The New Vision
By Conan Businge
THE majority of Ugandans who migrate to other countries are among the higher educated group. And those who migrate, whether within their own country or abroad, are doing better in terms of income, education and health than those who stayed where they were born.
These are some of the findings of the 2009 Human Development Report, launched by minister Henry Okello Oryem and UNDP representative Dr. William Kalema on Thursday.
The report found that 68% of Uganda’s international migrants attained upper secondary and tertiary levels of education, meaning Uganda is losing its qualified people.
The emigration of people with university degrees has attracted a lot of attention, says the report.
But it notes that the impact should not be overestimated since many graduates are unemployed in their own country.
Poor working conditions at home are often the reason for graduates to leave, it says.
Citing the case of health workers deserting Africa, it explains that this is being caused by poor staffing levels and poor public health conditions.
“Migration is more accurately portrayed as a symptom, not a cause, of failing health systems.”
It notes that improving working conditions at home might be a better strategy to stop the brain-drain than restricting emigration.
The report also points out that skilled people abroad often bring benefits to their countries through remittances and development networks.
In Uganda, it says, migrants sent home $849m (sh1.6 trillion) in 2007, making kyeyo the biggest source of foreign revenue.
In addition, some studies have suggested that the more high-skilled emigrants from one country live in another, the more trade exists between those countries.
The report also notes that a significant number of skilled emigrants do return, bringing with them the technological knowledge and experience they acquired abroad.
A recent estimate suggested that about half of all migrants return, usually after five years. Oryem argued this is why Uganda decided not to restrict doctors from leaving the country.
For individual migrants, they have become better from migration, the report shows. Whether they moved from the village to the town or abroad, they benefited in terms of higher income and improved access to health and education.
Ugandans who moved within their own country had improved their conditions by 17% while those who moved abroad had improved their conditions by 24%. Migration can empower traditionally disadvantaged groups, the report argues.
But it warns that migration should not be made a substitute for development.
World wide, the report says, there are about one billion migrants, 740 million of whom are internal migrants. Of the international migrants, only 86 million people are from developing countries.
It notes that the poorest often cannot move at all, and when they do so it is under uncertain and dangerous conditions.
It further observes that it is very hard for the poor and unskilled to earn an income when they move or get displaced.
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