ZenPundit
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
 
VACATIONING IN THE GAP AND SEEING ONE OF THE FOUR FLOWS IN ACTION

The wife and I just returned from vacation in Jamaica. We had an excellent time except for a mishap or two and I was able to get some serious reading in under my belt. Time away from the glowing computer screen, not to mention work, was a huge psychological plus. Very restorative.

Driving overland though, you cannot help but notice the extreme poverty endured by most Jamaicans. Rubble is everywhere, all buildings seem to have either been abandoned half-built or are midpoint toward collapse. Those that are still standing, we passed a tall and gloomy " Ministry of Education" office, are often enclosed by chain-link fences topped by razor wire. Adults mill about in the middle of the day with nothing to do as goats and other livestock graze untended amidst garbage and rocks. The countryside was Appalachia in the tropics.

During the course of the trip, my wife befriended Deborah, a lovely and bright 24 year old Jamaican with ambitions to get her university degree in the States or Britain. We invited her to join us for dinner and Deborah explained a great deal about the development of the Jamaican patois and the politics and economics in Jamaica. Government policies were driving all talented Jamaicans to leave she said.

Unemployment was high but Jamaica needed foreigners to fill positions because few Jamaicans could afford to pursue their education beyond the 8th grade, leaving the mass of the population unemployable for anything but menial tasks. With few prospects beyond subsistence farming, rural Jamaican men were more interested in drinking, gambling and chasing women than settling down, marrying and raising a family. " I would never marry a Jamaican man" Deborah announced firmly, saying that she would find a husband abroad.

Those Jamaicans who persevered to get their high school and university degrees usually emigrated rather than accept low-paying, government jobs. Nursing and teaching were honored professions in Jamaica yet so many teachers and nurses went overseas that Jamaican schools and hospitals suffered shortages or made do with the least competent candidates. Rural folk wanted to flee to Kingston and city dwellers there looked to Miami and London as an escape hatch.

During the 1960's, economists described a " brain drain" between Europe and the United States that allowed the US to cream off the best scientists and researchers that Europe, particularly Britain, had to offer. Local incentives could not compete with American offers.

A much larger process of migration is happening now on a global scale between the Gap and the Core typified by people like Deborah who having given up on the chronic dysfunctionality of their home states and are voting with their feet.
 
Comments:
I've written frequently on the medical brain drain, particularly from sub-Saharan Africa. I have strong feelings about the subject.
 
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