The new brain drain from Zimbabwe

The new brain drain from Zimbabwe

Investing the causes behind skilled migration in Zimbabwe

The brain drain has been labelled as one of the greatest development challenges facing African countries, and in Zimbabwe all the signs point to the existence of a growing exodus of skilled workers from the country. So what are the true dimensions and causes of the problem in Zimbabwe? This paper presents the findings from a survey conducted in 2001 in which a representative sample of 900 skilled Zimbabweans was interviewed.

The paper finds that:

  • 57 per cent of the sampled population have given a “great deal” of thought to emigrating from Zimbabwe, with over a quarter saying it was likely or very likely they would leave in six months and 55 per cent committed to emigrating within the next two years, therefore the pool of future emigrants in Zimbabwe remains massive
  • it is possible to point to economic and political events over the last decade as the primary cause of emigration and high future potential
  • there are extremely high levels of dissatisfaction relating to economic matters such as the cost of living, taxation, availability of goods, and salaries as well as social issues including housing, medical services, education and a viable future for children
  • a coercive approach to the brain drain mooted by government, such as compulsory national service and bonding would only add to the burden of discontent

The paper concludes that:

  • Zimbabwe’s skilled population is not only highly discontented with domestic economic, social and political conditions, but they are extremely pessimistic about the possibility of positive change within the next five years, resulting in extremely high emigration potential
  • the most important factors identified as the driving forces of skilled emigration are the high cost of living currently prevailing in the country and the high level of taxation
  • the loss of economically active, skilled people to other countries represents a crippling loss to Zimbabwe

The paper recommends that:

  • the government needs to make the cost of living affordable, not only for the skilled personnel, but for the majority of the population
  • measures are required which will arrest the current high rate of inflation currently running in excess of 50 per cent
  • the high levels of taxation in Zimbabwe needs to be curbed, high taxes on their own reduce economic growth as they affect the disposable income available to the workers
  • coercive measures will not curb the high rates of skilled migration, the best way to do this lies in addressing the economic fundamentals of the country which will ultimately improve living standards
  • the economic conditions in the country need to be improved so as to re-attract the emigrants living abroad and also to stop the potential migrants from leaving the country