Philip Booth writes in The Daily Telegraph on the plight of African nurses

Sir – You assume that poor conditions in many African countries can be improved by making it more difficult for the talented to leave. The reality is different. Poor countries can benefit enormously from emigrants.

In many poor countries, remittances from emigrant workers represent more than 10 per cent of national income, much more than is received in foreign aid – and the money is better spent.

Family members who have left a poor country provide a form of “unemployment insurance” for those who remain, helping remaining family members out in times of need. Also, crucially, many emigrants leave for relatively short periods. They often return with better skills and a pool of capital and facilitate the transfer of skills, capital, ideas and ideals back to their home countries.

To make it more difficult for people to leave poor African and Asian countries in the hope that those countries will be more likely to prosper is to look from the wrong end of the telescope. Such countries are poor because they are badly governed and bad government causes skilled people to leave.

Indeed, it is questionable whether it is morally right to make it more difficult for African nurses who wish to leave their own countries to do so, in the hope that by preventing their departure, they might make other people in their home country better off.


Prof Philip Booth, Institute of Economic Affairs, London SW1