Exodus is new form of indentureship
Human resources workshop hears

Stabroek News
November 21, 2002

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Young people who migrate to the 'urban plantations' of North America are part of the new indentureship of globalisation, Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre of Development Administration, Dr PI Gomes said on Wednesday.

And the loss of expertise often means that expatriate `human capital' has to be found to perform management contracts mainly in the state sector.

Dr Gomes was reflecting on the loss of human resources as a fundamental challenge facing Guyana at the opening session of a symposium sponsored by the Human Resources Practitioners Association of Guyana at Hotel Tower yesterday. He offered a few suggestions as to how this problem could be dealt with, but said it was imperative that an analysis be made to avoid ascribing guilt and blame to those who make the choice of seeking opportunities in the wider world.

He felt that the new features of migration must be seen in terms of what pushes patriotic, young and talented citizens to go in search of a largely unknown environment of the "urban plantation" of metropolitan societies, mainly in North America.

He said because one may be so estranged in one's place of birth it was not so over-bearing and so painful a psychological price to be designated a `stranger' or alien, in another person's homeland, while having the status of either permanent residency or citizenship by naturalisation.

Beyond the pursuit of economic betterment, Dr Gomes said that it was perhaps instructive to take note of those historical circumstances when the social, political and cultural fabric of a society was in decay and the quest to migrate becomes the over-riding pre-occupation.

The depletion of human resources at the rate, scale and spread at which it takes place in poor and developing countries, such as Guyana, struggling to retain teachers, nurses and other strata of skilled persons is without doubt a major challenge for human resources practitioners.

Migration, he said, should not be viewed from the perspective of what was only seen in the past as a `brain drain' but what is now a widespread and apparently growing pattern of Guyanese migrants drawn from all walks of life, irrespective of ethnic or social origins.

This suggests that urgent attention should be given to the deeper non-economic factors that are contributing to the exodus of skilled human resources and are far more complex than being reduced to a slogan of the `brain-drain'.

Evidence suggests that the exodus of talented, skilled Guyanese straddles all ethnic groups, with a sizeable portion being young people, some with managerial experience. This outward flow has serious consequences for morale and productivity in the work place among those who have not physically departed but psychologically have done so, as they wait in line for their turn, he said.

The skills and abundance of talent being nurtured in technical and vocational training schools in Guyana and other CARICOM countries are now becoming a part of that `reserve army of labour'. This places additional burdens on already limited human and financial resources.

Given the negative aspects of today's social environment, and granted that the full extent of their impact is still to be determined, Dr Gomes said he could sense a growing consciousness that a `Guyana of the 21st century' is anxious to emerge.

In putting forward some suggestions to deal with the situation Dr Gomes said that it was necessary to examine the conditions and environment as well as the structures of opportunities by which skills and the earning of a decent livelihood, free from the fear of violence and abuse can be pursued.

Noting the aggressive recruitment by metropolitan-based entities in the areas of health education in Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Gomes said that this calls for a CARICOM response.

He said the persistent drain on human resources from poor countries, for whom Millennium Goals have been articulated, is redolent of contradictory policies. Aid is provided to develop skills, capacity and expertise necessary to be integrated into a global economy while on the other hand the virtual purchase of those very skills was made by enticements for the service sectors of the developed economies.

He suggested that the association prepare a policy paper with a view to providing a basis to engage the decision-makers for dialogue leading to the formulation of concrete measures to reverse the pattern of the drain in skilled human resources. He said that the National Development Strategy and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper could be used to help shape the envisioned action plan.

Noting that similar concerns are being expressed by human resource management associations in other Caribbean countries, he said that the local association needs to reach out and join forces. (Miranda La Rose)

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