A unique survey which tracks worldwide the best and brightest academic performers from three Pacific countries is used to assess the extent of emigration and return migration among the very highly skilled, and to analyze, at the microeconomic level, the determinants of these migration choices. Although we estimate that the income gains from migration are very large, not everyone migrates and many return. Within this group of highly skilled individuals the emigration decision is found to be most strongly associated with preference variables such as risk aversion and patience, and choice of subjects in secondary school, and not strongly linked to either liquidity constraints or to the gain in income to be had from migrating. Likewise, the decision to return is strongly linked to family and lifestyle reasons, rather than to the income opportunities in different countries. Overall the data suggest a relatively limited role for income maximization in distinguishing migration propensities among the very highly skilled, and a need to pay more attention to other components of the utility maximization decision.
This paper examines whether the increased openness and technological innovation in East Asia have contributed to an increased demand for skills in the region. We explore a unique firm level data set across eight countries in the East Asia and Pacific region. Our results strongly support the idea that greater openness and technological innovation have increased the demand for skills, especially in middle-income countries. In particular, while the presence in international markets has been skill enhancing for most middle-income countries, this is not the case for manufacturing firms operating in China and in low-income countries. We interpret this to be supporting the premise that, if international integration in the region continues to intensify and technology continues to be skilled biased, policies aimed at mitigating the skills shortages should produce continual and persistent increase in skills.