Ethical Recruitment: Brain Drain and its Moral Challenges

August 17, 2022
Ethical Recruitment: Brain Drain and its Moral Challenges

Currently, one of the biggest questions within international recruitment is: How do we ethically source overseas talent without creating the problems that can come from taking these professionals - especially those who work in health and social care - away from communities that need them, often more than we do?

Professional migration happens for several reasons. A new International Labour Organisation (ILO) report estimates that between 2017 and 2019, the number of people migrating for work internationally increased from 164 to 169 million. Expert organisations, such as this, seem to share the consensus that social-economic factors are the largest contributors to the movement of professionals. When we’ve asked our Migrate community why they chose to relocate, the answer tends to be for better life opportunities for themselves and their families, to work in a more developed healthcare system, and for more money. The ILO also shared another report that 2/3 migrant workers are indeed motivated to move from their low-income country of origin to more developed, higher income countries.

The Problem with Brain Drain

Human capital flight, or more commonly known as ‘brain drain’, is the emigration of highly skilled and educated individuals to more developed, wealthy countries.

A recent report, “Employee Movement and Retention”, conducted by employment and HR solutions provider Employment Hero, states that a staggering 42% of job seekers they surveyed would consider a job overseas. People are looking for better salaries, different lifestyles, and professional development opportunities, and they’re not afraid to move abroad to get them. Things get tricky when the country professionals are moving from en masse require their skillset, often more than the country they’re relocating to, resulting in brain drain.  

It is vital that health and social care employers put systems in place to try and ensure there’s no negative impact on the country of origin of their new overseas employees.

There are some systematic approaches in place to help decrease brain drain, such as agreements between the UK government and the Philippines and other countries, to secure a more balanced approach to international recruitment into the UK workforce. However, at an employer level, the staffing crisis in these organisations is at an all-time high, and can mean there are not enough resources, mainly time, to properly invest in robust ethical recruitment strategies.

How can UK Employers Recruit Ethically?

Firstly, UK employers can diversify the countries they recruit from - not just relying on one source country. Although this might mean more activities and partnerships will be required to meet recruitment targets, diversification has the added value of building well-rounded communities within teams and organisations.

Employers should also consider heavily investing into the people they’re recruiting. Supporting language training costs, providing pastoral care and welcome packs to new arrivals, and ensuring they’re settling well into their new UK life, all helps towards staff retention and overall job satisfaction. Unfortunately, some employers just focus on ‘filling their staffing gaps’ as quickly as possible, often using recruitment agencies with fees ranging from £1,600 - £3,000 per overseas applicant. This approach is costly, short-sited, and doesn’t guarantee the quality of applicant. At Migrate, we’re making international recruitment more financially viable and ethically focused, charging considerably less then agencies, and ensuring all applicants receive a high level of relocation support from their future employer.

Another option is for UK employers to build a talent pool from a variety of countries, and to provide financial support to applicants towards their English language tests. The average cost to support an overseas applicant to pass their English language tests is £600 – employers can then negate the need to use a hiring agency, saving them money overall.

Finally, UK employers can give back to overseas applicants and their countries of origin, through knowledge and skills sharing. The NHS is widely regarded as a global healthcare leader, and so building relationships with other organisations around the world to assist in upskilling their health workforce, can help towards developing a more collaborative global healthcare system, which ultimately, benefits us all.

If you're an UK employer and you would like to continue this conversation with us, or if you are looking for solutions to make your international recruitment efforts more financially viable and ethically focused, please get in touch with Neil Swager, our Partnerships Manager.

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