Yevgeny Kuznetsov (2006). Diaspora Networks and International Migration of Skills: How Countries Can Draw on Their Talent Abroad. Washington DC: The World Bank. ISBN-13: 978-0-8213-6648-3, 250 pages.

Author:   Yevgeny Kuznetsov
Publisher:   GRFDT
Reviewer:   Angelo Gianturco Coletta
Designation:   Research Intern

Yevgeny Kuznetsov (2006). Diaspora Networks and International Migration of Skills: How Countries Can Draw on Their Talent Abroad.  Washington DC: The World Bank. ISBN-13: 978-0-8213-6648-3, 250 pages.

Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic, international migration reached 281 million people in 2020, equal to 3.6% of the world’s population (The Economic Times, 2021). The resulting diaspora population could serve as a pivotal change for their origin countries' development. Diaspora networks count on the necessary knowledge and capital to advance policy reform, the importance lay in how to design these networks and how to efficiently connect them with the government.

While published more than a decade ago, Diaspora Networks and International Migration of Skills center precisely on analyzing how and when highly skilled diasporas intertwined with the development of their home countries. Divided into 4 Parts: Analytical Framework and Major Policy Issues; Expatriate Talent and home country development: Lessons of mature diaspora networks; emerging Diaspora Networks; and Implications of policy and institutional development, Yevgeny Kuznetsov comprises the views of international development actors regarding the benefits that can be retrieved from diasporas networks.

The first chapter of the book serves as an introduction, where the key concepts are treated, providing a clear path of the book content. Chapter 2 is written by David Ellerman, a philosopher who works in the economic, political economy, and social theory fields, and discusses the benefits and disadvantages of migration through literature. In the third chapter, Richard Devane argues how the “know-how” and financial recourses of diasporas could benefit their origin country, highlighting how a powerful member of the ex-pat community can aid to increase the investment in its home country.

The second part of the book offers specific examples of diaspora networks. Chapter 5 treats the evolution of low-skilled Mexican migrants and how they organize to protect migrants’ rights in the United States of America. Chapter 6 revolves around the Armenian case and why diaspora investments are so scarce.

The third part, analyzes small high-skill diaspora networks and the difficulties of their engagement with their countries of origin, as is the case of Argentina (Chapter 7), South Africa (Chapter 8), and Colombia (Chapter 9).

Finally, the fourth part discusses the policy reform associated with well-established diaspora networks. Chapter 10, written by Mairi MacRae, describes a successful example of a diaspora network, the Globalscot Scottish one. And the last chapter is dedicated to offering a blueprint for fruitful diaspora and home country integration.

Kuznetsov serves as Senior Economist at the World Bank since 1995, Senior Advisor to the Skolkovo Innovation Foundation, and a Senior Research Fellow at the Migration Policy Institute. His work and studies focus on innovation and higher education system reforms. He is also specializing in highly skilled migrants, studying how highly skilled diasporas can be used to advance the development of their home countries.

Although the phenomenon of “brain drain” is usually perceived as negative for the country of origin, this book centers on the possibilities that can be retrieved from it, where diaspora networks can apply the learned new skills to their countries, mostly by contributing to public policy debates and reform plans. The author specifies that these networks “do not need to be investors or make financial contributions to have an impact” (pp.3), they can rather act as bridges for new investments and added expertise. Examples such as the Indian diaspora proves Kuznetsov's view, where they have served to increase capital accumulation by reinforcing the link between foreign and domestic investment, resulting in new domestic job opportunities as well. Another positive example is the Globalscot network, a global business network for Scottish nationals that aims to contribute to the country's success. In this specific case, the network is financed by the country developing agency, proving that countries of origin can, and should, seek direct relations with conational diaspora networks.

The book illustrates negative examples as well, as is the case of Armenia, where the country elites are relucted to engage with diaspora groups fearing they could lose some of their financial benefits. Other unsuccessful stories are shared, such as the Argentinian and Colombian ones, where diasporas have encountered obstacles in engaging with their governments.

The book concludes with possible recommendations to engage diasporas and agencies depending on the local setting's needs and conditions. Kuznetsov states that in the case of a well-established diaspora network but with poor home country conditions, engagement should be focused on demonstration projects. While in the case of a poor diaspora network, but with favorable country conditions, the diaspora role should be emphasized in knowledge growth. And finally, with a good diaspora network and favorable home country conditions, the engagement should revolve around the transition from an economy based on knowledge.

The author resume the importance of further studies on the engagement of diaspora networks stating:

“Although successful cases of diaspora engagement are relatively rare when they do occur, it is not usually due to deliberate intervention. In most cases, diasporas and expatriate networks emerge spontaneously. Serendipity seems to be much more important than government interventions.” (pp.224)

Dedicated “for practitioners by practitioners” (pp. viii), Diaspora Networks and International Migration of Skills provide an analysis of how Diasporas can advance their countries' economic growth on a transfer of knowledge level, distancing from the traditional financial contributions as remittances. The book serves to pave the way for deeper studies of diaspora engagement in policy reform with their home countries. Whereas the book focused only on high skill migration, which is still a small percentage of global migration, it provides hope for irregular migration as well, since as in the case of India, an integrated diaspora results in economic growth and jobs creation in the country of origin, providing additional opportunities that could potentially translate into a durable solution to irregular migration. Since its content focus on a rather specific migration topic, it would particularly serve development professionals. However, the book could offer a broader perspective for social science academics and migration professionals in general, to deepen their understanding of the role diasporas can play in their countries of origin. 

© 2012-20 GRFDT, All Rights Reserved.Maintained by GRFDT.Designed by Abhinav Jain