APARC Research - Talent Flows, Brain Hubs, and the Socioeconomic Development in Asia

A foreign job seeker talks with two Chinese employers during a job fair for foreigners at the Beijing Talent Tower in March 2008 in Beijing, China.

Talent Flows, Brain Hubs, and Socioeconomic Development in Asia

Lessons and policy implications from the Asia-Pacific region

Mobile talent in a global context

A Shorenstein APARC research effort assesses the talent management practices and policies that leading countries in the Asia-Pacific region harness to compete in the new global knowledge economy.

Research Focus 

The flow of professional talent, both permanent and temporary, is a prevalent aspect of globalization. High-skilled talent moves across national boundaries in search of better professional and social opportunities, thus generally migrating from less-developed to more-developed societies. Yet not all developed societies are equally attractive to foreign talent. Each country differs in the professional and personal opportunities it offers, such as work environment, governance, quality of life, immigration laws, geographic accessibility, or tolerance of immigrants. These various factors affect each country’s ability to attract and retain mobile foreign talent. The international distribution of talent is therefore highly skewed, and the resources and capacities available to countries to attract, develop, retain, and employ foreign skilled talent vary substantially.
 
With the ascent of the global knowledge economy, in which mobile talent contributes to the creation and diffusion of knowledge, the ability to maintain and develop a talent pool is key to competing globally. There are also newfound geopolitical challenges shaping talent attraction and mobility, among them burgeoning populist nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment, and economic decoupling. The Talent Flows, Brain Hubs, and Socioeconomic Development in Asia research project examines the high-level talent flows of the Asia-Pacific region and their potential policy implications.
 
The insights from the multi-year project are being collected in a forthcoming book and series of research articles examining human resource development, and associated global talent strategies, in four Asia-Pacific countries: Australia, China, India, and Japan. The project balances in-depth country analyses with key learnings and implications for the region and beyond. The book project and related research efforts build on an earlier project, Global Talent and Innovation in Korea, which considered the Korean experience of managing global talent.
 
The project’s goals are to empirically assess the importance of key institutional, economic, and societal factors for attracting mobile professional talent from abroad; identify best practices for talent attraction, integration, and retention; and design talent recruitment and development strategies for cities, universities, and corporations in the region. In doing so, the project adopts an interrelated “4B” conceptual framework to categorize national talent development policies: brain train, brain gain, brain circulation, and brain linkage. It also utilizes historical and comparative methods to challenge conventional thinking around talent mobility and provide recommendations for mitigating the adverse consequences that can arise.
 

The concept of talent flow is not narrowly confined to the physical relocation of talented individuals, but also includes other forms of collaboration and knowledge flows such as research partnerships between cities or universities, or personnel training programs between corporations across the world. There has been an increasing trend of shorter-term and circular migration patterns for skilled labor. For example, executives of global corporations are often required to spend part of their careers abroad. By comparing management and human resource practices, this project will also provide generalizable insights to benefit business leaders, educational institutions, and policymakers in the Asia-Pacific region.

The research team includes Gi-Wook Shin (Principal Investigator), Joyce Lee (Research Project Manager), Kelsi Caywood, Haley Gordon, Sievlan Len, and Maleah Webster.

 

Brain Bridges

Watch 'Brain Bridges," a documentary by Stanford student Dexter Simpson, which illustrates the gains of global talent flows, based on Prof. Gi-Wook Shin's research project.

Lead Researchers

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Gi-Wook Shin

Shorenstein APARC Director and Korea Program Director
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Gi-Wook Shin

Shorenstein APARC Director and Korea Program Director
Senior Fellow, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Professor of Sociology
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Kelsi Caywood

Research Associate, Korea Program
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Kelsi Caywood

Research Associate, Korea Program
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Haley Gordon

Research Associate, Korea Program
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Haley Gordon

Research Associate, Korea Program

Publications

Student Documentary Celebrates Transnational Brain Linkages, APARC website, September 2020
See also ‘Brain Bridges’: Stanford senior makes documentary on global talent flowThe Stanford Daily, October 2020

From Brain Drain to Brain Circulation and Linkage
Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center Working Paper, 2018

Can Brain Drain Generate Gains for Less-Developed Countries?, APARC website, March 2018