Saturday, August 15 2020


No easy solution to plugging ‘brain drain' from Viet Nam

Update: December, 18/2015 - 09:41

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers about the brain drain in their home countries and the situation in Viet Nam. They were also welcomed to share experiences on how to attract more talented people to return to work after their graduation. Here are some of the comments.

Audrey Horne, American, Ha Noi

I'm an American citizen who uprooted her life to live and work in Viet Nam. I can certainly understand the appeal of moving to a foreign country for an education or employment opportunity.

In today's globalised world, people can move freely and more easily than ever before in history. The opportunities and options seem boundless, which unfortunately poses a problem for governments that want their citizens to return home after spending a year or two abroad.

The brain drain Viet Nam faces is an inevitable outcome of the disparity between developed and developing nations.

I came to Viet Nam for the adventure and learning experience of getting to know another culture, but I will likely return home at some point, or move to Canada or Europe, where I can earn higher wages with more benefits.

If Viet Nam aims to retain talented and educated Vietnamese, it should create more job opportunities tailored to its globally-minded citizenry. That could mean investing more in rapidly developing fields like science and technology.

Despite the brain drain, the Vietnamese Government should continue to encourage its citizens to study abroad because those who return home will return with a more well-rounded view of their respective fields and the world at large.

Dinh Vu Bao Hoa, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I learned of the "brain drain" a few years ago and have thought about it often. At the moment I'm still torn between two options in my own life; both working in a foreign country or at home has its advantages and disadvantages.

I earned my bachelors degree at an international university in Viet Nam. As a communications graduate with an Australian education in PR and advertising, I came to realise that the communications industry in Viet Nam isn't anywhere close to what I studied. For example, despite all the creative and interesting things I learned at school, PR in Viet Nam is merely writing articles (which are mostly overstating facts and complimenting products we haven't even used), then booking slots in newspapers in the hope of getting some readers.

It is a big disappointment to me, but I can't do anything about it—I can't change the industry. To live with the disappointment is really difficult. So I think if someone's got a Western education, they should work in a Western industry that matches their education, a high standard one that motivates them to work and gives them something to strive for.

On the other hand, I personally think there are other factors that need to be taken into account besides high income and advanced working/living conditions. One must also think of the difficulties and loneliness of living alone in a foreign country. So it really depends on the person, how he/she feels living far away from their family, or whether he/she will be able to cope with the pressures.

Viet Nam can't improve itself in one day, nor two. It won't be able to provide young, Western-educated people with the living/working standards that they deserve. I think the best thing our country can do right now is to create more international working environments that have both Western and Asian/Vietnamese staff.

Set aside the income factor for now; if the environment is good and has international standards, maybe young people will come home.

Hoang Tuan Anh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

As far as I know, a lot of developing nations have a problem with "brain drain", however the problem differs from region-to-region and country-to-country.

In my opinion, the problems Viet Nam faces are really complicated and difficult to solve since the root causes - the working environments, opportunities and welfare- cannot be improved in one night.

Indeed, there's a long way to go. I believe that we won't be able to rid ourselves of the problem in the foreseeable future.

However, I think the government can take some steps to gradually improve the situation.

The simplest thing to do is to give talent the incentives they need, then they will come back to contribute to the development of their motherland.

Second, the government needs to demonstrate a serious commitment to providing a good environment and creating opportunities for talented people.

The government should take real action and have specific policies, not just talking.

This requires the efforts of all levels in the government and the whole administrative apparatus.

The government should also make an effort to attract more foreign companies to invest in the country, this will help improve the working environment as well as create opportunities for local talent.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

Canada is a net beneficiary of brain drain/overseas studying students. They visit my country, and then we keep the best. Talented, motivated Canadians travel overseas and are (hopefully) positive ambassadors.

I have taught IELTS students intensive English to prepare them for the test and scholarship applications to Australian/English/American study programs. They admitted to me that they do not plan to return. I can't blame them.

Why return when you will not be promoted, will be resented, or will not receive status and salary benefits?

One solution is to require that scholarships be repaid if you remain overseas.

Another option is to make a contract agreement similar to military service. Just like how many officers receive training and a paid education in exchange for ‘repaying' the cost by serving for a certain number of years upon graduation. This is similar to requiring young doctors to work in small towns or rural areas instead of the big city. Fair is fair.

Viet Nam has matured and is maturing. I see progress, great potential and a wonderful dynamic, young population keen to learn English, travel and willing give back.

Harness that energy in a positive way: sign up cultural ambassadors; provide scholarships; and encourage them to return for country, flag and mum's great cooking. This program could succeed with good planning and attractive incentives. — VNS
Viet Nam News will not be running the column Your say next week. Readers can find a new topic the following week. Thank you.

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