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Brain Drain from Southeast Asia Poses Obstacle to Growth

  • Loss of human capital can be a major obstacle to development
  • But remittances from migrants are a vital source of income
Shoppers and pedestrians walk past market stalls in the Binondo district of Manila, the Philippines

Shoppers and pedestrians walk past market stalls in the Binondo district of Manila, the Philippines

Photographer: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg

Nyl Patangan, a nursing graduate from the Philippines, left his native land in search of a better life. Now working in a Chicago hospital after a stint in Dubai, he's supporting his parents back home and is buying his mother a Toyota Vios.

A recent study by the Asian Development Bank shows that the number of immigrants with university degrees who left to work in richer nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development surged 66 percent in the decade through 2010-2011 to 2.8 million. More than half of them came from the Philippines, with hundreds of thousands more working in regions outside the OECD like the Middle East.

The trend has persisted, with the number of Filipinos leaving for work overseas rising 27 percent between 2011 and 2015.