration used Jackie’s research to inform their 2009 recommendations on the formulation of bilateral and regional agreements on migration and return migration of workers within the Arab region.

Also, Jackie’s work was used to inform the UN Institute for Training and Research’s Global Migration Group at the UN Practitioners Symposium in 2010.

List of all staff members in
Staff Member Primary Position
Jackie Wahba Professor of Economics, Department Research Director, Departmental Head of Applied Group
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