The preliminary results of a recent study by the Department of Science and Technology Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) show that the “brain drain” phenomenon continues and has even worsened during the past few years. According to DOST-SEI Officer in Charge and Deputy Director Dr. Leticia Catris, the number of emigrating science workers from the Philippines has ballooned to around two and a half times compared to the figure 11 years ago. In 1998, there were 9,877 outbound science workers from the country. More than a decade after in 2009, the number has grown by 148 percent to 24,502. More than half of these are health professionals and nurses while a fifth are engineers.
This is not a new phenomenon. In 2008, a similar study was released by then DOST-SEI Director Ester Ogena entitled “Emigration of Science and Technology Educated Filipinos (1998-2006).” The study pointed out that around 23 percent of our total science workers pool go abroad to seek employment. In particular, the 2008 study noted that the exodus of engineering graduates is attributable to the demand of foreign multinational corporations paying higher salaries, especially in IT and computer-related employment services.
The new 2011 study points out that the number of science professionals leaving the country kept on rising except during the years 2001 to 2003. This, according to Dr. Catris, was due to the economy improving over that period of time. This steady emigration for more than a decade is probably why the Philippines was ranked 96 out of 139 nations in terms of availability of scientists and engineers in the 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report by the World Economic Forum.
From both studies, it seems that some of the reasons why we lose these scientists to emigration are the low pay and the lack of opportunities to practice their profession in the country. Not surprisingly, the same issues with regard to the brain drain have been raised before. AGHAM, for instance, has written about this in the 2005 pamphlet “Prometheus Bound: The State of Science and Technology in the Philippines.” In that paper, we pointed out that the lack of domestic industrial growth contributes greatly to the stunting of science and technology in the country.
The issues of opportunities and working conditions have already been pointed out way back in the 1970s when Dr. Amador Muriel wrote about it in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. He was a research associate at that time at the Institute of Space Studies (under NASA).
Writing about physics research and teaching in the country, Dr. Muriel notes that the opportunities in the country are not at all that attractive and “as in all other professions, the chief motive for emigration is poor working conditions bred by government apathy and corruption.” He also points out that we share similar socio-economic situations as most brain donor countries: poverty, overpopulation and the desire to achieve industrialization.
It is in this desire to industrialize on our own that that the second part of today’s title comes in. The ongoing peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (now formally abbreviated as GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway is set to discuss in their agenda an agreement on socio-economic reforms. After the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), the two parties is set to discuss the meat of the whole negotiations—the root causes of the armed revolution. We expect that land reform, national industrialization and trade relations will be discussed in this phase of the negotiations. Formal talks will be held from February 15 to 21, 2010.
Where does brain drain figure in this? If the two parties agree on a clear industrial policy that will build domestic industries at all levels and harness increased agricultural output, the opportunities for scientists in our country will literally become immense. Basic science research would be needed to address real world problems while applied research and engineering solutions would be critical in bootstrapping our industrial growth. I believe that together with increased economic incentives, such an industrial policy would actually help reverse the brain drain that has been the norm for several decades already.
We cannot rely on just increasing the number of scientists and engineers through scholarships and incentives. The government must also plan where these scientists and engineers figure in our economy. Sadly, the situation right now is inadequate as the DOST studies show—it reflects the fact that one out of four science workers find no comfort in our current economic situation.
The ongoing peace talks are thus not just about looking for ways to stop the war. It should be about genuine development and opportunities for all of us— scientists and ordinary folk alike.
|Brain Drain, BAS September 1970 by Dr. Amador Muriel||529.89 KB|
|Prometheus Bound, 2005, AGHAM||356.99 KB|