The internal brain drain: foreign aid, hiring practices, and international migration

Written by Hanna Selesele

Event Details


The internal brain drain phenomenon―the poaching of local skilled workers from the public sector by international non‐governmental organisations (INGOs) or international organisations (IOs) in developing countries―is an area of concern for humanitarian and development organisations.

Building on empirical material gathered in Haiti, this research advances a new and innovative understanding of the trend by conceptualising it as an equilibrium composed of two sets of tensions: those between the salary conditions in the public sector and the salary conditions offered to local staff working for IOs and INGOs; and the tensions inherent in the dual salary scale used by IOs and INGOs for local and international staff.

The two sets of tensions contribute in their own specific ways to international migration―as such the internal brain drain contributes to external brain drain dynamics. In this seminar, Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hébert will discuss the difficult policy choices facing development and humanitarian organisations when every set of policies addressing one side of the equilibrium is bound to impact the other.

Dr Nicolas Lemay-Hébert is a Fellow in the ANU Department of International Relations, and the Department’s Director of Research. He graduated with his PhD in international relations from Sciences Po in 2010. Prior to joining ANU in 2019, Nicolas worked as an invited professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal and senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham. His current research interests include state-building and intervention issues in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. He is particularly interested in local resistance to international interventions and the political economy of interventions.

Hanna Selesele

Hanna Selesele is a Program Officer at the Development Policy Centre. She is currently completing a double degree in a Bachelor of Commerce and a Bachelor of Pacific Studies at the ANU.

1 Comment

  • My name is Michael Nenzepa. I am over 60 years old and I have tried all odds to help our youth to become better citizens by getting them to work in Australian farms under the Pacific Seasonal Worker Programme.
    I had arranged a few youth using my own funds and send two youth down to Gatton and rotate them over last 3 years. I need funding and government support now to continue. I hand pick hard working youth who will work hard, save money and come back home and enrich themselves.

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